The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on Jesus at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.  So they watched Jesus and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.” Luke 20:19-21
As you might imagine, the Wednesday of Holy Week is referred to as Spy Wednesday because many people believe that Wednesday was the day that Judas began to turn on Jesus and conspire with those who wanted to see Jesus silenced or dead. It is conceivable and even probable that it all happened on Wednesday, but if I know anything about people – I imagine that it took a bit longer than just 24 hours for Judas to flip.
Look, I don’t know anything about spying or espionage –except for all that I’ve learned watching Bond movies and Turn: Washington’s Spies – but I imagine that you can’t just walk up to someone and say, “hey man – you wanna hand Jesus over to us” unless of course you know something about that person. If I’ve learned anything from watching spy movies or Turn,I know it takes some time to get someone to turn – to be a double agent. And I do know from reading Luke’s Gospel that the Pharisees sent out their own spies (see Luke 20:19–21).
I wonder, did one of those spies know that Judas kept his hand in the til? Is that how they knew they could get to him? Is that how they knew that it was just take a bit of silver to get him to turn on Jesus?
Maybe it was on Wednesday that one of those spies was able to plant the idea in Judas’ mind, but that doesn’t really matter because the soil of Judas’ heart and mind had to be fertile enough to let that seed germinate. That means that at some point Judas had started to turn away from Jesus – if he ever belonged to Jesus at all. For me, that’s the real issue here and the real point of Spy Wednesday. After all, as far as we know – no one forced Judas to steal from the money bag and no one forced him to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. There were eleven other disciples and a bunch of other folks who spent time around Jesus; why didn’t one of them turn on him like Judas?
For me, the lesson of Spy Wednesday is all wrapped up in the fact that at some point Judas turned on Jesus and perhaps it was solidified on Wednesday. What’s troubling about that is the fact that Judas spent what amounts to 3 years with Jesus. He ate with him. He traveled with him. He heard him speak. He witnessed miracle after miracle. He was front and center and yet – during all that time – he stole from Jesus and eventually he turned on him. In the end, when he could have gone to Jesus and sought His forgiveness, he hung himself.
I think Spy Wednesday may be one of the darkest days of Holy Week because it is all too human. Granted, Good Friday is a dark and somber day and Peter’s denials are bad but at least Peter knew enough to know that Jesus would restore him. But Judas, ugg – Judas hits at the core of the darkest parts of what it means to be human. He spent all that time with Jesus and nevertheless flipped on him.
Judas hits me square in the gut every time. I want to stand back and wag a a crooked finger at him. I want to stand above him and look down my nose at him and take a superior pious position about him and think I’d never do what he did. I want to condemn him and write him off as super evil but I can’t do any of that. At some point Judas made a series of decisions that lead away from Jesus – even as he walked with Jesus and spent time among Jesus’ folks – and listened to Jesus – and learned things from Jesus. The scary part of that scenario is that no one is above doing that – including me.
On the one hand, it is expected that the Pharisees and religious leaders would send spies to try and trap Jesus. What isn’t expected is that they could possible turn one of the folks who spent so much time with Him – and yet – it seems to have been easy enough – and it may have occurred on Spy Wednesday. And that’s the thing about Spy Wednesday, it sends a warning shot, a wakeup call to every person who professes faith in Jesus.
Judas wasn’t any different than anyone else; he spent a lot of time around Jesus, but something got him to turn on him. Maybe it was money. Maybe it was something political. We don’t know for sure. What we do know is that someone who spent a lot of time with Jesus turned on Jesus and that’s a warning for anyone who professes faith in Jesus. Spy Wednesday is a day that calls believers to guard their hearts and to know what’s in their hearts. There was something that kept Judas from really walking with Jesus -even though he spent a ton of time with Him. If I have learned anything in my devotional today it is simply this – guard your heart.