Spy Wednesday: Judas and Mary

The readings for Spy Wednesday cover Judas Iscariot’s conspiratorial meeting with the Sanhedrin, Mary’s devotion to Jesus, and preparation for the Passover seder–the Last Supper. It’s Judas’ secret meeting to betray Jesus that gives Spy Wednesday its name, but it’s really the contrast between Judas and Mary that is the focus.

The Gospels record Mary taking expensive perfume and pouring it over Jesus’ feet to anoint them, wiping them dry with her hair, and filling the room with scent. Judas berates her, focusing on the cost of the extravagant act–that such money could have been saved and given to the poor. Judas is a complex character, especially laid against Mary’s single-minded devotion and free-falling love. We can almost taste the seething anxiety and mix of frustrations and jealousies Judas harbors. What were his motivations?


Judas, why?

Most likely, Judas fully expected and believed Jesus to be the warrior Messiah come to cut Israel free of the Roman occupation–that Jesus’ time was at hand, that he just needed the right mix of opportunity and motivation to spark the revolution. Perhaps he thought he was helping Jesus by forcing the conflict and bringing Jesus face to face with political power–or maybe he was just greedy. We’ll never know.

But what we can know for sure is that while Mary saw Jesus for exactly who he was and loved him with abandon, Judas never could. He saw only the possibility of his own nationalistic and personal aspirations, expectations, and desires laid out along the imagined trajectory of Jesus’ life. He never really heard Jesus speak or watched his life-mission lived out in every human encounter–he only saw what he wanted to see and despaired when he felt all was lost.

Judas and Mary are presenting the need for balance between the big macro, exterior issues in which we often get lost, and the vulnerability of intimate relationship. When Judas complains about Mary’s extravagance, Jesus is quick to bring him back home, saying that the poor–those big issues out there–will always be with us, but he himself–our innermost connections–will change over time and must be cherished. It’s a life long balancing act between doing and being, between agenda and accomplishment and simple presence and connection.

Judas simply never let himself fall in love with the man who sought only to end the occupation of his heart. An occupation that a thousand revolutions could never dislodge without his own consent.

Matt 26:1-19Mark 14:1-16Luke 22:1-13John 12:1-12

We hope these readings and short comments help prepare you this week for Resurrection Day next Sunday. If you’d like to dig even further, here is a daily devotional for Holy Week with some really nice elements.

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