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  • Writer's pictureDr. Benjamin J. Williams

Holy Wednesday: Is Jesus Truly Lord?

Holy Week is a public contest of power between Jesus Christ and the alternatives in Jerusalem. Who is the leader of the people of God—Jesus the Rabbi or the chief priests? Where is the presence of God among his people—Jesus the Incarnate Son or Herod’s temple? Who rules the world and has power over death—the crucified Christ or the Roman governor?

Consequently, most days in Holy Week include a public showdown. Palm Sunday features the parade entrance of Jesus, a conquering king on a humble donkey, slowly winding his way up the temple mount in Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11). Monday highlights the audacious cleansing of the temple (11:15-19). On Tuesday, the temple leadership actually attempts to bar Jesus’ entrance into the temple (11:27-28), only to be outwitted by Jesus, who would spend the remainder of the day teaching in the temple courts (12-13).

Wednesday is a surprise to us as Jesus decides not to travel to the temple at all. His deliberate campaign of provocation in the temple courts takes a hiatus. Jesus stays in Bethany, and Mark takes this occasion to tell two stories, side by side. One story unfolds in Bethany with Jesus and the other in Jerusalem among the priests.

“It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread” (14:1a). The priests spend Wednesday crafting a lynching. The idea of a public victory over Jesus has failed, so they determine “to arrest him by stealth and kill him” (14:1b). Why not arrest him publicly? “Lest there be an uproar from the people” (14:2). Lynching is an instrument of the weak. Having been defeated in the daylight, the temple leadership determines to end the conflict under the cover of darkness.

Meanwhile, in Bethany, Jesus is being honored. He is eating at the home of a man named Simon when a woman comes in unannounced and likely uninvited (14:3). She has with her an extremely expensive flask of ointment. She breaks open the flask and anoints Jesus with the oil.

Much like Jesus himself, the peculiar act provoked one of two responses. Some were outraged (14:4-5). The oil was costly, and now it was gone. It could have been sold for almost a year’s salary for an average worker. Instead, a year’s salary had been poured on Jesus’ head. What a waste.

But Jesus sees something different. “Leave her alone,” he said, “She has done a beautiful thing” (14:6-9). Jesus sees a beautiful act—an act of extravagant and unprecedented love. He sees in that act an echo of his own love that he would demonstrate in the coming days when he would go to the cross for all sinners. 

Isn’t it strange how people can look at the same event and see totally different things? In The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis wrote, “What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.” Jesus was a person who understood love, practiced love, loved love, and so he saw love being poured out.

Judas Iscariot was not. Judas was a man who understood money, practiced money, loved money, and so he saw only money being wasted. Love can never be wasted, but money can.

Judas makes a choice that day that he would come to regret. He travels to Jerusalem to make a deal for something he could understand. He traded the Lord who loved him for money he would never spend (14:10-11). He would have been better off staying in Bethany and learning to see in Jesus a love that would make all the money in the world seem like nothing.

Just as the characters in this story, we too must make a choice about what we see. Do we see the value of sacrificial love, or can we only measure the worth of dollars? Will we see in Jesus a Savior and Lord or a footnote in history and an idle curiosity? We must all choose, and our answer will say much more about us than it does render a verdict against Jesus.

Father, assist us mercifully with your grace, that we may spend this week in meditation on those mighty acts of Jesus by which you have promised us life. Help us to see them as they truly are, and by his works may we also come to know You. Amen.

Dr. Benjamin Williams is the Senior Minister at the Central Church of Christ in Ada, Oklahoma and a regular writer at So We Speak. Check out his books The Faith of John’s Gospel and Why We Stayed or follow him on Twitter, @Benpreachin.


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