Spies Like Us
Starting today, I am going to be writing reflections on multiple lectionary passages as we journey through Holy Week. Today, not as famous as some of the other days celebrated this week, is known as Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday. It observes Judas' decision to betray Jesus and thus becoming a spy within the ranks. The gospel passage for today is John 13:21-32.
The writers of the gospels always tip their hands when it comes to Judas. Whenever we get the roll call of the disciples, they always make sure to point out that he is the one who is going to betray Jesus. It colors how we view him; like he is this sketchy guy who from day one is rubbing his hands together as he hatches his evil plot to destroy Jesus.
But that doesn't seem to be the way that everyone else saw him. Judas had been with these guys for probably three years. He sat under Jesus' teaching. He was sent out to minister and perform miracles like all of the rest. He was one of them and I have to think that, despite what happened down the road, his heart was in what was going on.
When Jesus tells the disciples that someone is going to betray him, a disciple does not immediately say, "Oh, it's totally Judas!" There is uncertainty. No one is sure who the spy is. The twelve look around wondering, "Is it him? Him? Is it me?"
That's the thing we miss when we paint Judas as a bad guy from the start: it could have been any of them. What happens later that night proves the point. Peter denies Jesus three times. The rest abandon him when he needs them the most. The potential to turn on Jesus was there for all of them and, to a degree, virtually all of them disown him in some profound way.
And so do we. You and I disown Jesus each day. We turn against him. Sure we do not send Jesus up the river for thirty pieces of silver. We may not even deny him with our words. In fact, some of the worst disowning of Jesus happens when we stubbornly cling to the idea that we are doing what Jesus wants when it is not. When we do things that run headlong against what Jesus taught, we become spies; enemies in the midst.
The church sometimes seems to take perverse pleasure in pointing fingers at who is letting God down. But the story of Spy Wednesday reminds us that we should look at ourselves and realize the ways in which we hurt God and others. When we think that someone is going to betray Jesus, we should ask ourselves, "Is it me?" Yes, it's me too.
But there is good news. Obviously there is good news after we crawl through the darkness of the rest of this week. But there is good news if we go back too. Run back to the passage just before this one (13:1-20). Jesus washes the disciples' feet: the deniers and the deserters. He even washes the feet of Judas and the text makes sure that the reader is aware that Jesus knows what Judas is going to do. And yet, Jesus gets down on his hands and knees and humbly washes the filthy feet of the man he knows will send him to his death.
Or run back even further to Jesus' late night conversation with Nicodemus (3:1-21). Jesus tells the Pharisee that God loves the world so much that the Son was sent to save it. This world full of spies, full of Judases, is loved by God. It was not just about those who were good or in or whatever level of right you and I might conceive. It is all of us that God loves. Jesus demonstrates that love and he extends it to everyone.
Even spies like us.