Easter Explained – Part 3
From You Version
For the last 1,600 years, Christians around the world remember the last days of Jesus’ life during Holy Week. Today is Holy Wednesday. Holy Wednesday remembers the day when both faithful Mary and treacherous Judas prepare Jesus to die.
After an increasingly public string of challenges to both Rome and the temple system, the religious elite believe that Jesus is a threat to their kingdom and religion (John 11:48). If Jesus is not killed, they believe Rome will come, take what little power they have left, and destroy their temple (John 11:50; Matthew 26:3-4). Believing it’s better for one man to die than for a whole nation to be lost, the religious elite make their final plans to kill Jesus.
Meanwhile, a woman named Mary takes a jar of perfume valued at 300 pieces of silver (or a year’s salary), cracks it open, pours it over Jesus’ head and feet, and rubs it into his skin with her hair (John 12:3). It’s not only lavish but socially awkward and humiliating. Horrified, Judas speaks up for the disciples. He calls Mary’s display wasteful and argues the perfume should have been sold and spent on the poor (John 12:4-5; Matthew 26:8-9). But Jesus quiets Judas and tells the disciples Mary is doing the right thing. He says: ‘You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me’ (Matthew 26:11).
Jesus isn’t dismissing care for the poor with this statement, he’s highlighting the value of what he has come to do. Like the religious elite have said, the only way to save God’s people is if he is killed. Mary understands that Jesus must die, so she embalms him in advance. To her, it’s no ‘waste’ to offer her most precious possession if it prepares Jesus for the burial that will save God’s people (Matthew 26:12). But Judas realizes Jesus is no longer useful to him. So he sneaks away and tells the religious elite he will betray Jesus for a tenth of what Mary poured out (Matthew 26:14-15).
Strangely, everyone in this story is preparing for Jesus to die. The religious elite offer a bribe to more easily capture Jesus. Judas betrays Jesus for another month’s expenses. And Mary prepares him to be laid in a tomb. Even more strangely, everybody believes Jesus must die in order to save them. Judas thought Jesus’ death would save his financial status. The religious elite thought Jesus’ death would prevent Rome from breathing more heavily down their necks.
But Holy Wednesday is good news because Jesus announces that his death will save God’s people not from Rome or poverty, but from death itself (John 11:51-52). Mary had just seen Jesus raise her brother from the dead (John 11:43-44). She hopes that if Jesus dies, then all God’s people can be saved from death. Jesus is worth her most precious possession because Jesus has the power to give eternal life to all who ask.
So I pray that on this Holy Wednesday you will accept that Jesus must die in order to save his people from death forever.