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As Holy Week moves steadily on, I find myself feeling more and more anxious. It could have something to do with the fact that my Easter sermon is not yet written, but I think there is something deeper happening here. We’re just twenty-four hours from the holiest of holy seasons, the Paschal Triduum. The pace is quickening toward the cross. Even our Collect for today, with its graphic language of whipping and spitting, feels more intense. I can feel my anxiety level rising, and I just don’t want Good Friday to happen this year.
I imagine Jesus was having similar feelings by Wednesday evening. The week has been intense: a king’s welcome into the Holy City on Sunday, a violent encounter with the Temple authorities on Monday, and an exhausting day arguing theological minute with the Pharisees on Tuesday. Wednesday, it seems, was a day to regroup. We find Jesus in Bethany, rather than Jerusalem, today. He’s relaxing at table with friends in the home of Simon the Leper, not arguing with the chief priests and scribes who Mark tells
us were looking to kill Jesus. Maybe Jesus is having second thoughts about the whole thing. Maybe he’s going to find another way. Maybe Good Friday won’t have to happen this year.
I know that’s what Judas is hoping for. Like thousands of other devoted Jews, Judas is zealous to see YHWH reign in Jerusalem. So zealous, in fact, that most would call him a zealot, a fanatical nationalist who had put all of his hopes for the future into the basket of Jesus of Nazareth. Things were looking up on Sunday. The political machine was rolling as folks laid down palm branches and coats, shouting out “Hosanna! God Save Us!” and calling to Jesus as “Son of David” and “The one who comes in the name of the
Lord.” Now, three days later, it seems as though Jesus is headed down the path of so many revolutionaries before him, either death on a cross as a traitor to Rome or obscurity in the Galilean countryside.
This just can’t be. Judas has one last ditch plan to force Jesus to claim his power and authority. The idea is sparked in his mind as he watched the woman anoint Jesus with that costly nard. Sure, it was perfume used for burial, but that action of pouring oil upon his head was strongly symbolic of the anointing of the powerful kings of the past. Jesus was the Messiah, and Judas would make sure Jesus lived into that role in precisely the way Judas wanted. “Judas wanted Jesus to be what he wanted him to be and not what Judas wanted to be. Good Friday wasn’t going to happen if Judas had anything to do with it.
So off he goes, to cut a backroom deal with the Ananias and his corrupt family, to hand over the one who so clearly has threatened their beloved and profitable temple system. As we all know, Judas’ plan to force Jesus’ hand ultimately becomes Judas’ betrayal. Tomorrow evening is coming whether we want it to or not. The Last Supper, arrest, trial, and crucifixion are upon us, and all that we have to comfort us this night is that one, unnamed woman at the home of Simon the Leper really got it. She saw who Jesus really was. She knew, before it even happened, that Good Friday was really going to be “good.” She had anointed Jesus as king and messiah, while at the same time preparing him for his death for the sins of the whole world.
The Triduum brings with it a flurry of activity and emotions. From the highs of the Passover Feast to fear in the Garden to sadness at the cross, to sheer exhaustion watching the tomb, to confused joy at first light on Sunday. I’m thankful today that Jesus rested, that he was prepared for the hard road ahead, and that Good Friday is coming: no matter what Judas or I have to say about it. May the next four days be a further opportunity to walk with Jesus, to see the holiness of God, and to be transformed into his likeness, following his will. Amen.