When I was a freshman in college, instead of doing my homework, I watched all of the Bond movies back to back, as they playing on TNT, or some equivalent cable network. I love spy movies. I love the action. I love the intrigue. Above all, I love the tropes that one expects to see fulfilled in any good spy movie. Perhaps the best cliché in a spy movie is the stupidity that surrounds the spy. Usually taking the form of the villain that takes extra time to spell out the intricacies of his evil plan, giving the spy an opportunity to escape the trap in which she in snared, the comic relief in most spy movies is just how dumb the people around the story can act.
On this Spy Wednesday, all twelve disciples have the chance to fulfill their destiny as spy story clichés. In Matthew, Judas has his starring role at the table. Jesus predicts that one of them will betray him, and Judas says, “Surely not I, Rabbi,” which is, of course, the title used by Jesus’ adversaries in Matthew’s Gospel. Our appointed lesson for Spy Wednesday comes from John’s Gospel, and it is the other eleven who get to look foolish in John’s account.
After Jesus tells them that one of the group will betray him, Peter and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, undertake a clandestine mission to figure out who it will be. John, who had the seat next to Jesus at their table for 26, point blank asks Jesus, “Who is it going to be?” Jesus, in perhaps the only example we have of him actually answering a question, says, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread.” Then, when he hands Judas the piece of bread and says, “Do quickly what you are going to do,” nobody understands what is happening.
It is comedic gold, set amidst the intrigue that is Jesus’ final few days. I love how, after three years of traveling with Jesus, listening to his teaching, witnessing his miracles, and even sharing in his ministry, the disciples can still prove to be so very dense. It means there is hope for us all in the Kingdom of God. The life of discipleship is, as the title of a great book by Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren says so perfectly, a series of Adventures in Missing the Point. We all tend to not quite understand what God is up to in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We all fail to accurately interpret what the Spirit is calling us to do. At any given moment, any one of us is the comedic foil in the ongoing saga of missio dei. But God is full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great kindness. Jesus, despite the foolishness of the 11, went through with the difficult end game, knowing that the rain falls on the smart and the stupid alike. The Spirit continues to gift us, knowing that we’ll likely misunderstand what those gifts are to be used for. We are all, from time to time, a Spy Wednesday Cliché, but thanks be to God for the grace that overcomes our foolishness.