WEDNESDAY, DURING THE WEEK of His crucifixion, Jesus spends much of the day with His disciples resting in Bethany in anticipation of Passover.[fn1] Jesus stays at the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany during His last week. Bethany (in Jericho) is about two miles away from Jerusalem. On Tuesday morning while traveling to the temple with the disciples, Jesus cursed the fig tree, warning of the consequences of spiritual fruitlessness (Matthew 21:19). Today, as Jesus and the twelve head into Jerusalem, the disciples observed the now-withered fig tree. Jesus takes the opportunity to teach a lesson on faith—an especially timely lesson, as he was going to leave them in a few days.
Biblical scholars also believe it was on this day that Judas conspired with temple leaders to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Methodists are among the denominations that refer to this as “Spy Wednesday.” This refers to the day on which Judas Iscariot formed the intent to betray Jesus. The noun spy is used because Judas spied upon or watched Jesus secretly in order to determine the best time to deliver Jesus to the Jewish authorities (Matt. 26:14-16). Scriptural evidence points to the fact that Judas likely did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. The other disciples called Jesus “Lord,” but Judas always called him “Rabbi.”
That afternoon, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus talks to the disciples about the signs of the end of days and of future destruction, wars, and persecution (the Olivet Discourse). The disciples ask for further clarification. What follows in Matthew 24–25 refers to the future, the seven-year tribulation period, and the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation. As Jesus and the disciples are leaving the temple, He calls attention to the magnificent buildings on the temple mount. He tells them that not one stone of the temple will be left; rather all of them will be thrown down” (Matt. 24:2). (This prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.) Jesus also tells of
Near sunset, Jesus walks to Lazarus’ house. That evening, after supper, Lazarus’ sister Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with very expensive ointment. Mary understands the coming of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and she expresses this in her anointing Jesus for burial. Judas, who we know did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, exclaims, “What a waste! And she’s spending it on you!” In Mark 14:5, we read of Jesus receiving Mary’s gift as a selfless act of love and devotion—an appropriate way to honor Him as the Messiah. Jesus says He will not be with them much longer, referencing His impending death and burial. Later that night, immediately after supper, Judas agrees to betray Jesus to the Pharisees (Mathew 26:14-16).
Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.A. Theo.
[fn1] Calculating ancient dates gets complicated for a number of reasons: Jewish months all started at the new moon; they had two “new years” per year; they added in leap months as needed; days started at sunset, not sunrise; ancient people often used imprecise designations for years, and not everyone was using the same calendar system in the first century. Jesus celebrated a Passover dinner on Thursday night before his crucifixion, placing his crucifixion the next day, on Friday, Nisan 15. The most likely date of the crucifixion is Nisan 15 (= April 3), AD 33.