[Wednesday’s Passion Week Reading: Matthew 26:3-5]
Just about every study Bible I’ve ever owned has included a Gospel-harmonized, day-by-day chart that lists the events of Passion Week, and in every one of those charts, Wednesday looks rather pathetic in terms of action. On Monday we stand among toppled tables and withered fig trees. On Tuesday, among other things, we are audience to a bevy of prophetic teachings that march us through the fall of Jerusalem and right up to the end of the world. And we all know how packed Thursday and Friday are. As for Wednesday? This, from Matthew: “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.” While mapping out the murder of an innocent man is nothing to shake a stick at, again, when compared with the Monday and Tuesday before it, and the Thursday and Friday to come, Wednesday’s activities strike you as a bit thin at first glance.
But then you remember that as Tuesday drew to a close, a brief word from Jesus to his disciples showed he knew full well his fiery words that day had caused the long-standing murderous desire within the religious authorities to flower into actual plotting. “After two days,” he said to them, “the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” And then – thanks to that Gospel-harmonized chart just under your nose – you remember there are more accounts than Matthew’s. Luke has this to say about the Passion Week overall – “every day he was teaching in the temple” – and this about Wednesday in particular: “Early in the morning all the people came to Jesus in the temple to hear him.” In other words, Wednesday was no vacation day for Jesus during Passion Week – some merciful period of “laying low” while the crucifixion plot is hatched by Caiaphas and crew. From the rise of the sun in the morning to its being tucked away behind the horizon at day’s end, Wednesday was filled to full with teaching.
Knowing this allows the Wednesday of Passion Week to grow in stature, doesn’t it? Your knowing Jesus knew death was just around the corner, yet on he spoke the duration of that day to a people trapped up in pain and hopelessness as they yearned for deliverance? Wednesday isn’t pathetically thin; it’s fat on selfless courage. You’re half-inclined to think Jesus woke that morning – and really, every morning before it – with a rallying cry in mind that might have sounded something like, “Every day, until the Day.”
And this can end up being as challenging as it is moving.
My Passion Week began the same as yours: With news that two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt had been bombed by ISIS in Egypt, killing forty-nine and injuring hundreds more. One detail chewed away at me all of last Sunday: Authorities said the explosive device used in the first of the two churches had been strategically placed under a seat near the front of the building, that it might be as close as possible to the priest and the choir – that it might be as close as possible to those speaking and singing to a people trapped up in pain and hopelessness as they yearned for deliverance. But then this news later on Sunday – that thousands had gathered that very night to speak and sing all the more. News on Monday that most all of the Coptic Easter celebrations filled with speaking and singing will continue as planned in Egypt, despite the declaration of a three-month, country-wide state of emergency. And just yesterday, via a friend’s Facebook feed, I learned that Coptic believers gathered in the streets near the church buildings tattooed with blood and soot to speak and sing the Nicene Creed again and again: “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human.” All of this despite their knowing such fiery words might very well cause long-standing murderous desires to flower once more into actual plotting, actual action. All of this, because the people, trapped up in pain and hopelessness, yearning for deliverance.
Every day, until the Day.
Would such boldness unfold any other week? Likely so. But I suspect especially so, given this being Easter Week, a week that props up a Wednesday fat on selfless courage. And an “Every day, until the Day” mindset is no more mad for our brothers and sisters than it was for one man many years ago. Because this, here, is the rest of that old creed they shouted in the streets of Egypt just yesterday: “He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end.”
Was “Every day, until the Day” the rallying slogan for Jesus? No real part of me thinks it was. I’m merely using my sanctified imagination. Is it for our brothers or sisters overseas? Not that I know of. But it would be fine for it to have been and to be, and for it to be just that for us today. There’s a sneaky nature to it that I relish. Because when the whole story’s been told, you end up realizing the “Day” in it isn’t just in reference to Friday, but also – and even more so – to Sunday.
To read Monday’s Passion Week reflection, click here.
To read Tuesday’s, click here.