It was the most dramatic moment of my church’s pre-Easter pageant called The Living Lord’s Supper. It’s the only moment I remember clearly after 40+ years.
I was thinking about it today because it involved Judas — and Wednesday in Holy Week has been called “Spy Wednesday” because it’s thought to be the day Judas negotiated with the religious leaders to betray Jesus.
When I was a kid, we went to the Assemblies of God Church, and our church had big evangelism outreaches at Easter, including the Living Lord’s Supper — a play in which 13 guys in the church portrayed Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper.
Each man got his turn in the spotlight, to give his own account of his dealings with Jesus — breaking the 4th wall to address the audience directly.
The very best performance ever was given by a fellow who was well known and respected in the church, a kind of funny and sweet looking family man named Ed.
The year Ed played Judas, the part came alive! They made him up to look very sinister, which must have been tough considering his natural good-natured expressions and features.
As Judas, he explained how he had to take some action to get Jesus to move forward with his Messiah agenda because the time was right, and Jesus was dragging his feet — He had to force Jesus’ hand to get him started fulfilling what Judas knew was God’s plan to rescue Israel.
Then in a most dramatic and compelling way, he allowed: “So perhaps my hands are not as dirty as some of you think… And perhaps your hands are not so clean.” The church was utterly silent as that sank in, and the spotlight faded …
It was so powerful and effective in the moment. We were amazed Ed was a talented enough actor to portray the worst and most corrupt of the disciples so well, and make you feel for him.
Years later, when I was in college, I worked at a process service, and found that many, many subpoenas were regularly served on Ed — when the servers could catch him! He was very wily at avoiding them. He was all the time being sued over shady land and real estate dealings.
This was a shock! But it didn’t make me think any less of Ed. It just made me think that when he gave us that very human and sympathetic glimpse of Judas, he must’ve been living it himself.
Today I think, of course, that we all live this in one way or another, because we often don’t get the plan.
Jesus’ plan was never to rise up as a ruler and defeat his enemies by force. It was always to save the world through love, bringing those who perceive themselves as his enemies into his family as his beloved children.
When we put any other agenda into the gospel, and try to wrench it to our plan, it’s very human and very understandable… But it betrays the Divine Mystery.
That’s what Judas didn’t get on Spy Wednesday … and what we ought to remember today and every day.