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Why Is Holy Wednesday also called "Spy Wednesday"?

When we think of spies in the Bible, thoughts of the 12 spies who scoped out the Promised Land may come to mind first (Numbers 13). But the Wednesday in Holy week, otherwise known as ‘Spy Wednesday’ has nothing to do with these 12 men who lived during the time of Moses. Spy Wednesday refers to Judas Iscariot, the spy in Jesus’ followers, who betrayed Jesus over to the religious leaders, in exchange for 30 silver coins (Luke 22). Although Judas clearly committed a wrong by betraying his leader, he plays an important role in Easter.

What Happened on Holy Wednesday?

Scripture doesn’t give us many hints about this day prior to the Last Supper. Days beforehand, Jesus rode into Jerusalem, cursed a fig tree, and overturned tables in the temple. But on Wednesday? Near silence … apart from the fact that sometime that week, Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Jesus (Matthew 26).

We can assume that Jesus and the disciples had to prepare for Passover during this time. Preparations likely would’ve taken longer than just Maundy Thursday.

So, if we don’t know much about the holiday, should we even celebrate it? What does Judas have to do with Easter, and why we do have a day that recognizes his role in Jesus’ death?

What Are the Days of Holy Week?

Palm SundayOne week prior to Easter Sunday, we celebrate Palm Sunday. This commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21). Jesus rides into the city on a donkey, as prophesied. The inhabitants laid down palm branches on the road and shouted, "Hosanna!" Save us now! They wanted a conqueror to topple Rome. When Jesus didn't fit the picture, they killed him less than a week later.

Holy Monday: One of the more obscure dates, where Jesus clears out the temple. A number of merchants had set up shop in the house of the Lord, turning it into a den of thieves (Luke 19). Jesus drives them out. This could also have shown how much the religious institutions of the time had deteriorated.

Holy Tuesday: On this day, Jesus curses the fig tree. Like the religious leaders, it had a nice appearance but bore no fruit. It later shrivels up.

Spy Wednesday: As explained in this article, we don't know much about what happens on Holy Wednesday. Most likely, Jesus and his disciples prepared for Passover, which would occur on Friday. The term "Spy" refers to Judas and how he betrayed our Lord to the religious leader in exchange for silver coins.

Maundy Thursday: The night in which Jesus is betrayed. Jesus broke bread, passed around wine, and shared the Last Supper with his disciples. He then goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray prior to his arrest and trial. We commemorate Maundy Thursday through our communion practices. Many churches participate in communion once a week or once a month.

Good Friday: Jesus is found guilty for a crime he did not commit and sentenced to execution on a cross. Many churches will hold a somber service on the Friday before Easter to remember Jesus' sacrifice for us.

Holy Saturday: After he died on Friday, they buried him in a tomb. On Saturday, he remains buried, and the whole world holds a collective breath in this period of limbo. Many people have equated our walk here on earth as a Holy Saturday, in which we await our eternal Resurrection.

Easter Sunday: Jesus conquers death and rises again. First, he appears to Mary Magdalene, then to the disciples, then to over 500 witnesses. The period between his resurrection and ascension is known as Epiphany.

Get your FREE 8-Day Prayer and Scripture Guide - Praying Through the Holy Week HERE. Print your own copy for a beautiful daily devotional leading up to Easter.

What Is the Meaning of Holy Wednesday Being Called "Spy Wednesday"?

As discussed before, Spy Wednesday signifies when Judas agreed to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders. Let’s take a look at the text to see how this went down.

Matthew 26:14-16: Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

Luke 22:1-6: Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.”

Judas had gotten frustrated. The savior who would topple Rome, in his imagination, had not appeared. Perhaps he wanted to give Jesus the final push to finally invoke an insurrection. After all, we later see him regret his actions when he realizes the religious leader's plan to put Jesus to death.

No matter what his reasons, Satan enters him during his period of bitterness and gives Judas an extra nudge to finally betray the man he’d followed for three years.

Why Was Judas Iscariot Important?

Believe it or not, Judas fulfills an Old Testament prophecy. Let’s take a look.

Zechariah 11:12-13: I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.”

This verse, predicted hundreds of years before, shows even the exact amount by which the religious leaders would pay Judas to betray Jesus. It gets even more interesting when we look at the place in which Judas hangs himself on Good Friday. Let’s take a look at that verse.

Matthew 27:1-10: Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

They use the money to buy a potter’s field. Read the verse from Zechariah again and see where the 30 pieces of silver go there.

The verse in Matthew also mentions a prophecy in Jeremiah that also predicts this event.

Judas was clearly in the wrong. He betrayed the very man who he followed for years. But because of Spy Wednesday, we see yet another prophecy fulfilled from the Old Testament. Judas’ role fulfills words declared hundreds of years before and further proves the validity of the Bible and Christianity.

Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/gabrielabertolini

Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.

This article is part of our larger Holy Week and Easter resource library centered around the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!

What Lent and Why is it Celebrated?
What is the Holy Week?
What Is Palm Sunday?
What is Maundy Thursday?
What Is Good Friday?

What Is Easter?
Easter Prayers

At Easter, the Son of God took on the world’s sin and defeated the devil, death, and the grave. How is it that history’s most glorious moment is surrounded by fearful fishermen, despised tax collectors, marginalized women, feeble politicians, and traitorous friends?

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