In this third installment of our devotional guides, we introduce Wednesday of Holy Week and the corresponding events in Jesus’s life and ministry. As we’ve seen in previous posts, the events of Jesus’s final week before his death can be squared with each day of Passion Week in the following way:
Monday: The fig tree incident and Jesus’s cleansing of the temple courts
Tuesday: Conclusion to the fig tree incident, Jesus’s teaching in the temple courts, and the Olivet Discourse
Wednesday: Further teaching in the temple courts, continued scheming to arrest and kill Jesus
Thursday: Preparation for Passover, the Last Supper, the Farewell Discourse, betrayal and arrest at Gethsemane, and Jesus’s initial hearings
Friday: Jesus’s final hearings, sentence, crucifixion, and burial
Saturday: . . .
Wednesday of Passion Week is something of an anomaly. If you’re following along in the Gospel of Mark with us, it may seem as if Jesus’s anointing at Bethany would have taken place on this day. This is because Mark discusses this event in between the events of Tuesday (e.g., the Olivet Discourse) and Thursday (e.g., the preparation for the Passover meal). The time indicators in Mark, however, are notoriously loose, and readers should not assume a chronological order (as here), unless the Greek text undeniably requires it or a cause-and-effect relationship demands it. Further, the parallel in John 12:1–11 places Jesus’s anointing at Bethany a day before the so-called triumphal entry (cf. John 12:12), on the Saturday before Passion Week. If this is right, then Jesus’s anointing at Bethany does not take place on Wednesday; instead, within the context of Mark’s Gospel, it serves as a kind of backstory to set up what follows.
In this vein, scholars are agreed that very little that has been recorded in the Gospels can be confidently ascribed to Wednesday of Holy Week. Only little snippets of text suggest what Jesus and his enemies may have been doing this third day before the crucifixion. Matthew 26:55 and Luke 19:47, for example, note that Jesus was teaching in the temple courts each day of this week—Wednesday, no doubt, included. More than that, Mark 14:1–2 suggests that the chief priests and teachers of the law were continuing to scheme against Jesus, to arrest and kill him (cf. Mark 11:18; 12:12–13).
Since no block of text is unambiguously devoted to this day, we recommend following the Gospel of Mark by reading Mark 14:1–11—with the caveat that Jesus’s anointing likely occurred on the day before the “triumphal” entry. We also encourage you to compare the parallels in Matthew 26:1–16 and John 12:1–11. (The parallel in Luke 7:36–50 probably refers to a separate incident.)
Of course, an alternative to this recommendation would be to follow the Revised Common Lectionary and read Isaiah 50:4–9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1–3; and John 13:21–32. Either way, we pray you are growing in your appreciation of our Lord and Savior this week. May our minds, hearts, and wills continue to conform to his demands.