On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.” ’ (Matthew 26.17-18)
It was a big day, and not just for Jesus and the disciples. People were making their preparations for the festival and for the meal which was an integral part – the integral part – of what would happen. So the disciples are keen, as soon as it is morning, to get the arrangements in place. They are still outside of the city; perhaps this takes place in Bethany. After all, Jesus says to them ‘go into the city’. It was there, at the very heart of the nation, at the very heart of the faith, that Jesus wanted them to gather.
Luke provides a little more information than Matthew to help the disciples with their task
‘Listen,’ Jesus said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ ” He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ (Luke 22.10-12)
There is something strange about all this. This person would be obvious. It was a MAN carrying a water jar. This was woman’s work not man’s work. No self respecting man would be seen doing something like this, carrying a jar of water. Jesus, as a boy, would have been to the well in Nazareth with his mother Mary; he had talked to the woman at the well in Samaria, but it remained the work women did.
Isn’t it typical that the man whose house Jesus wanted to eat this pivotal, universe-changing meal in, would be someone who was so humble that he would risk scorn in doing this work, so counter-cultural that he could step outside of the norms, was a modern man in an ancient world.
Being a priest, being a bishop has for too long been seen to be man’s work. Now we know it is the work of the people of God – men and women, gay and straight, black and white. The man who led the disciples to the room all prepared for them was prepared to shatter social norms and he was a friend of Jesus. What does Jesus make of a church that so often bolsters stereotypes and injustice?
Lord, break us free
from old ways of thinking
from old ways of living;
to live like you
to think like you
to be your body
in the world.