This is a new day, Lord. May I rely on the fresh bread of your word to nourish me. May your word light my path today. May your word sweeten my day like honey. And, like a chisel in an artist’s hand, may your word cut away everything about me that is not a reflection of the kingdom and a reflection of Christ.
This morning I am picking up with Mark 14, reading just a few verses. Read them through slowly several times. Let your thoughts linger over the words, taking time to let each word’s meaning and each phrase’s implications linger in your mind:
And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
(Mark 14:12-16 ESV)
Before I get too reflective, let me set some context. This passage is set at the beginning of Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Jewish custom is to slaughter a lamb at dusk on the first night of Passover and eat it right away, that same night, since it is a commemoration of the night Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the desert, when God spared the Israelites from the Tenth Plague (the death of all firstborns) and delivered them out of slavery and into freedom.
So Jesus’ disciples have slaughtered the lamb and they must now prepare it to eat. As someone who works as an event planner, I find it very interesting that they waited this long to make preparations for such an important religious event. Here they are with the carcass of a lamb, with only a few hours during which they must cook and eat it in order to comply with the religious stipulations.
I have only prepared lamb once in my life. It was Easter Sunday 2005, and my parents were visiting me in New York. I decided I would prepare a traditional dinner, so got a lamb recipe and went to town. I even invited my then-boyfriend’s mother to join us (he was out of town). But for some reason, though I followed all of the instructions, when it was time to serve the lamb, it was not cooked enough! We had to much on crackers and olives while we waited for the lamb to finish cooking! And this was just a small lamb roast. Imagine cooking a whole lamb! Because the tradition at that time was to roast the entire lamb without the removal of its internal organs. This takes hours!
As I read through these verses and tried to imagine the scene, details like this emerged. The lamb is slaughtered at dusk, and it is to be prepared and eaten that same night, roasted with its internal organs still in tact, which would take hours. Yet the disciples had not prepared ahead. The lamb was slaughtered, the clock was ticking. And only now are they asking Jesus, “Where should we go to prepare the Passover?”
The word “prepare” occurs three times in this passage. The disciples are asking Jesus where to prepare the lamb, as in cook it, and where to prepare the feast, as in, set up the meal, the bitter herbs, and the unleavened bread (the items that complete a Passover feast). But there is another aspect of preparation that needed to be attended to, without which the disciples could not have made their preparations. They needed a place in which they could prepare the feast.
Jesus, of course, had made preparations. There is some mystery here, though—as there usually is when it comes to the things of God. Jesus answered his disciples, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.”
As I read this response, I had a picture of the kingdom of God. There is a man carrying a jar who meets the disciples in the city—possibly at a location that is a common place to meet. They are to follow him, and he leads them to the master’s house, where a room is “furnished and ready” for them. Does this sound familiar to you?
Our father in heaven is preparing a place for all of us who follow the one who said, “Come, follow me…”
Jesus is in heaven right now preparing a place for us. He said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
And we are called to prepare as well—to prepare the bride for her bridegroom. One of my favorite images in scripture comes from Revelation 19:
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:6-9 ESV)
How am I preparing myself for Christ’s coming? This is the question that I am left with as I meditate on this passage. Am I “making myself ready?” Am I clothed in the fine, bright, pure linen of righteous deeds? We can not earn God’s salvation—it is a gift. But oh, how beautiful is the bride of Christ when she is clothed in goodness and purity of heart and generosity of spirit and action. With each “righteous deed,” the kingdom is among us. Let’s fill the earth with such deeds, done in the name of Christ and for his glory.