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God’s Word for You

Mark 14:13-15 The Upper Room

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, December 17, 2023

13 He sent two of his disciples. He said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Wherever he goes in, say to the owner of the house that the Teacher asks, ‘Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

We made this point with verse 12, but it’s well worth saying again: Jesus kept the name of location secret because the betrayer was still with him. Now we see that he also kept the name of the man they were to follow a secret. This meant that apart from Peter and John (who, according to Luke 22:8, were the two that went to make preparations), none of the disciples knew where this celebration would take place. In addition to keeping the location secret from the betrayer, this would also keep the identity of the man and his family a secret, so that they might not be persecuted later on by the Jews or by the Romans.

Sometimes people speculate that this house was the home of Mary, the mother of Mark (our author), and that the water-carrying man was her husband and Mark’s father. This is because the disciples gather in their house in Acts 12:12. But if the house were well-known to the disciples and others and a usual meeting place for Jesus, then Judas the betrayer might easily have guessed that place. So it’s really more likely that, if anything, this was not the upper room of the Last Supper.

Let us see what we learn from the text:

1, “Go into the city.” Jesus needed to enter Jerusalem to have this meal; he could not remain out in Bethany or one of the other surrounding villages.

2, “A large upper room.” Many of the Jewish men would eat their passover in public places, but Jesus needed to have a private place for himself and his disciples.

3, The man carrying the jar of water was almost certainly not the owner of the house, but a servant. The two disciples did not question that man, but only followed him. It has been noted that in ancient Palestine, a man carrying water in a jar would be unusual. Generally, women carried water in jars on their heads. If men carried water, they would carry it in waterskins, in their hands. This instance could have been (1) a habitual act of a certain servant, (2) a unique, one-time incident foreseen miraculously by Jesus, or (3) a prearranged signal for this Passover night. I think that the latter two are more likely than the first.

4, The servant with the jar probably knew that they would follow him, especially if this were a pre-arranged signal. “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). This meant that he would know that this was dangerous, since the chief priests and scribes and perhaps others were conspiring to kill Jesus (Mark 14:1).

5, Either the servant or the owner of the house—probably the owner—would already have selected a lamb for the group. Moses had commanded: “Go and take lambs for yourselves according to your family size, and slaughter the Passover lamb” (Exodus 12:21). It would be almost impossible for Jesus himself to have chosen a lamb; the priests were accusing him of heresy.

6, The owner of the house would know who they meant when they said the Teacher. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). How could this be unless the man was already a follower of Jesus, a devoted follower, that he fully understood that the Lord’s passion was rapidly approaching? Jesus said many times: “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. After three days he will rise” (Mark 10:33-34). This man would be willing and able to do anything the Lord asked of him on this night.

7, It seems likely, almost indisputable, that this owner of the house was also so well known to Jesus and so dear to him that he could be completely relied upon to keep the Lord’s presence in the house a secret.

8, The nature of the request tells us that Peter and John would have very little to do apart from possibly helping to roast the lamb, bake some of the bread, and cut vegetables, along with the physical labor of carrying the food, wine, and other things upstairs, to keep the identity of the guest a secret from the servants of the house.

9, “Furnished” (Greek stronnymi, στρώννυμι) means that the room was already furnished for a Passover meal. The meal was served either on dining couches at tables, or on the floor with the men reclining on mats or rugs. Since tables are mentioned elsewhere in the meal, we can be sure that they were on couches and not on mats on the floor. This detail is in Luke 22:21, where the table is, in Greek, the trapeza (τράπεζα). The translations that use the phrase “reclining at the table” have added the words “at the table” for clarity, but in the those places the word is simply anakeimai (ἀνάκειμαι) “reclining” or anapipto (ἀναπίπτω) “leaning.”

The time was approaching. It was the very day of his betrayal. But there were other things to do first. For most of us, if we knew that our death was coming soon—a death by public humiliation and torture—the day would filled with anything from personal indulgence in excess or an obsession with escape. Or perhaps a black and grim cloud of hate and terror. But our Lord Jesus thought of his friends, and thought of us, his followers down the long path of time. He had much to say to us all, and more to do today than simply be arrested. His actions ahead of his arrest help us to reflect on the meaning of the words: “His mercy endures forever.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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