Back Stories – When you peek between the lines or catch a glimpse of the shadows slipping quietly behind the scenes, there are a lot of people in the Bible—often nameless, faceless people—who play a huge role in the final outcome of the story. Theirs is the back story—those quiet dramas in the background that appear so obscure and trivial at first glance yet put in motion so much. These are men and women, sometimes even boys and girls, who made choices or took actions that either made an enormous contribution to God’s unfolding drama of redemption, or cost His Kingdom dearly. These are their stories.
Mi Upper Room es Su Upper Room
“As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.” Luke 22:10-12
It’s crunch time. The road trips are over. Q & A’s at the synagogues are going to be relegated to the historical record. What Jesus came to the world to do is finally staring him dead in the face. It’s time for the cross.
No event of this magnitude occurs in a vacuum. To a certain degree, everything he’s done since his birth in Bethlehem has been part of the build up to this moment. But now that the event is less than 24 hours away, he’s got to take care of some of final details regarding his disciples. Then all hell is free to break loose.
Jesus had some major theological lessons to teach his disciples about new covenants and the coming Holy Spirit. He had some practical lessons they’d need right away regarding servant attitudes (through washing their feet) and unity. He had a betrayer to confront. He had one of his closest confidants that needed to be prepared for those moments the next morning when his feet of clay would crumble beneath him.
If John 13-16 is any guide, this was no quick eat-n-run meal. Jesus had a lot to say; several layers of grace and truth to apply to their hearts. He needed a quiet staging area for this tender moment that offered the comfort and wherewithal to experience it with the least distractions.
We don’t know whether Jesus personally knew the owner of this house. Logic says that most likely he did. Perhaps their paths crossed in a previous visit to Jerusalem. He might have heard one of Jesus great discourses, observed one of his run-ins with the religious power brokers, or had a front row seat to one of his miracles. Maybe Jesus pulled him aside at some point and said, “I’m going to need a place to stage a final dinner party with my disciples before I activate my ultimate Kingdom plan. Any chance I could use that big room you have on the top floor of your house?”
Regardless, whatever it was that he needed and whenever it was that he needed it, there was a man ready and more than happy to accommodate him. So Peter and John did what Jesus said. They went to the gate, saw the servant carrying water, followed him to the address and were welcomed by a generous homeowner who held everything he had in open hands.
But he was more than that. He had to be. We can assume he was a conscientious steward of his talent, a careful handler of relationships, a person who maintained priorities that kept the eternal in perspective, and he was obviously a person who handled his money well. He’d have to be and do all of these things in order to have the kind of substantial, comfortably furnished, and well-stocked upper room/kitchen needed to accommodate 13 men and the wait staff required to serve them dinner at a moments notice.
When the disciples came knocking, there wouldn’t have been time to do a thorough cleaning and replace missing or unacceptable furnishings and kitchen utensils. It could never be perfect, but it had to be more than adequate and ready. And so it was.
It’s hard for God to call on undisciplined people. When spiritual opportunity knocks at our door it’s too late to decide to get our act together. On the other hand, when ordinary people decide to format their lives to bring glory, dignity and accommodation to an extraordinary God, there’s no end to how and when he will use them to make an eternal difference.
A faithful man said “Welcome.” Mi upper room es su upper room.” Feet were washed. Disciples were fed. Heads and hearts were taught. Betrayers were singled out. Friends were prepared for the worst. And then, just before Jesus headed out to fulfill His destiny for us, He made sure everyone got on the same side of the table for one last group photo.