Throughout history, every culture has come up with annual feasts and celebrations that draws people together to celebrate traditions of food, music, events, and entertainment. Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Oktoberfest in Munich, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City, the Day of the Dead in Mexico… each of these has a special place in the hearts of those who live there, and each draws millions of people from around the world who want to join in the experience. For those who celebrate them, plans are made well in advance for travel and lodging, for reuniting with old friends and visiting relatives, and for creating a list things to do and see.
For Jews, Passover was their annual feast dating back to Moses. From as far away as Libya, Greece, and Babylonia, Jews would come to Jerusalem to celebrate their exodus from Egypt. It is estimated that two and a half million Jews gathered in Jerusalem every year to celebrate Passover, making it one of the most populated cities in the world for the duration of the event. Picture the scene: Every family had to sacrifice a lamb, so the city was jammed with sheep, about 250,000 of them, on top of the animals used for transportation, and on top of the endless sea of people. The aromas of roasting lamb and incense mixed with the smell of fresh manure. The markets were bustling with people exchanging their various currencies for silver to buy their sacrificial animals, negotiations were being made, sheep were bleating, trumpets were blasting their announcements, and families were arguing over the fastest way to get through the crowd to grandmas. Truly, it must have been overwhelming to all the senses.
Imagine for a moment that you were one of the people who lived in Jerusalem back then. Imagine you had a spare room in your house. What would you do? Maybe exercise a little capitalism and make a few extra shekels, right? With a little foresight and planning, if you had the room fully furnished and ready to go, you could probably make the equivalent of one or two month’s pay if rented to someone who was wealthy. After doing this for a few years, you’ve probably got a pretty good plan down pat, and you count on renting that room every year as part of your family’s income. After all, with that many people coming to town, finding someone to rent the room to isn’t exactly going to be difficult. You might even have it rented weeks or months in advance. So you have this room all prepared and ready to go, and some stranger follows your son, who you sent to get some water, and comes up to you and says, “The Teacher wants to know where his dining room is.” You’re probably going to want to know where this teacher’s money is.
Yet when Jesus sent Peter and John into the city, this is exactly what happened. And the father of the house showed them the room, fully furnished, ready for the Passover, and no mention is made of payment. Nothing else is known about this man, yet from the context we can learn that some how, in some way, God had to instruct the man ahead of time. He had to know to reserve the room, had to know what would be said to him by the people he was preparing it for, and he had to be so profoundly moved by the source of these instructions that he was willing to let Jesus use the room with His disciples without compensation. Who was going to stay there, how the guests would find him, the importance of what would happen in that room were all irrelevant. All that man knew was, “prepare a room, and two men will come saying the Teacher wants it. Give it to them.” However that man came to know those things, we don’t know, but we do know that his obedience must have come from a deep well of his faith.
Our lives are filled with bleating sheep, blaring trumpets, crowds of people in our way, and piles of manure to avoid stepping in. Yet in the middle of it all, we are being quietly asked to prepare a room. We don’t know what plans God has for that room in our hearts. We do not know when He will come asking to use it. We do not know who He will bring with Him or what miracle He will perform. But we do know that He wants to come in. Our hearts are not ours, but His. We are the ones renting from Him. But we are tasked with taking care of that room. He wants us to to furnish it. To have it ready and waiting. And to give it away for free whenever He comes asking, so that His will be done, and we may all one day join in the greatest of celebrations.