Summary: About two men who worked in secret. One for the Lord and one against.
This portion of Mark’s gospel reads like a novel of intrigue and suspense. With the Passover on the horizon, the religious elite are plotting to murder Jesus. A woman, identified in John’s gospel as Mary, anoints the head of Jesus with costly perfume and it makes Judas angry. Not because it could have been sold and the money given to the poor, as John also records as being Judas’ objection, but because he was a thief and regretted the lost opportunity to steal. So he went out in anger and had a secret meeting with the chief priests.
How that must have thrilled them! Just when they’re saying to each other, “This is our big chance. We know He’ll be in Jerusalem for the Passover, so while He’s here we’ll look for a chance to waylay Him. But we can’t do it during the actual festival. Wouldn’t be popular with the people. It’d be tantamount to having a wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl”.
Suddenly, in walks Judas Iscariot. “Hey guys. I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine. How much are you willing to give me in exchange for the Nazarene?”
Are you seeing it? The greed? The hatred? It wasn’t patriotism that turned Judas. It wasn’t because he was disappointed that Jesus hadn’t overcome Rome and set up His kingdom. It was because he might have had a chance to misappropriate a large amount of funds through the sale of that nard and the redirection of the monies into his own pocket, and now that his lust had been freshly primed, it had to be satisfied.
So he runs out to the enemies of the One he has been calling ‘friend’ for over three years, and sells Him out.
So let’s settle in at verse 12 now, and just follow this story and see how everyone is working in the shadows in order to accomplish their plans, and how Jesus is in control the whole time.
Let’s get a fresh look at the verses.
“And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, ‘Where do You want us to 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 will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, ‘Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’ And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; and prepare for us there.’
Every commentator I’ve read agrees that a man carrying a pitcher of water would have been an uncommon site, since fetching of water would have been considered woman’s work. Remember, it was Passover time in Jerusalem, and the city would already be overflowing with citizens and travelers coming in from all over for this festival.
So in the hustle and bustle of movement no one would have paid much attention to the man carrying water, but to the disciples it was a secret sign.
Every war of man has had its secret soldiers. There are the Generals and other officers, the grunts in the field, the tacticians, the quartermasters, artillery units and so on; but there are also the unheralded, often ignored and forgotten private patriots, who go about their normal daily business until they receive some secret instruction and then they quietly carry out their duties behind the scenes. No noise, no fuss, just do what they’re told and go back to their routine.
These are the brave and humble folk who pave the way for infiltrating troops. Who gather information and spirit it out of enemy territory back to Headquarters where it can be analyzed and used to protect fighting men or undermine the enemy’s efforts.
They also give food and safe haven to stranded or separated soldiers who are wounded or lost and need a place to hole up until reinforcements arrive.
There are countless stories of these people playing invaluable roles in our own country’s battles. One of them comes from the Civil War. Elizabeth Van Lew lived in a mansion in Richmond Virginia, but she was a Christian and therefore sympathized with the Union concerning slavery and the maltreatment of people because of the color of their skin.
During the entire conflict Elizabeth was very outspoken about where she stood and underwent a great deal of persecution and abuse from the citizens of Virginia because of it.
Nevertheless, she bought slaves only to set them free, refused to knit socks and make shirts for the Southern troops like the other women, but taking bibles and religious books to them instead, and spent a great deal of her time at Libby prison where captured Union soldiers were kept, nursing their wounds and giving them whatever comfort she was allowed.