By Julia Blum, Associate professor of Biblical studies, eTeacherBiblical
Jerusalem was swarming with people who had come for Passover. Every house had additional guests, every room was packed. Yet, Jesus seemed unconcerned about a place to eat the Passover meal. He told His disciples confidently, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters” (Luke 22:10). Who is that man? And how did Jesus know they would meet him?
A man walking around with a jar of water was a very unusual sight, as this was ordinarily women’s work. Why would a man be carrying a water jar in Jerusalem? The only group of Jewish men that traditionally did carry water jars were Essenes. Essenes were mostly celibate, and their men did women’s work. They had their communities, not only in Qumran, but in various towns. They also had a community in Jerusalem.
A ROOM FOR THE LAST SUPPER
One of Jerusalem’s gates was called “the Gate of the Essenes”. It was through this gate that they entered their community. When Jesus told His disciples that they will see a man carrying a water jar, he knew they would enter through the Essenes’ gate. Entering through this gate was crucial to finding a room for the Passover meal. The Essenes’ calendar was different than the regular Jewish one, and, therefore, they still had available guest rooms.
JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY
This story reveals the historical reality of Jerusalem of the 1st century. Discovering the Jewishness of Jesus and of the Early Jesus Movement is a crucial step in the continual process of accurate interpretation of the New Testament.
DID JESUS KNOW THE FUTURE?
by Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg
On one occasion Yeshua (Jesus) gave orders to Shimon (Peter) and Yohanan (John) to prepare for the Passover ahead of the disciples’ arrival: “Enter a city, then look for a man carrying a jar of water. Follow him and ask the person in charge to offer hospitality. He will show you a large room.” This is exactly what happened (Luke 22:7-13).
When Flavius Josephus describes the diaconal network that the Essenes, a Jewish group who were equal in number to the Pharisees, he writes: “They have no one certain city, but many of them dwell in every city; and if any of their sect come from other places, what they have they give to them …there is, in every city where they live, one appointed particularly to take care of strangers…” (Wars 2:124). Josephus also confirmed what we already know from other sources: many of the Essenes did not marry – choosing instead to dedicate themselves wholly to God.
So why did the disciples need to look for a man carrying a water jar? The answer is simple.
In an agricultural society, it was the exclusive duty of women to carry water. A man carrying a water jar could mean only one thing – this adult man had no wife and therefore he must have belonged to the Essene community!
Did Jesus know the future? Absolutely! He was familiar with the diaconal network of the Essene movement and he knew exactly what would happen next.
Was Jesus referring to an Essene via the Essene Gate in Jerusalem? If so, then this appears to be the only time. If anything, it’s fascinating to contemplate (at least for me). Another interesting point fueling this fascination is that the Essenes had an esteemed Teacher of Righteousness, who nonetheless was not Jesus, but was also known as a “Teacher.”
Another possibility is that the man carrying the jar of water was a disciple of Jesus with an inconsequential name who expected Jesus’ request. (See for instance the comprehensive article “Why Are Some Bible Characters Left Unnamed?”, in the August 1, 2013 issue of The Watchtower.)
He said: “Go into the city to So-and-so* and say to him, ‘The Teacher says: “My appointed time is near; I will celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your home.”’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus instructed them and prepared for the Passover. [* JS: The NET Bible has “a certain man”. This translates from the Greek word deina. Strong’s dictionary has “one whose name I cannot call on the instant, or whose name it is of no importance to mention.” Or as the above article says: “not vital to the account.”]
With that he sent two of his disciples and said to them: “Go into the city, and a man carrying an earthenware water jar will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he goes inside, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says: “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Prepare it for us there.” 16 So the disciples went out, and they entered the city and found it just as he said to them, and they prepared for the Passover.
He said to them: “Look! When you enter into the city, a man carrying an earthenware water jar will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters. 11 And say to the landlord of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you: “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 12 And that man will show you a large, furnished upper room. Get it ready there.” 13 So they left and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared for the Passover.