This is part 2 of a 4 part series. Click here for part 1.
Let’s get this straight. In a crowded city with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims arriving for Passover, the disciples were to be looking for a man with a water jug to follow. To a Western audience in the 21st century, we read this without any hesitation, but it probably sounded like bizarre instructions to the disciples. See, men didn’t carry water jugs; women did. Think of Rebekah in the Old Testament and the Samaritan woman in the New Testament, who notably went to the well to draw water—men were not drawing water with them. It was embarrassing for a man to carry a water jug in public, as Robert Boyd explains in his book, World’s Bible Handbook:
The custom of carrying water in the Holy Land is ancient. However, it was and is the woman’s job to go to the well or spring with a pitcher and carry water to [her] home. When the Gibeonites deceived Joshua (9:3-27), he judged them and made them servants to chop wood and carry water. This punishment may seem mild to us, but how humiliating it was to a man – carrying water in public – a woman’s job! This helps us to better understand how easy it was for the disciples to identify the man carrying the water pot when Jesus sought an upper room [in which] to eat the Passover. It was not a question of seeking one man out of many carrying a water pot – this man would stick out above all others, in that he alone would be carrying one. A man may carry a water skin, but seldom does one carry a water pot.
Little did this unknown man know that he would be hosting the God of the universe and His disciples for Passover. I often wonder what that jug of water was used for. Maybe the man served his guests water to drink after a long day walking in the Judean heat. Or maybe it was the water Jesus put in the basin to clean each of the disciple’s feet. It’s only speculation. But it makes another point about the ministry of Jesus: He can use anyone at any time to accomplish His plan. We just have to be open and available like the man with the water jug.
Check back next week for part 3.
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