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“Questions at the Cross: Where Is My Guest Room?”
Mark 124:12-16


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Ash Wednesday—February 13, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

This evening we begin the season of Lent, meditating on our Lord’s suffering and death as we prepare to celebrate his resurrection at Easter.  During Lent this year, for both our special evening and Sunday morning services, we are considering “Questions at the Cross,” questions asked by Jesus and others during the first Holy Week.  The entire sermon series is listed on the back of this evening’s bulletin.  We begin this evening on the afternoon of Maundy Thursday, the day before Jesus’ death, when he instructs his disciples how to locate the room where they will celebrate their Last Supper:

“On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’  So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.  Say to the owner of the house he enters, “The Master asks: ‘Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’” He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’  The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them.”

Our first “Question at the Cross”: “The master asks, ‘Where is my guest room?’”

During the ancient Passover celebration pilgrims journeyed to Jerusalem from all over the world, and for one week the population of Jerusalem increased five times, from 50,000 to over 250,000.  It was of course impossible to find lodgings for all these visitors.  Most camped out in the hills surrounding the city, on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the Kidron Valley.  Many others did like Jesus, who for the first few days of Holy Week spent the night out in Bethany, a Jerusalem suburb about two miles outside the city.  He probably stayed there at the home of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, whom he had recently raised from the dead.

But, Jesus foretold how he must suffer and die at Jerusalem.  And so it is somewhere within that city, completely crowded and packed with pilgrims, that Jesus needs a place to eat the final Passover with his disciples.

Perhaps the owner of the house was himself a follower of Jesus, and Jesus had arranged with him in advance to reserve this choice upper room for the Last Supper.  Or, perhaps this is an example of Jesus’ divine powers, and the upper room is miraculously reserved, furnished, and ready for him and his disciples.

Perhaps the mysterious man carrying the water jar was a secret signal, prearranged by Jesus for Peter and John, in order to prevent Judas the betrayer from learning in advance the location of the Last Supper, so that he could not bring the guards there and so interrupt and spoil that blessed hour when our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  Or, perhaps the instructions about the man with the water jar was a demonstration of Christ’s divine foreknowledge and omniscience.   In any case, a man carrying a water jar would be unusual and conspicuous, since in that society fetching water was considered strictly women’s work, and men were almost never seen carrying a water jar.

Two disciples, Peter and John, go into the crowded city.  Since the Passover meal must be eaten indoors, hundreds of thousands of visitors to Jerusalem are desperately trying to find a room, any room, to celebrate the Passover that evening.  Jesus knows there is waiting in the city for him and his disciples not just any room, but a large upper room, furnished and ready, a fitting setting for the most significant meal of all time.

Following their master’s mysterious instructions, the two disciples find the house and say to the owner, “The master asks, ‘Where is my guest room?’”  Jesus is also asking that question of you, tonight: “Where is my guest room?” Like the crowded city of Jerusalem, our hearts, our homes, our lives are crowded, sometimes too crowded for Jesus.  Do you have room for Jesus?

“The master asks, ‘Where is my guest room?’” Is your heart too crowded for Jesus?  Too crowded with the cares and worries of this world, concerned more about this life than attaining eternal life?  As Jesus says in the Parable of the Sower, the worries of this life and the love of riches can choke out faith, like seed sown among the thorns.

Is your heart too crowded for Jesus?  Too crowded with sin, evil, wickedness?  “Out of the heart,” Jesus says, “come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. . .  the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored upon in his heart.”  Is your heart too crowded for Jesus?

“The master asks, ‘Where is my guest room?’”  Is your home too crowded for Jesus?  Too crowded with conflict, bitterness, fighting, anger?  To crowded for Jesus’ love, forgiveness, joy, and peace? 

Is your home too crowded for Jesus?  Too crowded with a wealth of things that disguises your poverty of spirit?

“The master asks, ‘Where is my guest room?’”  Is your life too crowded for Jesus?  “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name” Jesus says, “there I am among them.”  Here he is among us, in his house, inviting you to come and find rest for your weary soul.  But, how often our lives and just too crowded for Jesus, too crowded to give even few moments to worship him who gave his very life for us.  

“The master asks, ‘Where is my guest room?’”  Is your heart, your home, your life, all too crowded for Jesus?

Jesus’ heart is not too crowded for you.  For God so loved you, personally, that he sent his only-begotten Son, so that you would not perish but believe in him and have eternal life.

Jesus’ heart is not too crowded for you.  “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. . . and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”  Jesus has room in his heart for you.

Jesus’ home is not too crowded for you.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. . . I am going there to prepare a place for you. . . I will come and take you to be with me, so that where I am you also may be. . . you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus’ heavenly home is not too crowded for you, and there’s a place for you also here in his earthly house.  As Psalm 100 says, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”  And Hebrews reminds us, “Do not give up meeting together.”  Jesus has room in for you in his heavenly home, and your place is also here in his earthly house.

Jesus’ life is not too crowded for you.  “Greater love has no man than this,” Jesus says, “that he to lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus has a place reserved for you, a place for you in his heart, a place for you in his heavenly home, a place for you here in his earthly house.  Jesus’ life is not too crowded for you; for you he laid down his life for you.

“The master asks, ‘Where is my guest room?’”  Jesus is also asking that question of you, tonight: “Where is my guest room?” Like the crowded city of Jerusalem, our hearts, our homes, our lives are crowded, sometimes too crowded for Jesus.  Like the owner of the upper room, open up and welcome Jesus this Lenten season.  Open up and welcome Jesus into your heart, open and welcome Jesus into your home, open up and welcome Jesus into your life.  As Joshua says, “Choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Amen.

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