The Upper Room Experience

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The gospels tell us how Jesus prepared a passover meal for his close followers, just prior to his arrest and crucifixion. It was the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the day that the Passover Lamb was traditionally sacrificed. The accounts are found in all four gospels – Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and John 13). “He [Jesus] replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” (Luke 22:10-12). Luke 22 verses 15 and 16 Jesus expresses how he was looking forward to sharing the meal, but also that His time of crucifixion was near. “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.” I loved our walk around the ‘Old Jerusalem’ – very memorable, and many moments of deep gratitude for what our Saviour did for us. This website (‘Biblewalks.com’) also gives a lot of good information about the site.

Of course there is speculation over the authenticity of this location, or this building, or whether the tomb is actually the tomb of King David. It doesn’t really concern me, but definitely interests me…the journey of faith is what is important, and what we can learn from these places. This website (biblearchaeology.org) gives a lot of information about the Upper Room site, on Mount Zion. It links its location to an old Byzantine Chapel built on the site, and as I have mentioned in previous posts – a lot of significant locations had synagogues or chapels built on them. This location is also linked to the mosaic we saw in Madaba (Jordan). Below is a replica of the mosaic. Since important buildings apparently had red roofs, some speculate that the house facing north/south (image to the right), is the upper room, and its location matches the ‘Hagia Sion’ location today. Underneath is the actual mosaic from St Georges Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba. The mosaic was crafted in AD560, and is one of the oldest maps of Palestine with 157 captions in Greek (1). You can see the map of Jerusalem is almost in the middle of the picture taken from the chapel floor. Amongst other finds, is the main road of Jerusalem, shown in the middle, which adds credibility and accuracy to the mosaic.

Below is the tomb of David. I loved the embroidery of the violin over the sarcophagus. This link (biblearcheology.org) has some discussion around the speculation of this being the burial place of King David. Nevertheless, people come here as a pilgrimage to touch and pray over the tomb of King David.

Back to the story of the Last Supper…John 13-17 adds a lot more detail to the story. In John 13:5 we see Jesus filled with so much love for his disciples, proceeds to wash their feet. What a servant our Lord was! What an example for us. We could assume it happened in the upper room as after he washed their feet, they were reclining at the table for the supper. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” Further on verses 12-17…When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has added foot washing to it’s communion service (roughly once a quarter) as a symbolic acknowledgement of our role in our relationships with each other. We are to forgive each other, and be humble towards each other – not lording it over one another, and not trying to out-power each other, but rather, to kneel before our brother and sister and symbolically carry out a servant task. This interesting service symbolically places us in that humble relationship with our ‘neighbour’. We have different rooms set up with bowls of warm water, and hand towels. We partner up, wash each others’ feet and then pray for each other. After that we head back into the church for the rest of the service.

In the upper room, Jesus talks extensively to his disciples, sharing final truths with them. John 17 has a beautiful account of Jesus’ prayer. He prays for His disciples, and then for all believers. How special is that, that we have an account of Jesus praying for us! Part of his prayer in verse 20-21 says “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” Jesus yearns for us to be united in our belief and love of Jesus and what He has done for us.

Luke 22:17-20 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

What powerful symbolism Jesus portrays here. He was always trying to express Heavenly truths in concrete things that the disciples understood. When we take communion, we are symbolically taking the vine to represent Christ’s blood which purifies us. We take the unleavened bread to symbolise the purity (no yeast) of Christ’s body that was broken on the cross. We symbolically take it to REMEMBER what Christ has done for us, the new promise, new covenant that through Him we are made right with God. We also symbolically take it to LOOK FORWARD to when Jesus will return and once again take part in a feast with all His people. I think there is huge meaning to the fact that scripture does not mention the tradition lamb feast. They may have had it, but it is not specifically mentioned. So lets draw some application from that…Here was Jesus, the lamb himself at that point of Passover! So there was no reason that they should sacrifice a lamb and eat it as Jesus was right there about to fulfil that symbol. It was at the very time of the Jewish Passover, (to remember the angel of death passing over the Israelites in Egypt) that Jesus is sharing symbols of what His approaching death means. Here is Jesus about to take the angel of death upon Himself so that we are spared. Not spared from earthly death, but spared from eternal death. Satan would have been hovering in glee knowing that he was about to capture the ultimate prize. Little did he know how magnificently Jesus would conquer death, and rise from the tomb. He conquered the angel of death for us!

Thank you Jesus!

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