Seeing the world through a theological lens...
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?” “Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
If there Is a passage of scripture that emphasizes the danger Jesus and his disciples were in, this is it. Peter and John are sent to get things ready, and reserve a place big enough, so that Jesus and the others might share this most holy meal as one group. But this is not as easy as calling ahead to a local restaurant. In fact, its all very cloak and dagger like, isn't it? "Go into the city and a guy carrying a water jar will meet you..." says Jesus. "Follow him into the house he enters..."
There must have been a network, as in any modern day movement, in which Jesus and the disciples communicated and could move around in safety. (Or, at the very least, by the time Luke wrote this account of the gospel, there was.) It's been set up before hand that the water carrier is the one that will lead them to the place of communion. It reminds me of us seeking/finding the one who has living water, who leads us to unity.... but that's for another blog.
Followers of The Way, as they would come to be known, had many secret signals and signs within the movement. It was necessary as the movement continued to grow, and the authorities, both state and religious, grew more threatened. Believers needed a way to communicate, to organize, and to carry out acts, protests, and support. And thinking about it, it's amazing how quickly word was spread and how organized they were in a time of no phones and internet.
Of course they had no information overload as we do. The people of the first century were not barraged with emails and texts and notifications and media blasts, so the important stuff got through, not buried under a pile of emails that remain unopened. On the other hand, they were just as weighted down with life as most of us are; they were just as stressed and worried about everyday living, jobs, kids, government corruption, as we are. Yet, they believed the Way was the path to a brighter future; that carrying out the commandments of Jesus would bring about a revolution. So they lived out his teachings. They took them seriously. And that meant, that they put themselves, their families, their friends, in danger. Of course they needed secret signs.
One of the most well known signs of early Christianity, (from well after Jesus's death and resurrection), is the fish with letters, the Ichthys (pictured above). This was carved into, or attached to, the outside of a believer's house, so that others would know a safe haven and a coconspirator/peace agent. It was also placed on secret Christian roads, leading to churches. If a Christian met a stranger on the road, they could draw an arc in the dirt. If the other person drew the other half of the arc, completing the fish drawing, they knew they were in safe company. Pretty cool, right?
It has me thinking today, what signs we have to alert other believers that we are also agents of peace; that we are a safe haven. What sign would lead them to our church? What visible things do we do in plain sight, that other Christians know that we are living out the teachings of Jesus, and working toward God's shalom?
And I'm not talking about a lawn sign or a wreath or a nativity set or even a welcome plaque. We have moved beyond a fish on the door. The cross has been commercialized and even claimed as an emblem by some groups that are far from the teachings of Christ.
We need more than a symbol of safety. Our very lives need to be reflective of who we are, and what we believe. Like the old hymn "they will know we are Christians by our Love." It is the only way others will be able to recognize a place of safety; when we are known for carrying the living water of love.
As we prepare for tomorrow, Maundy Thursday, may God grant us light; may we gain insight as to how to live as modern day disciples so that others may be led to communion.