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The End is the Beginning

by Tim O'Hearn

“What’s past is prologue.” (The Tempest, II, i) “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” We recognize that what has come before is often indicative of the future. In some ways, so it was with the life of Jesus. In a recent article (“The Guest Room”, December 2019) it was shown that at the birth of Jesus there was no room in the guest room, “inn” being a mistranslation. At the end of his life, it seems there was room.

And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. (Lk 22:10-13)

The disciples were to ask for the guestchamber. In the Greek, this is the same word as used by Luke in chapter 2, saying there was no room. In this case, though, the master of the house provides a “large upper room.”

The birth of Jesus probably occurred near the Passover or, six months later, near the Feast of Booths. In either case, the coincidence of the holiday with the mandated Roman census resulted in a scarcity of room. When Joseph and Mary went to stay with relatives, there was no room in the guest room, so when Jesus was born he was cradled in the nearby manger in the lower part of the house. He had a very humble beginning.

That “lowly birth,” as a song lyric puts it, was followed by almost thirty years of little consequence. Then came three or four years in which Jesus was a wandering rabbi, although he did make a home in Galilee. Then he came to the third or fourth Passover of his public ministry. This time, when he asks for a guest room similar to the one that was not available at his birth, he is shown to a much larger, more elaborate room, a room on an upper floor of a house.

Two requests for a guestchamber. In the first instance his parents are told there was no room for a baby. In the latter instance he is afforded a room that would accommodate Jesus and twelve or more of his followers. (We don’t know that the Passover celebration was limited to just the apostles.) Past is prologue. In just over thirty years he went from an unknown baby to a revered rabbi who could get a room on demand.

That night, however, he seemed to go from revered rabbi to an outcast. He was taken, beaten, tried, and executed. It seemed the prologue did not hold the promise that it had held just a few hours before. The story did not end, there, however, because past is prologue. That night Jesus spoke of another guest room. He did not use that term. Rather he used a word meaning a complete dwelling, not just a room.

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (Jn 14:2-3)

Jesus went from no room in the guestroom, to a room larger than the guest room. And then he promised that he would not only occupy a room larger, but that he would provide for us. The beginning doesn’t really show the greatness of the end.