Palestine Calling
W. M. Christie

Chapter XX

A Man Bearing an Earthenware Jar of Water
Luke xxii. 11

Quite a number of interesting questions associate themselves with that seemingly incidental description of the man to be met. Every passer by would observe that he was doing "a woman's work," and there would be smiles and joking questions asked at his expense. "A woman's work." That is just what the man in the Orient will not do. It demeans and belittles him, and however loyal he may be to his employer, he draws the line there. What, then, must have been the relationship between master and man if "the goodman of the house" could ask, or if the servant on his own initiative would venture to carry water for the household use?

It is quite true that the women were all extremely busy that day in the final preparations for the coming feast. But on the other hand, there was no call to bring water from outside. It was the 6th of April, and the rainy season was closing. All the cisterns in Jerusalem would be full of "water from heaven," and there was nothing so desirable to be got anywhere else. The whole procedure seems unnecessary and absurd, but we think the picture has a story to tell.

Whence then had that man brought the water? An answer to that question will bring light. Peter and John, coming from Bethany, were to meet Him just inside the city. It was not a case of his going one way and their going another. The word means rather "to encounter or join in with," and through the city they were to follow him. He, too, had been outside, and had entered as they did, by the eastern Sheep Gate, now called Stephen's Gate. Now there was only one place outside of that gate where water could be got, at Jerusalem's solitary spring, that of Siloam, known in the Old Testament as Shiloah. There then the man had drawn his jar of water.

From the story of that spring, too, we may learn something of the thoughts of master and man. The natural platform just alongside had been the "crowning place" of Judah's kings (2 Kings 1:33), and with it were linked memories of David and Solomon. It was there, too, that Isaiah had announced to Ahaz the coming of the Virgin's Son, Immanuel; while that same water led into the city through the hill by Hezekiah, and gathered into the great pool of Siloam had meant "salvation to the city." And in memory of these associations there was the annual festival of the "Joy of the Water Drawing," during the first seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. A priestly procession on each of these days passed from the temple to the source of the spring, drew water and returned. It was then mingled with wine and poured over the altar and temple court, while the company chanted (Isa. 12) of "drawing water with joy from the wells of salvation."

And this leads us to Christ. He had been present at the "Tabernacles" of the past year, and shared in the ceremonial of "the last, the great day" (John 7:37). Think of that day. It was the 19th of October, the rains had not yet come, they were praying on that very day for rain. The ceremony of "Water Drawing," continued for seven days, was omitted that day, and there was a general thirst and weariness, and a felt want. Then at that very moment Christ presented Himself "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink." And furthermore, it was just three months ago that Christ had sent the man that was born blind (John 9:6) to wash in the Pool of Siloam, and he had returned seeing. With these waters were associated--kingdom, Immanuel salvation, joy, refreshment, and light.

Now when we consider that all these things must have been known to both master and man, we can understand something of the mentality that considered the bringing of "the waters of Shiloah" into their Passover Feast. The hearts of these men were linked with thoughts of "the kingdom," of Israel's Messianic Hope, and ultimately with Christ Himself. There may have been an element of sentiment or superstition in the seeking this particular water, but at the worst there is something more in a devout and reverent sentiment than in a learned critical unbelief. These men were "seekers" and as such Christ could deal with them and use them in His service. He, too, was a Seeker, "He came to seek and to save," and where there is seeking from both ends there is right early the joy of finding.

Consider now the jar of water. In old Palestine such a jar of water cost a half-penny. And what became of this water? We can well believe that part of it was used to mingle with the wine on the Lord's table, at His Passover. The Passover wine was always mixed in the proportion of one of wine to three of water (B. Shabb. 77 a). And before that was done no blessing could be pronounced on it (B. Ber. 50 b). Another portion would be poured out for the feet-washing, to teach, while the world should last, lessons of service and humility. Can we imagine a contribution to the Lord's treasury more richly used that that halfpenny jar of water?

We know nothing whatever of the names of master and man. All we can say is that their peculiar relationship was based on the Messianic Hope, and, shall we say, already in Christ? They were not yet members of the church, but in their own down-stairs room their Passover would run parallel with that of Christ. They would hear the echoes of the first Communion Service, and, when the closing hymn (Psalms 115-118 and 136), was sung, their hearts would beat responsively and their voices would chant in unison with that of Christ Himself. And we may believe that later on, when the number of the names was 120, that both master and man were members in full communion.

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