The Secret of the Passover Water-Bearer

The secret of the Passover water-bearer is revealed in the unnamed servant and the woman at the well.

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
(Mark 14:12-16 ESV. See also Matthew 26:17-19 and Luke 22:7-13.)

This passage reads almost like something from a spy novel with undercover agents and secret codes. What was going on? Who was this man they met? And who was the master of the house who was apparently expecting Yeshua and his disciples?

Two theories dominate most commentaries:

  1. Yeshua was giving another demonstration of his divinity. By knowing exactly who would be where in Jerusalem and which house still had a room available at the height of tourist season, the disciples could see that he had knowledge that only one with powerful spiritual connections could have.
  2. Yeshua wanted to eat the Passover in peace with his disciples. He had secretly made arrangements ahead of time and sent only two of his disciples to a clandestine meeting to secure and prepare the Passover so that they wouldn’t draw attention. In this way, they could celebrate Passover without being disturbed by worshipers, miracle seekers, or detractors.

I don’t have any strong feelings against either of those ideas–they both have merit–but I think there is something more going on. Passover involves washing, cooking, and baking, so surely there was more than one man in Jerusalem porting water in preparation for the coming festivities. There must have been thousands! Why did Yeshua single out that characteristic and not another, like the color of his turban or the style of his cloak?

Although these ideas are plausible, and might even be true, I’m going to give you two additional, interconnected, more significant ideas.

In Mark 14, an unnamed servant, who carries a pitcher of water, leads two of the disciples to the master’s house, where they will prepare to share the Passover with their friends.

Why a pitcher of water? Who was the man and how did he know they were coming?

Whenever you see something inexplicably odd in Scripture, it’s a sign that you should stop and take a closer look. I think a good place to start looking is in other places where we see pitchers of water and unnamed servants.

  • Genesis 24 – Abraham’s servant recognizes God’s intended bride for Isaac because of her pitcher of water.
  • Numbers 5:11-31 – A clay pitcher is used to mix holy water and dust from holy ground to wash away the curses written against the woman accused of adultery.
  • John 4:1-43 – The woman at the well abandons her water jar to tell her neighbors about Yeshua.
  • 2 Corinthians 4 – We are clay jars into which the life and death of Yeshua have been poured.

There are others, of course, but I think this sampling is sufficient to learn something significant.

An unnamed servant is often a metaphor of the Holy Spirit, for example in Genesis 24 when Abraham sends his servant to find a bride for Isaac. How does the servant know which of the many young women of the town is the right one to bring back for Isaac? She is the one who is carrying a pitcher of water from which she will give a drink to him and all of his camels. Abraham is God, the Father, while the servant is the Holy Spirit, Isaac is the Son, and Rebekah is Israel, the Messiah’s bride.

So the servant in Mark 14 may be an image of the Holy Spirit, but what does the pitcher of water mean?

Bear with me for a bit.

By calling the servant–and the whole situation–a metaphor, I don’t mean to say that the events of Genesis 24 and Mark 14 didn’t actually happen as described. I mean that real events are often orchestrated by God to be prophetic metaphors of future events or of greater truths. In Mark, the man leads the two disciples to the Master’s house. Who is the Master? As in the Genesis story, He is God, the Father, and the house is the Kingdom of Heaven. No one can know the way to the Father unless the Spirit opens his eyes.

But having one’s eyes opened to the way is not enough. Yeshua said that he is the door and no one comes to the Father except through him. So where is Yeshua in this story? He is there at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.

Bear with me a while longer, if you will.

Water is often a metaphor of spirit. Depending on the context, it can be the Holy Spirit or the spirit of a person or even of a people.

The water in this story is held in a clay pitcher.

Earthenware vessels take a prominent role in the sacrificial system. If a sin offering (Hebrew: khatat, which literally means just “sin”) is boiled in a clay pot, the pot had to be broken afterward (Leviticus 6:28), much like Yeshua’s body was broken for us as he took our sin upon himself. The clay pot is his body, the sin offering is our sin, and the water is his spirit, which transforms the sin offering into an atonement for sin.

There is another transformation–and another earthenware vessel–described in the trial of the woman suspected of adultery in Numbers 5. The woman undergoes an elaborate ordeal in which curses against her are written on a scroll and washed off into a vessel containing sanctified water and dirt from the holy ground of the Tabernacle. She then drinks the mixture. If she is guilty, she’ll die of a wasting disease. If she is innocent, the curses are erased by the water and dirt from the pitcher, not just physically from the scroll, but also spiritually from her soul.

In this procedure, we are the accused woman and Yeshua is, again, the vessel. His life was poured out on the cross in order to “blot out the handwriting of ordinances that were against us” (Colossians 2:14). We too are clay vessels, and into us, God has poured “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”, as well as his very life and death so that we can, in turn, give his light to the world while standing firm beneath the hardships and persecutions that the world throws against us for the sake of our faith in Yeshua. (2 Corinthians 4)

In John 4, there is yet another woman and an earthenware vessel. Yeshua and his disciples encounter a Samaritan woman drawing water from a well–Why does that sound familiar?–and when she realizes that he is the prophesied Messiah, she abandons her pitcher there at the well. She exchanges her pitcher of mundane water that must be replenished daily in order to continue sustaining life for another, Yeshua, that gives eternal life and never runs out. She runs home to tell all of her friends and family about the man who gave her living water, and they all believe in him too.

What has all this to do with the Passover water-bearer? Here is the meaning:

As in the story of Rebekah, the unnamed servant (the Holy Spirit) has gone to the well in search of a bride for the Master’s son. At the well he finds Peter and John who are two witnesses standing in for the twelve disciples, as well as for the two houses of Israel. They are the Bride of Messiah.

The servant doesn’t speak to them directly or on his own behalf, but carries his water pitcher on his shoulder, lifting up Messiah Yeshua so that they are able to follow him through the throngs that fill the streets for the coming festivities to the Master’s house, to the Kingdom of Heaven and the wedding feast of the Lamb.

God’s graphic prophecies are multidimensional, and if you turn them to look at them from a slightly new angle, you can often see another layer.

The servant is also you and me.

We are the woman at the well who has abandoned her old, empty life at the feet our Messiah and exchanged it for another, full of eternal life in Him. Our task, our Great Commission, is to lift Yeshua up high, like she did, so that all those who are called can see him in us. The world must be able to watch us walk among the world’s billions and see the life and death of Yeshua in our every word and deed. Our walk must be righteous to match the innocence which has been imputed to us by his shed blood, so that those who are ready and seeking him will find him.

The worthy servant of God goes out into the world with the Spirit and the Word to guide the broken, the sorrowful, the meek, and the hungry to the freedom from sin and death that is only found in our Passover lamb, Yeshua.

So, go, and live worthy lives that “draw all men unto” Him (John 12:32) and “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) to tell others of the living water that has redeemed and animated us.

Peter’s Passover

As prophecy, Passover has ripples forwards and backwards in time.

Over many years in Sunday School, in church, and at school (I went to a Christian school.), I remember hearing the story of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison (Acts 12) many times, almost as often as I heard about the non-escape of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. But in all that time, I don’t recall ever hearing that God orchestrated–and Luke portrayed–this escape to be a mirror image of the Hebrews’ escape from Egypt.

I don’t think there was any grand conspiracy of silence involved. Maybe it was taught, and I missed it, but I think it’s more likely that most of my teachers were unaware of the parallels themselves. But once you become very familiar with the story of the first Passover in Exodus, the connections are very difficult to miss. Check out this startling list:

Peter’s Passover Israel’s Passover
Herod persecuted Yeshua’s followers. Pharaoh persecuted the Hebrews.
Herod killed James (“Jacob” in Hebrew). Pharaoh killed the infant sons of Jacob.
Peter was arrested and imprisoned during Passover. Passover commemorates the enslavement and redemption of the Hebrews.
The congregation of believers prayed for Peter’s deliverance. The Hebrews cried out to God for their deliverance.
There were sentries outside Peter’s cell door. The Egyptians were outside the blood-marked doors of the Hebrews.
An angel, who lit up Peter’s cell, appeared to lead him out of prison. An angel in the form of a pillar of fire led the Hebrews out of Egypt.
The angel woke Peter and told him to get up quickly. God told the Hebrews to be prepared to leave Egypt quickly.
Peter’s chains were removed by a miracle. The Hebrews’ chains were removed by a series of miraculous plagues.
The angel told Peter to dress and put on his sandals. The Hebrews were told to eat the Passover with their sandals on and staffs in hand
The angel and Peter walked out past the guards with no resistance. The Hebrews walked out of Egypt with the full cooperation of the Egyptian people.
God caused the gates into the city to open to let Peter pass. God caused the Red Sea to part to let the Hebrews pass.
Peter said, “Now I am sure the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod and all that the Jewish people were expecting.” Jethro heard all that God had done in rescuing Israel from Egypt.
Peter went to the house of Mary (“Miriam” in Hebrew) where there was a prayer meeting in progress. Miriam led worship and prayer after the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea.
There was a disturbance in Herod’s court when Peter’s absence was discovered. Pharaoh was angry and regreted that he had let the Hebrews go.
Herod killed the guards who allowed Peter to escape. God killed Pharaoh’s charioteers in the Red Sea.
The neighboring kingdoms depended on Herod for food. The neighboring kingdoms depended on Pharaoh for food during the famine of Joseph’s time.
The people who heard Herod’s speech praised him as a god. The Egyptians worshiped Pharaoh as a god.
An Angel of the Lord killed Herod. God drowned Pharaoh in the Sea.

We usually think of the Passover as a one-time event (God delivered the Hebrews from Egypt) that prophesied another one-time event (the death and resurrection of Yeshua). Done and done. But that’s not really the way that God works. He builds everything around themes, applying the same patterns over and over, almost like ripples across the surface of time.

Passover also appears in the destruction of Sodom:

  • Abraham washed the feet of his guests and offered a meal with unleavened bread.
  • Lot offered a meal of unleavened bread to the angels.
  • Lot and his family sheltered in his house while angels caused mayhem in Sodom.
  • The angels lead Lot and his family to safety while God destroyed Sodom.

In the binding of Isaac:

  • God led Abraham on a three day journey into the wilderness.
  • Father Abraham left his servants (his disciples) behind while he and his son go on ahead to the altar.
  • Isaac carried the wood for his own death.
  • The near death and subsequent resurrection of Isaac.

And in John’s Revelation:

  • A series of plagues devastate the world (Egypt).
  • Those covered in the blood of the lamb are saved from or through the plagues.
  • The redemption of the 144,000.
  • The saints sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.

There are probably other echoes of Passover in Scripture that I haven’t seen yet or can’t remember right now. My point is that it is a mistake to call one of God’s feasts “fulfilled” as if it’s no longer relevant. God wasn’t done with Passover when the Red Sea closed over the Egyptians. In fact, He was only just getting started. Nor was He done with it when Yeshua rose from the grave, as we can see in Peter’s escape from prison and in Paul’s use of Passover themes to teach holy living.

Yeshua’s death and resurrection wasn’t an echo of the Passover in Egypt, but the other way around. Egypt was an echo of Calvary, and it wasn’t the only one, either before or after. We can expect another Passover and another Exodus at the Day of the Lord described by the prophets.

Just as the plagues and the march out of Egypt weren’t a walk in the park for anyone, not even the Hebrews, so the Exodus to come won’t be pleasant. And like all great events and disasters, thorough preparation can make things much easier. We keep Passover every year as a memorial of what has already happened and so that we will be able to recognize God’s patterns when we see them in the world around us.

God’s feasts aren’t arbitrary, nor are they only historical. They are ongoing training that we can use to better understand His character and His plan, and to be better prepared for the future. If we are taken off guard at how events unfold, there’s no real excuse. God showed us what will happen, and then He told us and showed us again, and commanded us to learn it and rehearse it.

If you’ve never kept Passover before, it’s not too late. You can start this year, and don’t worry about getting all the details right. God doesn’t expect anyone to get it perfect or else He wouldn’t have told us to keep doing it year after year. But you do have to start somewhere.

Hebrew for Christians has a lot of good information on Passover at their website here. Don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one piece at a time and progress as you can. Find some believers near you who are hosting a Passover seder and ask if you can join them. Who would say no?


Here are some great resources you can use to explore Passover with your family:

A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays.
Great for families with small children who want to replace secular and pagan holidays with God’s days:
A Christian Passover Seder.
A guide to a semi-traditional Passover celebration for believers in Yeshua.

You Will Go Out in Joy

You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.

Isaiah 55:12-13

There is no escaping pain. To one degree or another, everyone hurts, everyone suffers. No one can say why one person suffers in one way and another suffers in some other way, but pain and trouble are part of living. Without strain, our bones and muscles would never grow strong. Without sickness, our immune systems would never learn. Without conflict, our hearts would never learn what it means to love.

In the midst of our struggle, it can be easy to forget that God still sees us, but never believe that He has abandoned you. Your pain is real. Your scars might never fade. But God has promised that He will reward those who remain faithful and that reward will be greater than anything you might have lost. He will exchange your thorns for firs, your iron for silver, your bronze for gold. (Is 55 & 60)

And He will do this because fulfillment of promises and rewards for faithfulness are an intrinsic part of His name. It is simply who He is.

Pining for Easter

I can’t remember for certain where I first heard this allegorical story of Christmas–probably on Mark Call‘s radio show–but I have never forgotten its message. It involves a recently married couple. The wife has a sordid past, and her husband gave up nearly everything to help her put it behind her and heal from her many emotional, spiritual, and physical wounds. I have embellished it somewhat from the original. Here, we overhear them discussing his birthday.

W: “Dear, what would you like to do for your birthday this year? Anything you want!”

H: “More than anything else, I’d like to spend some time with you. Let’s go camping for a week where we can really be together.”

W: “But it’s so uncomfortable out there sleeping on the ground. Mosquitoes, flies…yuck! And no air conditioning! I have a better idea. Why don’t we stay home and throw a party? We’ll put up lights and decorations, and we’ll give presents to everyone! I know how much you like the wilderness, so we’ll put a tree up in the living room and make it up all fancy with lights and silver and gold! Oh! Won’t it be beautiful?”

H: “I’m sure it would be, but that’s not what I want. Besides, didn’t you used to do all these things with one of your ex boyfriends?”

W: “I know you didn’t really ask for anything this fancy, but I know you’ll love it. It will give me and all our friends a chance to show you just how much we love you! We’ll even change the date to make sure it’s convenient for everyone. How does December 25th sound?”

H: “That’s your ex boyfriend’s birthday, not mine! Those are the things he wanted you to do!  How could you possibly think I would appreciate that?”

W: “I know, but we already have this tradition. We’ve been doing it every year for so long now. It will be so much easier if we just keep using that same date and holding the same party. We’ll change the name! It’s OK because everyone will know we’re doing it for you now, not for Sol. Nor for old Satty, even if that’s where I got most of my ideas. Nor for Mithras, because hardly anybody remembers him anyway. See? It’s OK because I’m doing it all for you!”

H: “I already told you what I want.”

W: “Thor and I used to have a fire every year on his birthday. Let’s do that too! Oh! One more thing. You’ll love this! Can you dress up like Odin? He looked so cute, and the children will love it!”

H: “I am not Odin!”

It gets worse. Here is another conversation at a later date.

H: “I want you to always remember how much I sacrificed to rescue you from the cruel bondage of your former lovers. I want you to remember how I bled and suffered for you.”

W: “Oh! I will. How could I ever forget? To commemorate what you’ve done for me and to show you how much I love you, I’m going to bake a ham and invite everyone over for dinner.”

H: “You know ham disgusts me! I told you to roast a lamb.”

W: “We’ll color eggs and decorate with cute little bunnies.”

H: “Isn’t that what your ex lesbian lover, the one who murdered your children, used to make you do?”

W: “Well, yes, but that doesn’t matter anymore. I’m doing it all for you, and you know how much I love you. We’ll celebrate this day in your honor every year, and we’ll call it Easter!”

H: “That’s your lover’s name!”

God specifically told us not to adopt the religious customs of pagans. He told us not to join in their feasts. Yet we do it anyway, year after year after year, and we say it’s all good because God knows our hearts. He does indeed. Do you? What would you think of a wife who continued to celebrate the birthdays and deeds of horribly abusive ex lovers while claiming she did it for her husband who told her not to? How pure can your heart be if you still pine after your slavery and fornication?