Sometimes it is best just to do what is requested.

The request was simple. “I have to move out of my house at 5:30 tomorrow evening. I cannot do it physically by myself; I need some help.”

Moving from one house to another is complicated. The fact that there are sometimes positive outcomes might smooth out the move. The old house is too small for the growing family. The family needs have shifted and a different house layout will be helpful. An additional person is coming to live in the house. The old house needed maintenance that made a move to another house cost-effective.

In this case, none of that was true. This was not a desired move by the man. This was a move dictated by circumstances that had surprised him and given him sorrow. The move was adding to his grief. There were the physical tasks of moving boxes, furniture, washer, and dryer. Pictures on the wall. Books, books, and more books. The emotion showed on his face and in his demeanor. This was not just a physical challenge; it was an emotional and spiritual one. So he asked for help.

Ten men showed up. Some of them knew each other; others did not. There were some introductions, but mostly just work. Several brought trucks or vans. They were loaded with boxes and furniture. Some men had the foresight to bring furniture dollies, thus getting physics on their side. Only a few of the men were young; the younger ones clearly were stronger, but did not have the experience of moving several times before. Appropriately, they waited for instructions before loading or unloading.

One of the men fell during the activity. The concrete of the garage floor hurt his knee and he limped around for several days worrying about significant damage. Another of the men had dealt with a cardiac event only a few months earlier; some of the others wondered silently whether this work crew was a good choice for him, but he was there in full activity.

There was little conversation during the afternoon. The man gave some instructions about positioning of items in the new house. The men followed those instructions, but, other than that, did what seemed reasonable to them. They had done this before, sometimes with each other. 

Toward the end of Jesus’ earthly life, some of his followers asked if he were going to prepare for the upcoming Passover meal. “Yes”, he answered, “But I need some help.” He turned to Peter and John (the first set of assistants in this story) and told them to go prepare the meal. They asked, “Where?” Jesus instructed them to go into Jerusalem where they would encounter a man carrying a jar of water (the second assistant in the story). “Follow that man,” Jesus said, “And enter the house he reaches.” Upon entering the house, the two disciples were to ask the householder (the third assistant here) for the place where the Teacher could hold the Passover meal. He would guide them to a large upper room.

It is noteworthy that, besides Peter and John, others in this story are unnamed. In ways, they are simply bit players in an unfolding serious drama. One man is carrying a jug of water through dusty Jerusalem and the other is tending his house. Since assistant number two seems to be headed toward the house of assistant number three, they logically knew each other. However, we do not receive any information about their relationship or their conversation; they simply respond to a request for help. This request comes through Peter and John, but at its base, comes from Jesus. Jesus asked for help. 

Jesus often asked the disciples to run errands. Sometimes, they questioned the reason, but their experience was that it was best just to follow the request. Peter and John in this case understood the overall purpose of a Passover meal, but did not know the mechanism to accomplish it. Once they got into the city, they needed some guides. “Look, there’s a man with jug of water like Jesus said. Let’s follow him.” Did this jug-carrying man know what was going on? Did the householder understand the next use for his upper room?

God often calls us to aid one another. That aid may take many forms, perhaps spiritual, perhaps emotional, perhaps physical. It is possible that we may not know or understand why we have been asked to render this aid. It is reasonable that this nudge or request is a method by which the Holy Spirit speaks into our lives.  

Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current medical chaplain. 


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