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Upper Room


The Israelites had the custom of having an upper room in their house for guests or for common prayer. The roofs of the Palestinian houses were flat. Since the flat roof had multiple usages, they used to have a stairway outside the house to access the roof. Luke describes the event of brining the paralytic man to Jesus thus: “But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus” (Lk 5:19). They could open the roof- tile in between the beams that were made of brushwood and mud.

The Holy Bible documents some upper rooms which had historical significance. When King Darius signed a law prohibiting all worship except that of the king, Daniel “continued his custom of going home to kneel in prayer and give thanks to his God in the upper chamber three times a day, with the windows open towards Jerusalem” (Dan 6:11). In the book of Tobit, Raguel’s daughter “Sarah was sad at heart. She went in tears to an upstairs room in her father’s house and wanted to hang herself” (Tob 3:10). She changed her mind and prayed to God, who answered her prayer. When a widow’s son died, Elijah “carried him to the upper room where he was staying” and regained his life after his prayer (1 Kgs 17:17- 24). Elisha raised a Shunammite’s Son in the upper room where he stayed as a guest (2 Kgs 4:8-37).

In the New Testament, Jesus and the early Church used the upper room of Mark’s parents for prayer. Many believe that the upper room Jesus used for Passover with his apostles belonged to the parents of Mark. His family was wealthy, with at least one maidservant, Rhoda (Acts 12:13). Besides using the place for the Last Supper (Mk 14:14, Lk 22:12), washing the feet of the apostles, the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the meeting of the early Church (Acts 1:13; 12:12), and the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples happened in this room. The descent of the Holy Spirit inaugurating the Church (Acts 12:1-4) happened in the same upper room. Luke documents several other occasions when the early Church met in the upper room for prayer (Acts 1:13). Peter preached to the people gathered on the day of Pentecost from here and converted 3,000 people (Acts 2:14-41). In effect, this became the first Christian house.

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