Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the kataluma, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
Jesus is preparing to host the Passover feast for his disciples. He wants to make sure there is a gracious and spacious place for this meal. As the epitome of hospitality, he has prearranged a welcoming place for his beloved disciples.
The upper room--the kataluma--of a house was the most comfortable space only affordable to the most affluent of the day. Most households could barely afford a lean-to dwelling, much less a two story home. A kataluma provided an escape from the noise street level and allowed cool breezes to flow on a stifling evening. A kataluma was reserved for honored guests in a rich man's house. This was the room Jesus chose for his banquet.
Interestingly, the only other time a kataluma is mentioned in the Bible was in an earlier chapter of Luke. We English readers miss this reference, for the other time the word is used, it is not translated as "a large room upstairs" or "upper room."
In the other passage, the room has not been made ready for the most wonderful guest, no preparations have taken place, hospitality is not extended. In fact, quite the opposite occurs. The mysterious and hidden guest is put out on the street.
Who was the guest? Where was this place? Why did this happen?
Consider the enigma of the kataluma.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room in the kataluma.