The Greek word for “dwelling places” is actually monai, which implies a temporary habitation. That’s interesting because dwelling and habitation are not exactly the same. A dwelling is a place where a person lives, the actual physical space. Habitation, however, is typically the way in which one lives in their dwelling. Habitation is the state or process in which we live. For instance, I live in a specific house, that’s my dwelling. And I live in my dwelling with my cat (and soon, my son!) with purpose… I’m happy and grateful to be in that space, I take good care of it. This is an important distinction when understanding and applying scripture to our everyday world. Is Christ addressing the physical place in which we live, or is he speaking to the way in which we live there?
What Jesus is referring to when he uses the word monai (habitation), is the process of travel that was familiar to his listeners. A group of people would move together and travel across the land in caravan style. These caravans would usually designate a few individuals to go ahead of the group and prepare a resting spot for the others. Those who went ahead would get the ground ready so when the others arrived there was water to drink, food to eat, and a place to sleep. It was the way in which they lived—hospitable and welcoming of community. Jesus put himself into this same role. He would go ahead and prepare a place for his followers. It meant that he cared about them and would provide for all of their needs.
When Jesus calls us to go where he goes, he is referring to much more than just a physical place. He means for us to be in habitation with him, to be in union with him, to be as he is, to do what he does. In other words, we are called to hospitality, to care about the people with whom we journey along the road of life, to provide for them. Likewise, we are asked to allow others to care for us, so that this earthly dwelling might be as God intended it to be. As people of faith, we need to consider where, and how, we join Christ in preparing a place for others. Jesus wants us to be with him; he takes us to that place and shows us what it is. However, it’s really up to us to truly accept it and make it our habitation. An empowering question to ask of ourselves on a daily basis, is whether or not we are willing to live alongside Christ and do as he does? When we choose the affirmative, the world suddenly becomes a better place; people are cared for and basic human needs are fulfilled.