Some people find great peace by walking in the woods, spending a day at the beach, reading a good book ~~~ tell me about your go to place of personal rest and revival?...... Bethany holds a special place in the heart of Jesus Christ. Bethany is the place where Jesus chooses to lodge the night before the Triumphal Entry and that fateful week which ends with his death and resurrection. Bethany is the place he travels the half hour journey back, night after night, during Jesus’ final week, after another hard day…. Everyone needs a Bethany. I want this church and our Christian Community to be a Bethany where the weary find rest, and sinners discover the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Today we focus on a obscure place called Bethany, a small hole in the wall town Jesus chooses as his retreat. Amazing things happen in Bethany. Less than 2 miles from Jerusalem, Bethany is Jesus’ go to place to spend time with friends, to enjoy a meal, to be served! You can’t see Jerusalem from the town because Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives stands between Bethany and Jerusalem.
The Great Feast of Passover is about to take place; Jews gather in Jerusalem from all corners of Israel and beyond. Pilgrims march in bands to the feast, including Jesus… Bethany is the resting place of Jesus before the Triumphal Entry. He’s been there many times. Who are his Bethany friends? Siblings Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Simon the Leper (or is it Simon the Pharisee?). Martha Anne Lapp used to love visiting Sumas and staying in the home of Kay Bishop. The Thayers love spending time in Oscar and Doris’s home. Jesus is invited to the home of Simon the Leper. Let’s look at this beautiful place called Bethany.
Bethany is a house of brokenness. You don’t go to Bethany to seek fame or fortune. You go to find a place to belong. Isn’t that what our world needs…more important than healing is affirmation that you are loved. That’s true diginity. You can’t see Jerusalem or the Temple from Bethany. That’s significant. Modern discoveries have found a Temple Scroll from Jesus time which specified that anything or anybody unclean, which includes the sick and the lepers, must be outside a radius of 1800 yards (about 1 ½ miles) and unseen by the temple. Bethany fits the bill. It’s about 1.7 miles away and out of sight. But you can see Gethsemane from Bethany, the place of prayer…when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane perhaps he had an eye on Bethany… or maybe, just maybe, Bethany had an eye on Jesus and helped give him his great endurance… I can never ever ever prove this, but I am going to guess that during Jesus’ final week when he overturned the money changers in the temple, tangled with the authorities, was arrested, whipped, hung on a cross ~ the prayer warriors for Jesus were back in Bethany….
Bethany is a place for the broken, the rejected, the sick. Only in Bethany could there be a home belonging to Simon the Leper. We only have a name to go on… It could be that Simon was healed but the stigma continued… how many of you are weighted down by a past reputation? Historical records say there were 3 places for the sick in Bethany, including one for lepers, established by a group of compassionate contemplative group (not named in the N.T.) called the Essenes. Sidenote: The most famous Essene of all: John the Baptist. The people of Bethany loved the broken. The sick. No surprise many hospitals and churches are named Bethany. Jesus is anointed with expensive perfume in Bethany, the disciples object saying that could have been sold and given to the poor. They are in Bethany with the poor all around them… “The poor you will always have with you…” Jesus says. Bethany is the place for the sick, the poor, the broken, the lepers…there is a time to take care of them, but there is also a time to honor and worship Christ. Jesus is being served by the broken, “Don’t take this honor from them” Jesus is saying. Let the broken bless me…
Bethany is a place of Childlike Faith. The world does not need profound arguments convincing people that Jesus is who he says he is…. (Of course we need to study and understand what we believe…) What the world needs is to be loved, accepted and forgiven. I know a 1000 people in our community that know they are needy. That’s not the problem. What they need is to find the reviving presence of Jesus Christ. Spiritual renewal… Bethany is a place where child like faith thrives… The hospitality and care given to Jesus at Bethany was the Spirit given result of trusting and believing hearts. By the time Jesus arrives to begin his final week, residents of this amazing place were living in a spiritual climate where Jesus could do some of His most remarkable miracles. While at Bethany Jesus taught about the necessity of resurrection and reviving faith. -"Did I not say if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" John 11:40. Childlike faith empowers prayer and calls forth life out of death and darkness READ John 11:41-44). At Bethany Lazarus was miraculously raised from the dead, resulting in many other Jews giving their heart to Christ (John 12:9-11). Faith is contagious. God-given faith will always create an opportunity for faith to be nurtured in others. Childlike faith is a faith that simply believes and opens the windows of heaven and ushers in the glory of God.
Compared to Jerusalem, Bethany was a simple place of faith. Jesus went to Jerusalem to cleanse the temple, to overthrow the abusive ways… but Bethany with it’s broken and simple ways lived out their faith like children…
Bethany is a place that welcomed the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to be that place/person.
In Bethany, Jesus took His rightful place as the sole object of everyone's devotion and affections. In Luke 10:38-42 we find Mary sitting at His feet, embracing every word, as it falls from His lips. Mary was totally content just to sit at Christ's feet and behold the glory and beauty of His face. She joyfully gave Jesus her undivided attention. Mary's encounter with Jesus demonstrates the fact that the highest privilege given to man, on earth or in heaven, is a deeper revelation of Jesus Christ. Mary's encounter with Christ reminds us that there is really only ONE thing needful, and that is JESUS! READ Luke 10:42. Bethany was the place where Jesus was exalted and made preeminent above all other human personalities, plans and programs.
A needy heart coupled with true faith will always lavish the person of Christ with extravagant love. Bethany was a place where the person of Jesus was needed, trusted. When Jesus came to Bethany as a home base for his final week, He was extravagantly anointed with fragrant and costly perfumes. It’s a little bit unclear who exactly this woman is. John names her as Mary, could well be the beloved friend. In Luke’s version of this story the woman is a prostitute… or maybe that was a separate incident… does it matter? What matters is the devotion, not the background of the woman…. At no other time during our Lord's earthly ministry was Christ so completely worshiped and adored as in Bethany (Mk. 14:3-9, Lk. 7:36-50 & John 12:1-8).
Every meal and every activity in the homes of Bethany was planned in view of His preferences and comfort. Jesus was always the honored guest ~ His desires and needs came first. If you are serious about making your heart Christ’s home, do not ask Jesus what you want him to do for you, but ask what can you do for Christ. Jesus often fed hungry crowds during His earthly ministry, but while at Bethany it was the Lord’s hungry heart that was fed a carefully prepared meal of love and devotion. Jesus came to Bethany on his way to Jerusalem for the great feast. They made Him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took very costly perfume, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume" John 12:1-3. The disciples/Judas attacked and criticized this act of extravagant love as a waste! Jesus straightens them out: Matthew tells us that Jesus emphasized the broader purpose of the good news of salvation: “wherever the gospel is preached through-out the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matt. 26:13). The love and worship that Jesus received at Bethany is to be an everlasting witness to the life-changing power of the gospel.
John and Matthew both include Jesus’ obscure words about the woman anointing Jesus in preparation for his burial. Mary seemed to understand Jesus in a way nobody else did. To anoint is to honor, to serve, to elevate …. On the night before the triumphal entry, Mary anoints Jesus with expensive perfume… she seemed to know what was coming. “She did it to prepare for my burial,” Jesus explains.
We know the the rest of Jesus’ final week: Jesus dies on Friday. On Saturday he is in the tomb. It was customary for the dead to be anointed with perfumes and spices. It was also customary criminals not be given the honor of burial spices. Jesus died on the cross as a criminal. It was early on Sunday morning the women went to anoint his body. That took courage. Maybe they waited an extra day to try and sneak into the tomb to honor Jesus because they weren’t supposed to. When they arrived, the tomb was empty. The oils and spices the women had with them were not used. The body of Jesus was not anointed.
But it was. Ahead of time. By Mary. “When she poured this perfume on my body she did it to prepare me for my burial.” The greatest gift we can give another person is to help bury them. (You’ve just had a preview of the Holy Saturday sermon the Sunday before Easter.)
Bethany is the place of refuge and rest, chosen by Jesus, to live out the last week of his life on earth. It is a place for the broken, the needy, the sick, the lonely to find a home. It is a place of child like faith. Jesus once said that the son of man has no place to lay his head. He must not have been to Bethany yet! Let’s give him another place to dwell, in our homes, /churches, /lives, /hearts, where the broken find a home, a place of child like simple and wonderful faith, a place where Jesus is welcomed and served. Amen.