This week is Holy Week. You have heard it called the most important week in history, and rightly so. It began on Palm Sunday and culminated with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
On Palm Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. He rode in a mix of triumph and sorrow. The Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus rode into Jerusalem, went into the temple, looked around and left town.
On Monday, Jesus would come back to Jerusalem. On His way he would curse a fig tree. In Jerusalem, he would cleanse the temple. But Jesus started his Monday and ended his Monday not in Jerusalem, but in Bethany. A small town just down the road from Jerusalem. In fact Jesus spent every night of Holy Week in Bethany, except of course Friday and Saturday night when he was in the tomb.
Bethany was the home of Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and Simon. Bethany was Jesus’ refuge. It was the one place on earth where he was always accepted, never rejected. Jesus was anointed by Mary in Bethany on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. Mary sat at his feet in Bethany. He raised Lazarus in Bethany. He comforted and wept with Mary and Martha in Bethany. He healed Simon the Leper in Bethany. Later Jesus will ascend into Heaven from Bethany. Jesus loved Bethany, because his spiritual family lived in Bethany. When his own biological family had rejected him, this family had received him into their lives and home. They were his patrons, but also his friends.
In the middle of the hardest week of Jesus’ life, He retreated every day to Bethany- the one place where he was accepted for who he truly is. When Mary anointed Jesus before Palm Sunday, she showed that she may have been the one person who really understood what Jesus was doing. He was going to die. Martha and Lazarus probably understood too. But the Pharisees and even Jesus’ disciples had no idea what was truly happening.
What is Jesus’ Bethany today? The church. You and me. We are his Bethany. And we are Bethany for each other. The church is where Jesus goes to find his acceptance. “Even though we don’t see him we love him” Peter said. Jesus comes to Grace Baptist Church every Sunday to give and receive love and acceptance. Of course as God, Jesus had always had love and acceptance within the Trinity. But as a man, Jesus longs to worship with us in the congregation, he is not ashamed to call us brothers (Heb.2:11). He longs to be with his Bethany Bride. To find in her a safe place where we cheer him on into the fight.
And we are Bethany for each other. A solace. A refuge from the storm. In Christ’s love and in his name we offer a place for each other where we can find refuge from the rejection that the world has for us.
God has always wanted a home with us. And in Bethany Jesus found it. And in us, Grace Baptist Church, God has found it again. We are his home. His Bethany. And we look forward to the day when the whole world will be Bethany- God and man dwelling together. Like Mary- sitting at his feet listening, anointing, and worshipping. Like Martha- serving God and each other. Like Simon- rejoicing in our ultimate healing. Like Lazarus- exchanging resurrection stories with our best friend.