“And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything…he went out to Bethany…” v. 11
Jesus and his disciples finally arrive in Jerusalem. He comes riding on a colt, in fulfillment of ancient prophecy, amidst great fanfare. The crowds have heard all about this revolutionary teacher, miracle worker, who promises the kingdom of God. Wildly they cheer for what they imagine is their new king. “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” they cheer. Translation: “Jesus is coming to kick out the Romans and return us to the glory days of David! This young political hero is going to help us take Israel back! It’s time for a change!” The Lord quietly rides through the misguided fanfare and heads straight for the temple. When he arrives there, the scripture tells us he, “looked around at everything…(and) went out to Bethany with the twelve.” Ahh Bethany. It was the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. We are told in other gospels that this was the place Jesus loved to go and hang out. Everybody needs a place like Bethany, where you can be surrounded by good friends, away from all the craziness of life.
After enduring the fickle cheering of the crowd, then seeing his father’s temple turned into a market place, a den of robbers, as he would call it, he had to go to Bethany. He had been on the road for days and he was weary. Arriving in Jerusalem, his heart was so broken over the condition of things, and by what lay ahead in the coming days, he just needed to go somewhere and think, pray, rest, and laugh with his friends. Too bad he had to go away from his father’s house to do that. Could it be there was so much corruption in the temple that he just couldn’t feel at home in his father’s house? The temple was supposed to be a dwelling place for the presence of God. Back in the Old Testament, when the temple was dedicated, God had said to Solomon, concerning the temple, “My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.” (1 Kings 9:3) What a beautiful expression of God’s desire to dwell with his people.
Now centuries later, God in flesh, stands at the temple, with a broken heart, and red tears in his eyes, unable to feel at home there. He has to go to Bethany. At that humble home in Bethany, there was more love and devotion for God than in all the temple courts. All the grandeur of the magnificent art and architecture of our temples cannot replace the simple devotion of faith and love that our Lord longs for in his people. I wonder how the Lord feels when he approaches my church on Sunday. Does he feel at home there? Are we creating a place that reflects his heart? or are we creating something more reflective of the world we are called to transform? In too many cases we’ve made our churches attractive to everyone …except Jesus.
Are we so focused on getting people to like us and join us, that we turn our prayer courts into shopping malls? Are we so in love with the opinions of people that we will water down the gospel to make it fit the desires of an immoral culture? If we do then we shouldn’t be surprised if our Lord decides to go to Bethany instead of our temples. If he can find devoted friends at the local bar, or the hotel lobby, then he will. Does the Lord feel at home in your place of worship? Now let’s take it a little deeper. The New Testament teaches that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are his house. This begs the question, Is my Lord at home in my life? Am I seeking to live a life that makes him feel at home? I am either spending my time trying to accommodate the world, or the savior. I cannot please both. I cannot serve two masters. Paul says, in Galatians 1:10, “If I am seeking to please (people) I am not a servant of Christ. How can I order my life in such a way as to make it a suitable dwelling place for my king? Isaiah puts it this way:
“Thus says the LORD:“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD.
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)
Am I humble and surrendered to God? Am I trembling at his word? I want my life to be more like Bethany than the corrupt temple. That happens when I submit to him and obey his word, no matter what the cost. May we all be like Bethany today.