What Jesus Found At Bethany
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
See also Matt 21:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19
It was from Bethany on the Mount of Olives that Jesus began His descent into Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week, on Palm Sunday. He rode a colt of a donkey into Jerusalem. He was coming as a Prince of Peace, to die for the sins of the world. This was the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken by Zechariah (9:9). The prophet saw Him coming to save the world. Jesus came riding into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday and His disciples sang His praises as He went. They lay branches of trees in the way to make a path for the King. They sang Psalm 118. They did not understand what He was coming to do.
When Jesus came into the city, He went into the temple and looked around. One Gospel writer says that He drove out the money changers and those who were cheating others. He said that the house of God should be a house of prayer. And then he left. He went to Bethany. Why did He choose to go to Bethany? Was it just because it was only a few miles from Jerusalem and He knew He would be coming back to Jerusalem each day of Holy Week? Maybe, but I think it was something more. I think it was because of What Jesus Found At Bethany:
Jesus had three friends at Bethany. They are three friends that can represent three aspects of the Christian faith that welcome Jesus. Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of His people. Jesus said that when He comes He will be looking for faith (Luke 18:8). Jesus's three friends from Bethany teach us about work, worship, and witness; three things that make Jesus welcome. I believe these three things are here in this church, in this house, and God is going to increase them today and throughout this year in order to grow His work!
The first time we read about Jesus's friends at Bethany we find two of the things He found there:
38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
1. Work: Martha
Martha was hospitable. She knew how to make people feel welcome. She knew how to make Jesus feel welcome. She was Jesus's friend.
It takes a lot of work to make people feel welcome and God has called His church to show hospitality.
"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."
Many times we do not realize that when we show hospitality to others we are making room for a miracle in our future.
Martha knew Jesus as a Great Teacher and as a Man, but later after her brother died she would come to know Him as more than a man!
Martha also worked hard at preparing everything with excellence. A church and a home where Jesus feels welcome is one that chooses to prepare things for Him.
Colossians 3:23 "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."
Ecclesiastes 9:10 "No matter what you do, work at it with all your might."
But sometimes we can be like Martha. We are so busy preparing things for Jesus that we do not take the time to spend with Jesus and others. Both are important but the greatest thing we can prepare for Him is a room in our hearts! One thing is needful.
Not only was Martha hospitable and hard working. She was also able to accept Jesus's correction. When Jesus spoke to her about her need of spending time with Him, she did not stop being His friend. She kept loving Him. The places where Jesus feels welcome are the places where He can correct our errors and we will accept what He has to say because we know that His Words are words of love.
Jesus chose to stay in Bethany during the passion Sunday because hospitality and worked welcomed him in Martha, but there was also worship.
2. Worship: Mary
Mary was Martha's sister. She was probably younger.
While Martha was working, Mary was listening to Jesus.
Jesus likes to go places where those he speaks to will listen.
Mary sitting at Jesus's feet means that she was His student. She was willing to accept His guidance. This was an act of worship.
Worship is not only the songs we sing, or the music we play. Worship is listening to Jesus and seeking to apply His Words to our lives.
James said, "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:20)
Mary also washed Jesus's feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. She poured oil upon Jesus. She knew something that the others did not know because she had been worshipping and listening.
When we have a consistent attitude of worship, Jesus will want to spend His time with us and He will be willing to share His secrets with us!
Mary was among those who followed Jesus to the cross. Mary was one of those who saw Jesus after His Resurrection.
Jesus wanted to spend His time in Bethany, His last week before His Crucifixion because work was there, and hospitality was there, and worship was there. But, that was not all. Witness was there as well. Martha and Mary had a brother named Lazarus...
3. Witness: Lazarus
The Gospel of John tells us about Lazarus.
He was a close friend of Jesus. Once while Jesus was traveling, He was sent a message that His friend Lazarus was sick.
When Jesus heard about it, He waited three more days before returning to Bethany.
Sometimes Jesus does not come to our aid when we think He should. He may receive our request, but He delays His answer. We do not always understand why.
While Jesus was waiting, Lazarus died. When Jesus finally came back to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days and was sealed in a tomb.
Martha ran to Jesus and said, "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21).
Jesus replied to her with teaching about who He was. He said that He was the Resurrection and the Life! The person that lives and believes in Him will never die. He gave Martha an answer that fits with her personality. It was an intellectual answer. It was a teaching moment.
John 11:32 says that "When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
She asked Jesus the same question that her sister did, but she asked it with emotion and worship. This caused Jesus to respond with emotion. Jesus wept!
Jesus can minister to each of us in a way that we can understand.
It was after this that Jesus asked them to remove the stone from the tomb and then He called Lazarus from the grave. Lazarus could not do anything for Himself. He could not work. He could not show hospitality. He could not worship. It took worship to move Jesus to tears and action. It took work to remove the stone. But only the voice of Jesus could raise the dead!
Lazarus came from the tomb alive! Jesus then invited the others that were there to once again participate by removing the graveclothes from Lazarus. Jesus likes to go to places like Bethany because there are people there that will allow Him to do what he only can do. And those same people will do what Jesus tells them to do.
Jesus is looking for partners. He is looking for friends who will obey His Word.
When we do, there is a witness that is born. After Lazarus's resurrection, many unbelievers began to believe in Jesus (John 12:11).
Lazarus was a witness to the resurrection power of Jesus!
These three things were found in Bethany. They were not found in the temple and so Jesus would not stay near the temple. He visited the temple each day of Holy Week, but each evening he went back to where His friends were.
Even after the Resurrection, we find Jesus once again at Bethany. At the closing of the Gospel of Luke and the opening of the book of Acts Jesus is with His disciples at Bethany. It was at Bethany that just before the ascension of Jesus into heaven that they worshipped Him (Luke 24:49-53; Acts 1:4-9). It was at Bethany that He blessed them and told them to go to Jerusalem and wait until they were given the Power of the Holy Spirit to become witnesses for Him (Acts 1:8).
They traveled from Bethany to Jerusalem where they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Promise of the Father (Acts 2:1-4). It was at Bethany that they were told to preach the Gospel to all nations and baptize them (Matthew 28:18-20).
This is what Jesus found at Bethany. Is this what He finds in your life? Is there a desire to work for the Lord? Are you a worshipper of the Lord? Are you His witness?
In order for us to be His witness, we must believe. We must repent of our sins. We must turn our hearts toward Him. We must be buried with Him in baptism (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:12; 8:38-39; 9:18; 10:47; 16:30-33; 19:1-7; Romans 3:4, et al). Like Lazarus was buried we lay in a state unable to help ourselves without the Voice of the Son of God. But He is calling us to be His witnesses with the Words, "receive ye the Holy Spirit!" (John 20:22). And “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38).
He is inviting each of us to follow Him today in His death, burial, and resurrection (Acts 2:38). "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:29). Will you choose to be the friend of God? (John 15:14).