Where is Your Bethany? (8/21/16)

Posted by on Sep 10, 2016 in Sermons | 0 comments

We all need a place of rest.  A place where we can gather with friends, let our hair down, and unwind.  Even Jesus needed a place like that.  Sometimes He went up on a mountaintop by Himself to pray.  While in Jerusalem, He frequently prayed in a grove of Olive Trees.  One time He was transfigured as He met on a mountaintop with Elijha and Moses!

But another place that was special to Jesus was a village down the road from Jerusalem called Bethany.

Jim Kier with Pastor Jim

Jim Kier & Pastor Jim

Lay Speaker (“Lay Servant”) Jim Kier used the book “Jesus Manifesto” to challenge us to build our church into a “Bethany” which God can use to strengthen all who come into it.

The following recording is from the 11:00 service.  Click on the play button, then scroll down to follow along…

 

The scripture reading was from Luke 10:38-42.  Open the below drop down box and read along…

Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.

40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,

42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” 

 

Distractions!  Chaos!! Stress!!!

There are things in our life beyond our control:

  • Floods in Louisiana, at least 13 dead,
  • Fires in Cal more than 80000 have evacuated. Lost lives and homes.
  • High heat in the northeast.
  • Floods have caused other problems, rats, snakes, and fire ants. The heat in the Northeast has created an environment for the growth of cockroaches!
Ed and Marge Blackman

Ed and Marge Blackman

We have no control and yet life and material belongs are gone in an instant. Death is something we deal with frequently.  This past week we celebrated the life of Marge Blackman and learned of the passing of Lois Greene. Our church seems to have had many people experiencing cancer.  We get anxious hearing the word cancer; personally six of my own family members have battled with cancer.

  • In the last few years mosquito borne diseases such as West Nile, Zika and Ebola are concerns in out lives.
  • Terrorism and random shootings and stabbings seems to dominate the news, I think we are more anxious about terrorism than we realize.   This past Monday in JFK airport,  people reacted to what they thought was another shooting.  They panicked, fell to the floor, or ran.  Others tried to protect their loved ones. When it all was over, they discovered that the “shooting” was actually the sound of a starter’s pistol that came from the TVs in the terminal that were tuned to the Olympics!

I remember as a student practicing air raid drills, people building bomb shelters and in the summer riding behind the truck spraying for mosquitoes.

Our lives are filled with stress and tension how do we deal with this stress in our lives?

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I have been reading a book that Rev. Bolton recommended.  It is “Jesus Manifesto” written by jesus-manifesto-cover-_img_0166-400x630Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola.

I am now reading it for the second time. It has brought to me a new understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He did. One of the chapters led me to this message today.

If you have the book (recommended!), read chapter 9, “A House of Figs.”  If you don’t have the book, it’s ISBN978-0-8499-4601-1, published by Thomas Nelson.

 

 

Jesus Had Stress Too!

Looking at Jesus and His life, we see that He suffered.  He faced trials, rejection and pain…  And He did it all for us!  Here are a few of the things Jesus had to deal with:

Jesus’ life started with a trip when Mary and Joseph were required to register for the census. Mary rode a donkey all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

I remember when Maureen was pregnant each time with our daughters and how uncomfortable it was when we were in the car. Think about Mary and Jesus on a donkey, how uncomfortable that must have been.  Jesus started His life on a rough road.

When they got to Bethlehem no one wanted them, they finally found a place with a manger stall where the animals lived.

Think about those conditions.

When Jesus was two, He was hunted by the government, they wanted to kill Him.  His parents were forced to leave and to travel to Egypt a journey of about 200 miles.

I know Jesus was not aware of this when he was a youngster, but it shows that all of Jesus life there was tension.

More hardships for Jesus came 26 years later when He began His public ministry.  Things started out well; Jesus came to the River Jordan where He was baptized and He was filled with the Holy Spirit.  With the baptism by John, Jesus received God’s approval.

But after the baptism, Jesus left the Jordan to wander around in the desert to be tempted by Satan.

He choose once and for all the method by which he proposed to win men and women to God.  The Temptation demonstrates that He rejected the way of power and glory and instead accepted the way of suffering and the cross.  Jesus faced and rejected Satan.

When He returned from the wilderness He begag His ministry, by returning to Nazareth. How did this go with Him? Take a look at Matthew 13:57…

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

John 1:11 tells us, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

 

 

Jesus was not welcomed into this world.  There wasn’t room for Him.  The King certainly didn’t want Him around.  Satan didn’t want Him here.  And even His hometown couldn’t accept Him.  And yet, Jesus continued to hold out His arms to all people:

 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Luke 13:34

Jesus wept over the city because they rejected Him.

Jesus replied,Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.

Matthew 8:20

 

The book, “Here is Jesus Creator of the Universe” puts it this way:

“The one who not only made all things but for whom all things were made-and He is rejected. He is neither welcomed or received.”

 

Jesus Needed Bethany!

What would you and I do under the same circumstances?  In my own life I need people, I need to feel as if I am part of God’s great kingdom.  I share my concerns with Jesus.  How did Jesus take care of himself?

Jesus knew that His spirit and his life needed to get away, to rest and refresh Himself.  The place that Jesus loved was Bethany.

Sweet and Viola (in their book “Jesus Manifesto”), make eight points about what our Bethany should be.  Each item they present would make a great message for each of us.  As I read the book I compared it to our church and how we receive Jesus, I invite you to do the same here.

 

1. Bethany a place where Jesus was welcomed.

Martha welcomed Him into her house.

Luke 10:38

Jesus was placed as the special person in the home. No one else shares that position.  He is the most important person in the house.  Jesus doesn’t have to share space with anyone.  He is the most important person.

Jesus doesn’t want to be a guest in our church who just drops in once in awhile.  Jesus must be the master in our church.  Leonard Sweet says…

Receiving Christ also means receiving His entire ministry.  Some churches receive the Lord’s preaching or teaching ministry, but reject His healing ministry.  Some welcome the power of His resurrection, but reject the fellowship of His suffering.  Some accept His ministry of caring for the poor and oppressed, but reject His ministry of reaching the lost with the gospel, edifying the believers, and bringing His body into fullness. 

To receive Christ in a piecemeal fashion is to receive Him on our own terms. We have to receive Him on His terms.  Receiving Him also means receiving all who belong to Him.

 

2. Bethany is the place where women and men are His disciples.

[Martha] had a sister who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.

Luke 10:39

Mary is seated with the disciples, Martha working in the kitchen. Mary is crossing two boundaries:

  1. She is sitting in the men’s place,
  2. She is sitting just as if she was a disciple.
    Every first century rabbi had disciples, but Jesus is the only teacher in antiquity to include women in His circle of followers.

Mary is taking time to listen to Jesus.  Here Jesus is talking about the one thing that is necessary:  to love Christ.  How many of us, are so busy with doing things at church, cleaning, preparing and serving meals, mission trips, etc, etc.  that we don’t have time to just listen?  I am not saying that these are wrong and that they don’t need doing, but do we take the same amount of time sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening?  Do we share our hearts with Him, and allow Christ to direct the service we need to do?

Sweet says “The greatest priority in life is to know the Lord.  Upon knowing Him, we will be drawn to love and serve Him.”

 

3. Bethany the place where Christ is loved and befriended.

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” …  After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

John 11:3, 11

Bethany is the place where Jesus Christ loves His own, and they know it.  It is also a place of friendship with the living God.  Jesus all through His ministry desires friends over servants.  He desires love over servitude.  Some of the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples (last words are usually important) are recorded in John 15:15…

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

It is possible to serve without loving, but Jesus is the greatest Lover in the universe.  It is love and friendship that He desires and delights in most.

 

4. Bethany is the place of death and resurrection

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”   The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

John 11:43-44

Lazarus had died, and there is grief and confusion all around Jesus.
What does Jesus do?  He weeps with them! Jesus knew Lazarus death was temporary, but He shares the feelings of His friends. Jesus waits for four days before He brings Him life.

Here in Bethany there is crisis and suffering.  Death is hopeless, but Jesus puts death beyond hopelessness.  We will experience death, hopelessness, crisis, but Jesus brings us beyond all of this death and suffering.  When Paul was suffering, Jesus told him “my grace is sufficient.”  Jesus’ grace sometimes takes more time than we want to wait, but we have His promise that He will give us the grace that we need (in His time).

 

5. Bethany is the place of liberty from bondage. 

The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

John 11:44

Jesus commands Lazarus “Come OUT’.  Then Jesus commands those there to take off the grave cloths. Lazarus had been dead for four days.  Jesus did not unbind Lazarus, He told the crowd to do it.

Leonard Sweet points our that we discover two things here:

  • First Bethany is the place God’s people are set free from all bondages: bondage to religion, to legalism, to sin, to the world, to serving God in the flesh, and every other kind of bondage.  If we know anything about Jesus at all, we know this: He’s the most liberated person in the universe.  And He liberates all who turn to Him in faith.
  • Second, we are the Lord’s colleagues in setting others free. God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves.  It was as if the Lord were saying, “I freed him from the powers of death. Now you free him from the clothes of death. I want you to co-labor with Me in bringing freedom to others. Since I have set you free, you are now My agents to set others free.
    Such is the nature of the resurrection life.

 

6. Bethany is the place where the supreme worth of Christ is recognized.

“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

John 12:3

A feast has been prepared for Jesus, it is in the home of Simon the leper.  Jesus is given the seat of honor at the head of the table.  There is fellowship, feasting and joy.  Mark 14 and Matthew 26 tell the same story.  Simon is there, Lazarus is there.   Cleansed lepers and resurrected friends are all sitting around a table where Christ is head: eating, laughing, telling stories, playing.

This is a family feasting in the presence of Jesus Christ. Does this sound like how our lives are here in our church or in our homes?

Mary has a sealed flask of precious perfume.  It’s nard from India, extremely expensive.  She opens it and pours the perfume upon Jesus’ head as though he were a king.  The precious perfume runs down to His feet where Mary anoints them.  Mary is using what is thought to be her family inheritances.  It is said the perfume represented a years wages.  Mary is demonstrating extravagant worship.  She is showing her loyalty, her love, and devotion.  Can you imagine the wonderful fragrance of this oil and how it goes into every part of the house?  In Bethany Jesus is valued.

 

7. Bethany is a place where Christ is ministered to 

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Mark 11:11

On Sunday morning Jesus entered the city on a colt, a humble King.  When night came he returned to Bethany.

On Monday morning he headed back into the city.  During His trip we have the story of the withered fig tree.  Jesus cursed the tree because it wasn’t giving fruit it was keeping it for itself.  The lesson for us is to use what we have and not store it away.

That night Jesus returned to Bethany.  Jesus could have stayed in the city, instead He walked back and forth to Bethany.

Why???  Because the people of Bethany fed Him, cared for Him, loved Him until He was satisfied. Interestingly Bethany means “house of figs.”

  Leonard Sweet writes…

“A prophet may be without honor in his own country, but Jesus found a home in Bethany. Does Jesus find a home here?

 

8. Bethany is a place of ascension.

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.   While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.   Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.

Luke 24:50-52

We have already seen death and resurrection in Bethany, now we witness ascension.  After His resurrection Jesus ascended into the heavenly realm.  He ascended from Bethany.  Jesus is now the absolute head over all things.  Paul tells us that we too, ascended with Christ and are now seated with Him in heavenly places.  Jesus shared all things with the people of Bethany.

Christians aren’t saved from all troubles nor do they escape every problem.  But we have been given Christ, and this allows us to rise above the problems.

 

Is Christ the Master of our House?

Sweet and Viola end with the following challenge:

In Bethany, Jesus Christ is given His rightful place as absolute, exclusive head. He is not simply a welcome guest. He is the Master of the house. And that house is not just a lodging for Him; it becomes His home.

The church is the Bethany for Jesus Christ, where is our Bethany?  As a church do we honor Jesus and receive all to our church and enable them to cope with the trials, temptations and strife of life?

 

 


Quiz Time!

As you reflect on what you’ve just heard/read, give this quiz a try.  If you don’t understand an answer (or if you disagree with the “correct” answer, post a comment)…

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