In every generation, Christians face the same challenges—namely doubt, discouragement, fear, guilt, division, rejection, and the struggle against consumerism and complacency.
The Gospels narrate the incredible story of Jesus’ earthly life. Yet there is a story within this narrative that’s often missed. And to my mind, it’s the greatest story never told—a narrative within the narrative.
That narrative is the story of Jesus’ repeated visits to the little village of Bethany.
When we extract the story of Bethany from the four Gospels and trace the footsteps of our Lord there, a beautiful saga emerges. This saga speaks to the challenges of doubt, discouragement, fear, guilt, division, rejection, consumerism, and spiritual apathy. Challenges we all face as believers.
The narrative of Bethany in the Gospels changed my life. And I’m hopeful that it will change yours also.
According to the Gospels, four main characters lived in Bethany: Martha; her sister, Mary; and their brother, Lazarus. A person named “Simon the leper” also lived there. Some people may think that Jerusalem is God’s favorite place on earth. And in a sense they are correct. Jerusalem is central in the Bible. It is where God put His name and where He chose to presence Himself in the temple.
When Jesus arrived on the scene, however, the holy city of Jerusalem became something that God never intended. And it rejected its Savior. So much so that it crucified Him.
The tears of Jesus over Jerusalem, therefore, were not tears of satisfaction and joy. They were tears of sorrow for rejecting its Messiah.
When Jesus, the Creator of all things, came to this earth, He was rejected from womb to tomb. Bethlehem had no room for Him. He was rejected in Nazareth, Samaria, and even Jerusalem.
In fact, Jerusalem put Him to death.
There was only one exception to this universal rejection. A little village east of Jerusalem called Bethany.
Consequently, the place where Jesus Christ—God incarnate—was happiest, the most satisfied, and felt most at home was Bethany. It is in this sense that I am using the phrase “favorite place.”
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