Making a Home for Jesus
Recently, I read the book Jesus Manifesto written by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. Check it out here! The back cover describes the book as a "prophetic call to restore the supremacy and sovereignty of Christ in a world- and a church- that has lost sight of Him." The book talks about the problem of knowing alot about Christ, without really knowing Christ. It talks about the problem of striving in our own strength to live like Jesus, rather than allowing Christ to live through us. This book is filled with amazingly powerful insight from cover to cover and is a great read for any believer looking to delve deeper in their relationship with Christ. My personal favorite chapter in the book talks about the significance of the town of Bethany in Jesus' life. Sweet and Viola describe how throughout Jesus' life rejection was a common theme. From the moment he was born, the government sought out to kill Him. His own people in the Jewish community despised him. He was rejected by his hometown of Nazareth. The town of Bethany was special in that there Jesus was able to find rest.
It is within this town that we find the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. In Luke chapter 10, we see that Jesus is welcomed in their home and not only was he welcomed, he was given the place of highest honor. It is in Bethany that we see Mary sitting at Jesus' feet among the other disciples. It is in the place of Bethany that Mary anoints Jesus with her costly perfume, preparing Him for burial and pouring out all that she has in extravagant worship at His feet.
In Bethany, we see Jesus bring life from death and hope from hopelessness. It is in Bethany that Jesus weeps at the grave of Lazarus and commands Him to rise from the dead. It is there that Jesus ascends into Heaven, after his own death and resurrection, blessing His disciples as He goes.
Jesus was ministered to and cared for in Bethany. I found it fascinating to learn that on the six days before He was crucified, Jesus spent the day in Jerusalem, but returned to Bethany in the evening to find refuge and peace. Sweet and Viola make particular reference to a passage found in Mark 11, in which a hungry Jesus comes across a fig tree on the way to Jerusalem that bears no fruit. Jesus curses the fig tree and it withers away. That night Jesus returns to Bethany. Interestingly enough, Bethany means "house of figs." In Bethany, Jesus is satisfied, cared for and loved.
As the book points out, the church is meant to be a "Bethany." Jesus has made his home in us. God's Word makes it clear that Jesus now dwells in our hearts. As Paul writes, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20) and Jesus declares, "In that day, you will know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you" (John 14:20).
Christ dwells within our individual bodies, but also within the body of Christ, otherwise known as the church. Within the church, we are to embrace all of Jesus. We cannot accept Him only in bits and pieces. We take all of Him or we take none of Him. We cannot take the love of Christ without also embracing His justice and holiness. We cannot take his love for the poor without it being attached to his heart for saving the lost through the message of His gospel. He does not conform to our mold. We conform to Him.
As it was in the home of Martha and Mary, the church should be a place where Jesus is given the highest place of honor. We need to pour our extravagant worship at His feet. Above big crowds, good sermons and "doing ministry," our number one pursuit should be his heart. Our gaze should be set on Him. Our hearts should burn to know Him more intimately and everything else should be secondary.
Within our churches, we should not shy away from talking about the sufferings of Christ. Within the person of Christ, we find the beautiful mingling of sorrow and joy, suffering and pleasure, death and life, defeat and triumph. It is through our times of suffering that we see the love and light of Christ bursting through, transforming our hearts and resurrecting our lives.
I am awed and amazed that my heart can minister to the heart of Jesus. It is incredible to me that He is moved by my care and my affection toward Him. It is hard to believe that within you and I, He finds refuge and peace. How amazing it is that as He said to the disciples, He says also to us, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his masters business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15).