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Make Me A Bethany: Reflecting on Jesus' Final Week


Not too long ago, Jesus Image released a song called, “Make Me a Bethany.” Immediately the title had my attention as it came up on my Spotify. The lyrics record:


And just like Mary I will pour my oil out

And just like David I will worship You alone

I want to move Your heart I want to see Your face

Make me a Bethany Make me a Bethany

Come and rest here and be pleased

As I worship at Your feet


The lyrics to the song point to John 12: the beloved story when, in her home in Bethany, Mary poured out expensive perfume at Jesus feet; quite possibly pouring out her dowry, her future, on the One who had changed her life forever. Her account has moved countless poets to pen prose and lyrics and countless artists to pick up brush and palette. Yet, there would be no John 12 without John 11 – the death of Lazarus. It is often the death of one thing that brings about a deeper worship; something terribly wrong that brings about something incredibly beautiful (I do not want to belabor this point today, but I wrote about this dichotomy in my post “The Teacher Has Come” for anyone who is interested in reading more.) It is Mary’s story that has captured such artists like Jesus Image to cast their eyes to the town of Bethany. “Make me a Bethany,” they chime, pondering that it is in that place Jesus received worship while resting. The image is worth meditating on; the song worth singing.


While the lyrics resonate within my heart, it is not Mary’s story that caused me to be drawn with interest when I first saw the title, “Make Me a Bethany.” For me, Bethany holds another revelation. In Matthew 20:17-18, Matthew records, “7 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.” Jesus is literally walking to his death and He knows it. I believe He isn’t simply preparing his disciples for this event – I believe He was looking for them to bear it with Him. Too often I find commentators make Jesus like a machine, void of the need for human support, simply because He knew His disciples would scatter and He was doing the will of His Father. But I adamantly disagree: our Master was a man filled with human emotion fully sanctified by the Father, which meant he was made for fellowship and support. Mankind was made to have fellowship with God but it did not stop there. Genesis tells us clearly that man was not made to be alone – we were made to be with one another even while we walked with God. Jesus knew and understood God’s plan of crucifixion. He embraced it and willingly laid His life down. But that does not mean that He wasn’t feeling the emotional weight of what was to come as he pulled His disciples over on the side of the road that day. Jesus is the man who fully knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead yet stood at his graveside weeping beforehand. Jesus knew that he himself would be raised to life on the third day, yet he cried out, “let it pass from me if possible”, sweating great drops of blood, under the stress of facing it. So, no – I do not read Matthew 20:17-18 as mere preparation for the disciples – I see it as an invitation to rally around a Friend in great need.


As Jesus grew closer to Jerusalem, I can imagine the weight of knowing He was starting the last week of His life was beginning to weigh heavy on His heart. Which friend took the time to notice? Which disciple saw beyond the Divine power and into the human heart? And in that internal stress, a crowd of worshippers making their way to Jerusalem for Passover is beginning to gather around him. I can’t help but wonder if, in that throng, Jesus felt alone. I know I have felt that before in a crowd of revelers. Though surrounded by a mass of humanity, my insides were in turmoil and loneliness called my name. Those feelings are not sinful – they are human. How we respond to them is what matters. Jesus is able to feel things deeply without being governed by them. He would still be about His Father’s business. So, in the midst of the crowd, Jesus heals two blind men on his way to the Gates of the city, and the crowd grows larger. Word spreads that He raised Lazarus from the dead, and the crowd grows exponentially to the point that, when He gets to the gates, he is met by enormous fanfare and praise. We call this His “Triumphal Entry.” But, oh, what a bitter-sweet moment for our Master. Praise on the outside, pain on the inside. And no one seemed to notice.


Matthew 21 records the events that begin his final week: Jesus enters to shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the multitudes throw their coats on the road, welcoming Him as King; Jesus then goes to the temple and cleanses house and heals countless people there, allowing children to call Him Messiah and angering the temple leaders.  Then, verse 17 records this little phrase: “Then He left them and went out to the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.” Matthew 26 also says He is at Bethany right before His death, indicating that the final week of His life, Jesus would travel to Jerusalem to teach and then rest each night in Bethany at the house of His friends - Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. John 11:5 tells us that Jesus had a special friendship with Lazarus’ family. They were so close to Him that Jesus chose to spend the final week of His life at their house. And here in lies the revelation:


During the worst week of Jesus’ life, he found a sanctuary among friends. He could have stayed in the upper room. He could have stayed at another follower’s house, but he chose to surround himself with the support of close friendship and love. He had a refuge to run to during the worst week of His life. He was about to be beaten and scourged, mocked and ridiculed, nailed to a cross naked – and he chose to be at Bethany in order to face it. Oh, to be that kind of resting place for my Master! I want to be a Bethany – not just a place where worship is poured out on Him, but a place where – if my Lord is having a ‘terrible day’ – can come and find friendship and rejuvenation; a place where my Lord can share his deepest troubles and I help bear the weight of them off his heart. Now, theologically I know Jesus isn’t having “terrible days.” I know there is nothing too difficult for our God. But what about the things that break His heart? What about the state of the world? The state of the church? What if there are things in His heart he wants to share and yet His friends aren’t really listening or understanding? What if he is pulling us over on the side of the road and telling us things, not simply for information – but for friendship and understanding. We intercessors may be too busy praying what we think God wants. We can all fall prey to this trap. But Bethany friends are listening friends, saying, “How’s your day, Jesus? What’s on your heart? Can I get you something to eat?” Bethany is more than a place of worship, Beloveds – it’s a place of refuge for our Lord when he’s bearing the darkest weight of the world.


Bethany, ironically means “House of Affliction.” Yet, in the emotional house of affliction that Jesus would face that week, Jesus found a House of Refuge among friends. He found a place that felt like home. A place He could be himself. A place He could be heard.  Make me a Bethany, indeed, Lord.


Come and rest here and be pleased.


Make me a Bethany and receive so much more than just worship: receive a rare friendship. Make me a Bethany and may my life be a place where You can pour out Your heart, not just a place where I pour out mine.


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