His Name will be Called, Emmanuel.

…and they will call him Emmanuel” (which means “God with us”.) Matt. 1:23

I most recently replayed a most wonderful song by Gregory Porter entitled “Take Me to the Alley.”  In the first verse and chores of this song, it says,
Well they build their houses in preparation for the king
And they line the sidewalks
With every sort of shiny thing
They will be surprised
When they hear him say

Take me to the alley
Take me to the afflicted ones
Take me to the lonely ones
That somehow lost their way

Godly Kindness, Love, and Mercy

For me, there really is not any other clearer depiction of where to find God! God is never far off, for where ever there is harm and danger, where ever there is tension between life and death, God is with us, as He places Himself in harm’s way, suffering with us while simultaneously liberating us toward wholeness and spiritual emancipation. 

God with us runs the entirety of all scripture as it is an expression of God’s ultimate desire for us, to rescue us, to redeem us, while recovering humanity back unto Himself through His Love.

Lost, sinful, and hurt souls will never willfully, seek after and follow God. It has always been accordingly to the revelational-historical perspective of God plan of redemption, for Him to seek after damaged, wounded, and lost souls wherever they may be!

While the Holy Scriptures have a host of examples of God seeking out and ministering to humanity, no better example of His Chesed , [kindness, love, mercy of God toward humanity] than In the present-day West Bank city of al-Eizariya (Arabic for “place of Lazarus) which is the location of the town called Bethany [bayit, for a house].

This very unique city of Bethany was located on the eastern slope of  Mount Olivet, about three kilometers from Jerusalem, where biblical history depict God’s greatest hidden display of Love and public disclosure of Him role in the human experience.

Biblical House of Alms

Bethany’s original meaning is domus adflictionis or “house of affliction” [Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (28 February 2008). The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700. Brian J. Capper writes the Latin and Hebrew meaning of Bethany means “house of the poor” or “house of the afflicted. 

Extra-Biblical readings [Temple Scroll from Qumran] sited that there were three places for the care of the sick, including one for lepers, are to be east of Jerusalem. The passage also defines a (minimum) radius of three thousand cubits (circa 1,800 yards) around the city within which nothing unclean shall be seen (XLVI:13-18). Since Bethany was, according to John, fifteen stadia (about 1.72 miles) from the holy city [John 11:18], care for the sick corresponded with the requirements of the Temple Scroll.

It is well within reason to conclude that Bethany was indeed a settling place for lepers as is mention of Simon the Leper in Mark’s Gospel. Other researchers agree that both lepers and the poor were received and assisted in Bethany which adds additional new light upon Messiah’s remark, “The poor you will always have with you” (Mark 14:7; Matthew 26:11). It is only in Bethany were we find mention the poor on the lips of the disciples, who object that the expensive perfumed oil poured over the Master there might have been sold and the proceeds are given to the poor (Mark 14:5; Matthew 26:8-9; John 12:4-6 [where the objection is made by Judas].

Theologian Brian J. Capper records that Bethany was the last station on the route of Galilean pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem after crossing the river and taking the road through Jericho up into the highlands. A respectful distance from the city and Temple, and on the pilgrim route, Bethany was the most suitable location for a charitable institution.

It is not surprising that an Essene hospice had been established at Bethany to intercept and care for pilgrims at the end of the long and potentially arduous journey from Galilee. The house combines this work with care for the sick and destitute of the Jerusalem area. Thus Bethany received its name because it was the Essene poorhouse par excellence, the poorhouse which alleviated poverty closest to the holy city. 

The Master taking it to the Alley 

Our Messiah’s multiple roles and prophetic callings are on full display during His public ministry. Literally, no other priest who followed the Mosaic law would have found comfort and purpose in Bethany based upon it’s service to the leper and those who were sick. Of course, it goes without saying, that there is not any other priest like The Anionted One from above!

Messiah presents Himself as the New Covenant mediator who is delivering God’s word on a mountain just as Moses had received the Torah on Sinai. The difference is the Messiah is superior to all that Moses did in that The Master explains the Law by His own authority [Matt.7:28-29]. Also, the Master descends from the mountain to cleanse His people after declaring His Father’s will, while Moses came down with commands that could only pronounce them “unclean.”   

Everything about our Master’s ministry as God’s peoples physician in Bethany was motivated by love as He continuously placed Himself in harm’s way in His calling as Savior. The Mosaic law list actions by a priest that would defile him, thus making Him unclean literally everytime He visited Bethany. The people who were receiving help in their illnesses were actually, living apart from the greater community, somewhat in isolation, somewhat as the outcast in society.

Is it any wonder why not the wealthy, nor the powerful, and those who were well adjusted in society, fail to come running after Christ? The Master could have healed from afar, He could have just spoke the healing words over those who were sick and diseased. But the record stated that He touched them, and they were healed!   

The Master’s role as the Lamb of God is prompted when He reached Bethany six days before the Passover [John 12:1].  Messiah felt relaxed and at home there. John records that The Master love Lazarus, Martha and Mary, and the scene in which He raised Lazarus from the dead is one of His most open displays of emotion.

Mary and Martha both appeared to know Him well, as stated in the Book of John, The Master ate dinner with them the night before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Matthew and Mark describe a dinner that final week at the Bethany home of Simon the Leper.

Within this short time before His death on the cross, Messiah would openly declare Himself as the Son of David, the King, but not the regal King, but as a lowly and suffering King riding into Jerusalem as foretold by Zechariah (Zech.9:9). 

Later Messiah would exercise His Messianic power by cursing a fig tree[the fig tree just like the Jewish nation at this time, appeared fruitful but both were useless, thus Messiah rejected her as barren. Next, Messiah cleaned out the temple for the second time due to corruption and a place of merchandise. Messiah actions within the temple were The public demonstration of His authority over the temple and the spiritual life of His people.

Days later, Messiah would brilliantly and successfully, challenge all of the controversy of those who reacted to His authority. He did so by speaking in parables while denouncing the religious leaders as blind guides and hypocrites. Later on the Mount of Olives, He communicated aspects of the Kingdom of God to those who gathered.

As this week is rapidly coming to an end, He sent two disciples into the city to prepare for the Passover. That Sabbath, He ate the Passover with His disciples, thus giving as outlined in John 13 and 14 on the way to Gethsemene, John 15-16 and His priestly prayer in John 17. 

Closing thoughts

The finish work of Messiah has enable humanity the spiritual rite toward being in union with our Creator where ever He finds us. Well within our fallen world at present, God’s spiritual design has recreated a unique societal sphere of  redeemed human-being which are a manifestation of agape, stewardship, self-denial, forgiveness and obedience. These are the attributes of our Master on our behalf.

It is because of Him that we who are followers, now and forever more, are married to Christ in this fusion of the spiritual, physical, emotional, and psychological terrain that recovers and rescues us back God, via, Christ. It is within this spiritual union that fallen, wounded, lost, and confused human-beings can find hope, healing, salvation, and love. 

We who now are walking in Messiah, do share some of the minor responsibility in maintaining our covenant relationship. yet the major responsibility rest upon God and His promises and His covenants. None is more powerful than Gen. 17:7. In short, God is the progenitor of  Israel and all of the descendants as well as all other nations of the earth. This unique covenant is based on the visible characteristics of God’s permanence, sacredness, His intimacy, mutuality and His exclusiveness. 

How does God express Himself to us in this fallen world? By demonstrating, teaching, and extending His agape toward us in a very real and intimate manner, while granting each of us to have what we lost due to sin, human dignity and an intimate relationship with God.

In spite of our sinful human disposition, God dignifies human-being in our covenant relationship in The Messiah. Because of the completed works of Messiah, each people regardless of their situation within this very broken world can now co-exist in this world, in a state of honor, and respect. Each of us was created to live, thrive in the eternal fellowship with God and this fallen world and the eternal Kingdom too come.

Grace and Peace