The Closed Door
Gateway to Spiritual Fullness
                                           After Looking All Around
                                                               Gleanings From Mark 11

Central to almost every Jewish heart is a divinely implanted longing for
Jerusalem.  Even before the settlement of the twelve tribes into the
Land of Canaan, God has promised to dwell among His people in an
appointed city (Deut. 12:5-7, 11, 13-14).  In the divine thought, God
dwelling among His people was the beginning of heaven’s rule on earth
and recovery of the whole earth from the usurper, Satan.  

After journeying in the wilderness for 40 years, God’s people finally
fought their way into their promised land.  Along the way, the Lord has
left more than enough inspirations through His prophet to ensure that
the divine thought of God dwelling with His people be understood and
brought into flaming light in every heart.  

Sadly, soon after the possession of the land, God’s people busied
themselves with building their own houses and carrying on with their
own affairs, but never gave a second thought about locating and
building God’s house.  

It took a special man, a man after God’s own heart as it were, to locate,
conquer and dedicate the city of Jerusalem for God’s dwelling place.  

The depth of David’s passion for God’s house in Jerusalem as
proliferated in his many psalms finally left an indelible mark and
inspired every Jewish heart.  The fact that there are also many psalms
written by other longing souls for Jerusalem confirm the Lord’s own hand
in inscribing this passion into the hearts of His people.  

In the time of Babylonian captivity only a small remnant, a people
whose hearts stirred for Jerusalem, was willing to endure the hardship
and returned to rebuild the temple and the city.  The record laid out in
the Word of God is more than clear that the vast majority of God’s
people chose to remain in the comfort and prosperity of Babylon.  In
fact, throughout the divine record there is a strong tendency for God’s
people to become complacent, even indulgent, in false hopes of peace,
safety, comfort and prosperity.  

These false hypotheses always lull the Lord’s people into spiritual
insensitivity about His purpose, presence and personhood and result in
spiritual declension.  

Jerusalem in the spiritual sense has therefore come to represent God’s
desire to restore His presence, purpose and personhood on earth as a
testimony beloved among those who are truly His own.  

Each time the city of Jerusalem fell into the hands of the enemy, it was
a telltale sign of the fallen condition of God’s people.  Likewise, it is the
fallen spiritual condition of God’s people today to neglect the spiritual
significance of Jerusalem and His dwelling place.  

It is against this backdrop of spiritual declension we find Jesus
approaching Jerusalem in Mark 11.  

It wouldn’t be difficult to understand Jesus’ feelings as He winds His
way down on a donkey’s colt from the Mount of Olives.  Luke presents
His feelings this way: “And when He approached, He saw the city and
wept over it” (Luk. 19:41).  

Is it in you and me, dear saints, to see the spiritual degradation of
God’s dwelling place and to weep over it?  

To me the most poignant moment came when Jesus entered Jerusalem
and came into the temple, “and after looking all around, He departed for
Bethany with the twelve…” (Mk. 11:11).  

Why did Jesus not settle down in Jerusalem for the night?  Why did He
go out of the city after so grand a so-called “triumphal entry”?  Didn’t
the heart of every remnant burn for Jerusalem?  Didn't Jesus “set His
face as a flint toward Jerusalem”?  Isn’t Jerusalem the city of the Great
King and dwelling place of the Almighty?  Didn’t He come to restore
God’s purpose, presence and personhood which culminated in
Jerusalem?  

Ah, but wait, He headed right back where He came – to the little village
of Bethany.  And that’s not all, the next day Jesus entered Jerusalem
again; and again He retired back to little Bethany for the night.  And
again.  And again….  So, what’s up with that, one has to wonder?  

John revealed the secret to us.  Six days before Passover, Jesus came to
Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead.  There in
the simple house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, a supper was being
prepared, Lazarus was reclining with Him, and Mary drew near at His
feet with a pound of very costly ointment to anoint Jesus’ feet and wipe
them with her hair.  The little house in Bethany was instantly filled with
the fragrance of the perfume (Jn. 12:1-3).  

Allow me to submit, if our divinely encoded passion for God's dwelling
place has been awakened by the Holy Spirit, we would likely treasure
this little inconspicuous episode in which Jesus reclined with a group of
simple and lowly followers.  

As Jesus rode down from the Mount of Olives, He stopped at a halfway
point and wailed when He saw the city.  Here came a Man whose
divinely infused passion for Jerusalem was fanned into a flame!  

As Jesus entered into Jerusalem, He “looked all around” then went out
of the city.  There was nothing for Him to be satisfied, temple and all.  
What He saw from a distance made Him cry.  What He saw up close and
all around made Him sad.  God’s presence has departed from what was
supposed to be His testimony on earth.  His purpose was no longer real
among His people.  There was little trace of His personhood in the lives
and deeds of His people.  Everywhere He looked and everything He saw
was tainted by the hands of men and cloaked in religiosity.  The
grandeur of the building couldn’t overshadow the lack of the presence of
God.  

“And after He looked around, He departed…” there is nothing sadder
than this brief scene.  The Lord came to Jerusalem and rightfully should
take up residence in His house, but He looked around and walked out.  
He settled down in a little house in Bethany instead.  

What Jerusalem was entitled to be, the house in Bethany became.  
Why?  In one word – simplicity.  Instead of outward grandeur, the Lord  
favors inward simplicity which carries grandeur of an entirely other-
worldly kind.  

It was in Bethany God finally rested, and man also rested.  Ever notice
that everywhere Jesus went, multitudes of people clamored about and
requested something from Him?  They only wanted some
thing, be it
healing or miracle, they did not want just
Him.  Here in Bethany, simple
folks wanted just
Him.  

And that’s the secret.  

Ever notice too that in a situation of multiplicity of requests, Jesus had
no rest, and He always had a teaching or a preaching or a rebuke?  Here
in Bethany, among friends, He found rest and there hardly was any
teaching or preaching.  His only rebuke came when His disciples
interrupted Mary who was anointing Him with the costly perfume.  

“O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how I wish to gather you as a hen gathering
her chicks under her wings, but you would not…” Jesus cried when He
was coming down the Mount of Olives.  In the little house in Bethany,
the simple “chicks” finally gathered under His wings.  The whole idea
that Jerusalem came to occupy such a prominent place in God’s people
is that she should symbolize God being their shelter, safety, provision,
rest, enjoyment, comfort and defense….  

Isn’t this also what the testimony of the church should be?  The true
testimony of the church is that
God is, and we are not!  

God wants to be and do everything for His people, and all He requires of
them is that they be the simple “chicks” that find refuge under His all-
sufficient wings.  What the Lord desires of us is that we draw nigh unto
Him, fellowship with Him and develop a sweet and trusting relationship
with Him.  

When the church drifts away from the precious truth and experience of
God being the “I AM” and the “All in All,” His presence and headship
begins to fade; then the church has to introduce programs, productions,
entertainment, and eloquently crafted sermons to fan the dying flame.  

Many Christians embark on Jerusalem to keep her legacy going.  After
all, Jerusalem is the God-ordained dwelling place; she represents God’s
desire to recover the earth from His enemy and usher in the kingdom.  
For this, many Christians busy themselves to maintain an outward
testimony with programs, production, pomp and circumstance….  

Then a few seeking Christians noticed that the Lord’s presence was
gone, His purpose kept alive by endless messages, and His personhood
scarcely manifested in the lives of the saints.  They surmised that it
was due to the institutionalization of the church, and began to
preoccupy themselves with a simpler non-institutional blueprint.  Both
approaches sought to rekindle a dying flame.  And both missed the
secret.  

The secret to rekindling the dying flame of Jerusalem is in Bethany.  The
Christian public only wants some
thing from the Lord, be it healing or
miracle, they did not want just Him.  In Bethany, simple folks want just
Him.  The Christian public wants to do something to keep the flame
burning.  In Bethany, simple folks let Him do His work in them and
through them, and let Him be the flame that is never in danger of going
out.  

Behold, Jesus is still looking.  He has looked from afar, and He has
looked up close.  With “eyes like a flame of fire” (Rev. 2:18) He has
seen our deeds and services, and we are found wanting.  Hear Him
groaning?  

Let’s return to first love, return to simplicity, return to Him who is the “I
AM,” and return to Bethany where the Lord reclines with His own.  

May our flame come only from the altar’s fire.  

Shalom,

Oliver Peng
11/08/2007