In each episode of Ramsay’s 24 hours to hell and back, Gordon Ramsay transforms a restaurant from a dire unhygienic disaster into a gourmet food heaven. It’s rapid. It’s quick. And it achieves what everyone wants.
Just like that, Mark’s gospel is a little speedy. It’s almost like everything’s got to be done quickly. Mark loves using the term ‘immediately’. Everything happens in quick succession: there’s no time to hang around.
So in our reading, we have Jesus arriving in Jerusalem. The crowds celebrating: here he comes to turn everything around. Let’s get this done!
But then the pace changes in Mark’s Gospel. Look what happens at the climax of this procession. Mark tells us this… “Then Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”
He has a look around. What an anticlimax! He doesn’t do anything… even with all the people pressing him to get the job done. He returns to Bethany. Mark doesn’t tell us why. But it’s late, so we can assume he needs some rest, perhaps some time to think and to pray.
Why not stay in Jerusalem? Well, it seems Bethany is where he felt at home. It’s the place of Mary and Martha who each loved Jesus in their own way; of Lazarus who Jesus loved dearly; of Simon the leper where Jesus dines and gets expensive ointment poured on his head.
It’s in Bethany where Jesus is loved, understood, cared for. In the height of his mission, at the climax of the entry into Jerusalem where he knows he’s about to face his toughest challenge, he takes time to be with those he loves and those who love him in a place where he is safe and cared for.
He doesn’t rush straight into the task as though he only has 24 hours to do what’s required of him. He takes time to give himself space, to look after himself and to feel the care of others.
It’s easy for us to think we only have 24 hours to complete what we need to do. In our 24 hour world of pace and productivity, time taken for ourselves can often be seen as being lazy. But it’s important. Even Jesus knew he needed time to be in his safe place before getting back into what he knew he needed to do.
The challenge for us isn’t to work hard. We’re often great at doing that. It’s the challenge of making space for ourselves and spending time with those we love and who care for us.
The question to each of us is where is your Bethany and are you making time to be there?