Last week, if you had asked me, in all seriousness, where God’s favorite place was on earth—or if he even had one—I would have probably wrinkled my eyebrows and then defaulted into “Well, duh! Ohio!” as a non-answer.
Because, really? A favorite place on earth? For God?
Blame the Patheos Book Club (again!) for introducing me to an author and a reading experience I would have otherwise missed completely: God’s Favorite Place on Earth, by the apparently awesomesauce Frank Viola, whose work I will be exploring further.
This book is the kind that shakes you out of your comfort level with stories you thought you knew from the Bible. Viola maintains that Bethany was God’s favorite place on earth, and he makes a pretty good case for it.
Viola begins each chapter told from the viewpoint of Lazarus and then digs deeper at the end of each chapter in a section called “Walking It Out.” The story drew me in, made me examine Jesus more closely.
And, I won’t lie, I was intrigued.
One thing that I often examine in my own devotion (and sometimes in my writing) is the personhood of Jesus and Mary and other saints. They were real people. This book really appealed to that interest of mine, the part of me that pictures Jesus as a grimy little boy running through the dust and throwing rocks, the streak I have of taking Mary off her pedestal in front of church and putting an apron on her.
Within walking distance, almost in the shadow of the temple walls, was the lowly town of Bethany—obscure, unknown, modest.
In which of these two places [Bethany or Jerusalem] did the God of the universe feel at home?
The tiny village of Bethany.
This example screams that God is more concerned with quality than with quantity. It shouts that He’s more concerned with reality than with flash. It thunders that He’s more concerned with authentic hearts than with what’s outwardly impressive.
Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, was bitterly rejected by the world. But He was gladly received in Bethany.
This was a book that surprised and delighted me. Viola writes with authority, but he’s not ponderous about it. I highly recommend this as a book for spiritual growth and deeper insight into the Gospels.