Postage £0.00

The Home At Bethany

(The scriptures are Luke 10 last paragraph, most of John 11, and John 12 first

paragraph, which is also related in Matthew 26 and Mark 14 - but not Luke 7

last paragraph, which was a different occasion)

Bethany, where Lazarus was whom Jesus raised from the dead. Bethany... the village of Mary and her sister Martha. The same village. A tomb, and a public manifestation of His divine power: a home, and the affection and hospitality of His friends, the enjoyment of which was a most satisfying pleasure to Him. But when He first visited the home all this lay in the future and was foreknown only to Him.

It was Martha who received Him, perhaps had sent back an invitation by two of the seventy; whether having seen Him before or only heard about Him, she wished to know more and when He reached her village on the way to Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles, hospitality awaited Him. And such hospitality! When a sincere and well-to-do hostess received such an honoured Guest what would she not do and provide for His comfort and needs? An example for all who render service to our Master - only our best can we offer Him, and from a higher motive than Martha's at that time, for we serve Him who has served us in our deepest need, Him who was rich yet for our sakes became poor in the poverty of Calvary.

However, as sometimes with us, service lost its joy and became a burden to Martha. There was so much to do and Mary had left her alone to do it all; distraught and fretting, till she could carry on no longer, she came up to the Lord as He sat talking with Mary and demanded, "Lord, dost Thou not care ...?" How many, out of trouble and sorrow far deeper than Martha's, have cried with the same words, "Lord, dost Thou not care about me?" And, our own sorrow drawing us close to the Sufferer of Calvary, we have learnt most assuredly that we shall never be forsaken by our God, because it was for our sakes He forsook His own Son; for our sakes the Saviour cried, "Why art Thou so far from helping ... .0 My God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou answerest not; and in the night season, but find no rest". How different, and how sure is His promise to us, "I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee". How did the Lord respond to poor fretting Martha? Very graciously, as with us all, for He knows our circumstances. To a large extent we are each the product of our own experience, and He knows all about that too. This seems to be implied in His gentle and very personal reply, "Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things". This practical, strong-willed mistress of the house, what were her many troubles? What had been her life's experience, what anxieties and troubles lay deep in her heart and mind? Still unmarried, had there been a disappointment somewhere in the past? Had she, like so many selfless women, sacrificed herself for the sake of younger sister and brother? Surely there were things of this kind - whatever they were, known only to her and to Him - things deep and personal, and not the minor matters of the meal on the table, which the Lord's words were gently touching upon. He wanted Martha to understand that He knew all about her private troubles; not only knew them but had come to take away their bitterness and give her rest, rest such as her sister was already finding as she drank in the words of grace that flowed from Him during 'that long, quiet first conversation. To hear and believe His word was the good part, bringing peace to the heart and rest to the mind, which would never be taken away.

Thus the Lord blessed these two women on His first visit to their home, the first of many and the beginning of a deepening friendship, on their part to learn more of Him continually and knowing more to trust His love and power, and on His to rest in their affection and to show in return His love for them all, for Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

The implicit trust which the sisters came to have in their divine Friend can be seen in the message they sent Him about Lazarus' illness, and the identical words with which they met Him when eventually He came. For four days they had sorrowed because in Jesus' absence their brother had died. Ought they to have sent their message earlier; what important work had detained Him when they needed Him so urgently; what meant He by His answer, for had not the illness in fact turned into death? These things perplexed them as they grieved for their dead brother, but there was no resentment or criticism of Him whom they had learnt to know and trust for not coming immediately in response to their appeal. And on hearing that He was at last coming, first Martha and then Mary went, and greeted Him with words that showed their thoughts over the days, Martha's faith adding, "Even now I know that, whatsoever Thou shalt ask of God, God will give Thee". Not that she knew what this might be, but had He not sent that strange reply about Lazarus' illness, so whatever He in His love and wisdom might even at this juncture ask of God, it would be granted Him. Whoever trusted Him like this dear woman? For all her practical, down-to-earth way of looking at things she had come to know Him most truly, with a conviction equalling that of Peter at Caesarea Philippi, as the Christ, the Son of God. And believing in Him thus, she could believe what He said, though scarce understood, for what mourner had ever heard such words about resurrection and life? So it is that believing in Jesus as the Christ the Son of God we not only have life in His name but find in Him an inexhaustible supply for all our needs, whatever they may from time to time be - as Paul had found in his long experience as a Christian, that in Christ Jesus God supplies every need we have.

Immediately this conversation was over between her who was walking through the valley of the shadow and Him in whom was life, and that life the light of men, Martha hurried away to call her sister, for she seemed to sense, with the intuition of faith, that these mysterious things the Master had said to her had some immediate relevance to themselves, and Mary must come quickly. Mary was different from Martha, and all she could do was to fall at His feet, weeping unceasingly, and sob out the same few words as Martha had first spoken. No conversation now from the Saviour; deeply moved by Mary's grief He must lose no time in fulfilling that purpose of His Father's which had first delayed Him for two days where He had been, and now brought Him, the Giver and Sustainer of life, face to face with death. Pausing only to reassure Martha, poor woman troubled again because of the unpleasant realities of the situation, and to demonstrate unmistakably to the many people present that what He was about to do would be done in fellowship with His Father, He called the dead Lazarus alive from the tomb - with the loud voice of divine authority, foreshowing the shout with which He shall yet come down from heaven for His dead and living, and the tremendous voice which at the last all that are in the tombs shall hear and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have practised ill unto the resurrection of judgement.

This mightiest of His miracles took place not long before Passover; the interim was spent by the Lord and His disciples away from Jerusalem, and as to Martha and Mary and Lazarus, with what joy and deepest gratitude to their beloved Master were they now reunited, all former anxieties and troubles, whether individual or family, having dissolved in the presence of His inscrutable wisdom, His unfailing love and His beneficent power.

And now Passover was but six days to come, and Jesus arrived at Bethany, the last place at which the Son of Man might safely and comfortably lay his head at night. Probably it was at Martha's house He actually stayed, and we can imagine His gratitude to his three friends for the true hospitality, the sincerity and the warmth with which they surrounded Him on His last Friday and Saturday, and at least the Sunday night when He returned after His royal entry into Jerusalem. It seems that perhaps the whole village honoured Him at a supper held in the house of one Simon, who had once been a leper. (None of the many lepers cured by Him who went about doing good, and healing, is named in the Gospels, but Simon was a Bethany man, and the divine Healer had been in that village time and again in the past). However that may have been, his was the last guest-chamber where the villagers of Bethany gathered to do homage to the Son of God.

Our three friends were there. Lazarus reclined at table with Him (for what is the purpose of resurrection if not that Christ and His redeemed shall enjoy eternally the fellowship typified by a festive meal?) and Martha served. Yes, Martha again serving no longer cumbered, no longer anxious and troubled, having graciously accepted that first mild corrective although given in her sister's presence - Martha doing what she was best fitted for, her domestic abilities all at His service.

But the occasion was in a special sense Mary's. This tender-hearted woman, who at the first sat at His feet to learn, who later fell at His feet in her need, now kneeled at His feet to worship and adore. The flask, filled from deep wells of womanly love hitherto untapped, was broken within her by her apprehension of what lay before her beloved Lord a few days hence in Jerusalem; broken, as was the alabaster containing a pound's weight of pure ointment, which she poured over His head and also His feet. In this Simon's house, unlike Pharisee Simon's, His feet would have been washed upon entering, now to be soothed with liquid nard and wiped in the ample softness of Mary's hair. A most beautiful scene this not only her wealth but her hair, her glory, her very self aid at His feet in this symbolic act of fellowship with Him in His approaching death and burial.

Mary's action immediately took command of the whole company through the fragrance of the ointment, arousing alas the thieving anger of Iscariot, to be sharply rebuked by the Lord, who then in softening voice commended her action to all people for all time. "She hath done what she could"; who would ask for higher commendation?

Peter and Paul wrote about women's hair - not to be used as a centrepiece of superficial adornment; given her for a covering and if it is long, a glory to her. Yet the Corinthian women must veil their heads when 'in church'. No paradox this, but an act of significance to godly women engaged in collective service. By veiled heads they declare their belief in the word of God, that Adam was first formed and then Eve, of him and for him; that that was the order in which God made us in the beginning - and necessarily so, for Adam and Eve were a type of Christ and His Church, and He is the Head of the Church and the Church is subject to Him.

The first paragraph of 1 Corinthians 11 is all about authority as ordained by God, so by wearing a hat, shall we say veiling her own glory, on these occasions, the Christian woman displays this symbol of the man's headship and adds, as it were, her Amen to God's eternal purpose in the Church. In turn, the man by his uncovered head acknowledges that he as an individual is under Christ's authority, and we know that within the unity of Deity, Christ is subject to God.

The woman of Luke 7, and Mary of Bethany, must have had very long hair to use it as they did. How beautiful it undoubtedly looked at first, but afterwards how unbeautiful, soiled with greasy ointment. It is not hair that matters (happily for us, for how few women have or could have hair like Mary's), or any other natural endowment we might have, but the laying of it in selfless service at the feet of our adorable Lord. Some are named Mary and some Martha; we are all loved by Him, and we all have something of our own we can offer Him.