Bethany: Luke 24. 50
Denis Clapham, Birmingham
He, who to begin with came to Bethlehem, did not in the end go back there, for we read, "And he led them out as far as to Bethany". At Bethlehem, there had been "no room", Luke 2.7, and they "received him not", John 1.11. But at Bethany He was received "into the house", Luke 10. 38, where He was made welcome; "He lodged there", Matt. 21. 17, and found rest; "there they made him a supper", John 2, and He enjoyed the warmth of friendship and fellowship. In Bethlehem, He suffered the indignity of the stench of a stable, a cattleshed, a stall for oxen and asses, Luke 2. 7. At Bethany He was honoured and adored, and "the house was filled with the odour of the ointment", John 12. 3, that was poured out on His feet by one whose devotion to Him was itself both precious and fragrant. Bethlehem is connected with His lowly life and rejection on earth, and with the crown of thorns that was given Him here. Bethany is connected with His exaltation and reception in heaven, and the "glory and honour", Heb 2. 7, with which He has been crowned there. There are many who never go, even in thought, to Bethlehem: some who do never get any further. If we are among those who have begun to follow Him, having heard His voice, let us make sure that we follow Him "out as far as to Bethany", for it is there that new and more wonderful things are to be experienced.
"And he lifted up his hands." A man's hands often show the sort of man he is. A doctor, a draughtsman, a labouring man, all have different kinds of hands. God looks closely at men's hands. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart", Psa. 24. 3-4. The Lord Jesus would have us to look closely at His hands, too, for He said, "Behold my hands", John 20. 27: and it is written, "He showed them his hands", v. 20. Are His hands in any way different from those of others? Yes, there is one outstanding difference between His hands and the hands of all others, for His are the nail-pierced hands; they are the hands of the once-crucified One, Psa. 22. 16. When first we truly behold the hands of the One who died for us and rose again, and realize that it was "for our sins", 1 Cor. 15. 3, that Christ died, and that "for our justification" He was raised again, Rom. 4. 25, our confession will be the same as that made by the apostle Thomas when he saw Him, "My Lord and my God", John 20. 28. However, the Lord said to Thomas, "because thou hast seen me (physically), thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed", v. 29. Since that time, how many there are who have believed, and yet how many more there are who have not. Unbelievers know nothing of the blessedness of which the Lord Jesus spoke. If they would only remember His scarred hands, and realize that it was for their sakes also that He died, then simply by confessing with their mouths Jesus as Lord, and believing in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead, they too would be saved, Rom. 10. 9-10. He would become their Saviour. Would not they also be among the blessed?
"And blessed them."Throughout His life, the Lord Jesus was continually blessing others. He brought only blessing to people. None who was willing to receive Him was excluded from blessing. Old and young alike were blessed. "They brought young children to him that he should touch them". "And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them", Mark 10. 16. His cruel death at the hands of wicked men was designed by God for the greater blessing of mankind, Acts 2. 33, even for "salvation unto the ends of the earth", 13. 47. Today, the Lord of glory is still blessing His own. Those who at all cost determine to follow Him "out as far as to Bethany" prove that there He still lifts up His hands upon them and blesses them. In every circumstance and condition of life they are blessed by Him, that is, of course, just as it is their attitude of life to be "looking (off) unto Jesus", Heb. 12. 2. It is at Bethany that eyes are turned upward, to the Man "who is gone into heaven", 1 Pet. 3. 22. And it is in Him that we learn that we are "blessed with all spiritual blessings", Eph. 1.3. Apart from Him, we have nothing even now or to come. But, praise God the Father, in and through Christ Jesus our Lord, "The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it", Prov. 10. 22; this is our present and never-ending portion.