‘Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany’, John 12. 1
One of the few places on earth where the Lord was received and where He was honoured was in this little village of Bethany, and there are four specific events associated with this location that we might consider.
First, we might recall the event in the home of Martha and Mary, recorded in Luke chapter 10. Although it is described only as ‘a certain village’, we judge from other scriptures that this is Bethany. In verses 38 to 42 of the chapter which describes the busyness of the house, we are told, ‘Mary … sat at Jesus feet, and heard his word’, v. 39. In the Saviour’s presence in Bethany, it was a place of learning.
Second, and we have it mentioned in John chapter 11, we are told that ‘a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany’ and so the Lord proceeds to Bethany, albeit after some delay. It is during that purposeful delay that Lazarus dies and, as the Lord arrives in the outskirts of the village, Martha goes out to meet Him to tell the Lord of her distress and sorrow. Soon after, Mary meets the Saviour and we read that remarkable verse, ‘Jesus wept’. As we know from the chapter, Bethany here was the place of mourning, but where mourning was ultimately turned to joy.
Third, and this particular event is mentioned in Matthew, Mark, and John’s Gospels, we have the Lord’s visit to the house of Simon the leper. Mark says of it, ‘And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious’, 14. 3. Although we might see Bethany here as the place of anointing, it is also the place of a singular and significant act of worship that is exemplified in this anointing.
Finally, we come over to Luke chapter 24 which mentions the final occasion. We read, ‘he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them’, v. 50. Although the Lord didn’t enter Bethany, as He ascended into heaven His immediate vision would be of Bethany, the place of blessing. As Luke continues his account into the Acts of the Apostles, we might remember the question of the two angels, ‘Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?’ 1. 11. Thus, whether we think of Israel and the return of the Lord to the same Mount of Olives, or the church in a more general sense, Bethany is the place of a watching and waiting people.
If we might draw a practical thought from this brief meditation, what challenges does it offer for us as companies of the Lord’s people? Are we known as places of learning, where the truth of God is presented? Are we places of mourning, telling forth the consequences of the fall yet rejoicing in those that are brought to newness of life? Are we a worshipping people, watching and waiting for the Lord?