Apr. 29, 2012
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Jesus now goes with his disciples and probably a few other people to the area of Bethany. This is a little village just outside of Jerusalem. It was the home of sisters Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus.
We know Jesus previously had been to Bethany several times. Each of those times, something interesting happened. One time was the fateful dinner, in which Martha scurries around, trying to get everything just right. When her sister Mary does not help and only sits at Jesus’ feet clinging to his every word, Martha gets exasperated. Finally, she goes and complains to Jesus, who chastises her for being more concerned about a meal than spending time with him. Ouch.
Another time Jesus visits Bethany is after Lazarus has died. Or at least appears to have died. Even though Jesus was aware that Lazarus was very ill, he waits and he waits before going to Bethany. I know the man was busy, but it’s just a couple of miles! Although Lazarus isn’t technically one of the disciples, he has been a pretty darn close friend. By the time he finally gets there, Lazarus has been in a tomb for four days.
Once again, Martha gives Jesus the berries. She is so upset once she hears he is finally coming into Bethany, she doesn’t wait for him to get to their house. She meets him enroute. She is convinced that if Jesus had come quicker, her brother would not have died. Deeply moved and after physically weeping for his dear friend, Jesus goes to the tomb and does the unimaginable. He brings Lazarus back to life. This story, found in John 11, is too much for the Pharisees. Right after Lazarus resurrection, some of the Pharisees decide Jesus must die. And soon.
Jesus is at Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ house just a few days later, only days before the Passover. The siblings must have some financial resources because on this evening, Martha serves another fabulous meal. But it’s Mary who takes a pint of outlandishly expensive perfume and anoints Jesus’ feet. Judas can’t take it. He thinks the anointing is a ridiculous waste of money. Little does he understand what will happen in a few days.
Should it surprise us that Jesus is back near Bethany when he ascends into heaven, according to Luke’s gospel? Not at all.Bethanyis just a few miles from the Mount of Olives, the site of Jesus’ arrest. He’s within a short distance of where the entire debacle began. This time on a different note.
Note what he does right before he leaves them: he blesses them. In fact, it says that while he was blessing them, he was taken up to heaven.
There’s no question in my mind that Mary, Lazarus, and yes, even Martha felt blessed to know Jesus. The 11 remaining disciples, while still trying to process all that had happened, knew their lives had been completely blessed because of one man. Cleopas and his friend: how could they not feel blessed despite not knowing who really was walking with them!
This is the question for today: do you feel blessed by Jesus? Maybe things do not always turn out as expected. Even if you are struggling with some part of your life right now, can you feel God’s blessing upon you? I pray that you can. Let us pray a blessing.
Let us pray: Christ be with me; Christ before me; Christ behind me; Christ in me; Christ beneath me; Christ above me; Christ on my right; Christ on my left; Christ where I lie; Christ where I sit; Christ where I arise; Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me; Christ in the mouth of every person who speaks of me; Christ in every eye that sees me; Christ in every ear that hears me. Salvation is of the Lord. Amen.