Bethany

Bethany is an important place for biblical context and consideration.

Bethany - library of congress

  1. Means house of unripe dates or figs (Bryant, 1967, p. 77)
  2. Located just beyond the Jordan River, where John the Baptist baptized Jesus (Bryant, 1967, p. 77)
  3. A different Bethany from John’s location (Bryant, 1967, p. 77; ESV commentary, 2008, p. 2021); Village near the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem (Knight & Ray, 1998, p. 48)
  4. Home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus
  5. Place of Jesus’ ascension

Lazarus ~ Also a popular account is the illness, death, and resurrection of Lazarus (Jn. 11). What is noteworthy about the account of Lazarus is what we learn about Jesus. He loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha (v. 5). The responses of Martha and Mary to Jesus’ delay indicated an honesty and vulnerability that was free of pomp and pretense (vv. 21-22, 31-33). Jesus experienced community in Bethany with this family. He trusted them with grief and disappointment, all to work the Lazarus miracle to the glory of the Father.

Alabaster Box ~ The famous anointing of Jesus happened after Jesus brought Lazarus back to life. Jesus visited Lazarus, Mary, and Martha six days before the Passover. They gave a dinner for him. How Mary prophetically anointed Jesus’ body for burial remains a popular account in the global faith community. We draw from her example lessons of worship, commitment, radial release, faith, protection, and more. This experience happened in the home of Simon the leper, in Bethany (Matt. 26:6, Mk. 14:3, Jn. 12:1).

In Between ~ Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 12 give related accounts of the following events: the Triumphal entry, the Cleansing of the temple, and the Cursing of the fig tree. Between the cleansing of the temple and the cursing of the fig tree, Jesus and the 12 went to Bethany and lodged there.

Testimony of John ~ At the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist, there was a great uproar about his identity (Jn. 1:19-28). Who was he? Elijah? No. The Prophet? No. Why are you baptizing then, they asked John, if you are not a man of authority that we recognize? John emphatically declared three things. 1) I am not the Christ. 2) I am the voice. 3) I baptize with water, but there is one among you who you do not know, who comes after me. All of this happened in a different Bethany, across from where John baptized in the Jordan.

Ascension ~ The resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples and led them to the edge of Bethany. There He blessed the disciples. During the blessing Jesus ascended, parted from them and carried into heaven (Lk. 24:50-53).

Over and again we find Jesus needs Bethany, a place of retreat. Jesus returned to where the love for Him was pure, and without expectation. Between bold demonstrations of ministry, Jesus went to Bethany. There is a confidence in our demonstration when we know we have a safe haven for reflection, rest, and recharge. Consider the above accounts; each is important to the belief system of the disciple of Jesus. 

It is possible that in search of safe places, the modern-day disciples look for Bethany environments when we should invest in the relationships that produce Bethany experiences. Bethany is significant because of who was there and what happened there. The same is true for us. Large city or small town, each has a place in our spiritual formation because of the who and the what.

Bethany is an important place in Scripture. Bethany was an important place for Jesus. Alas, Bethany is an important place for us.

References:

Bryant, T. A. (Ed.). (1967). The compact bible dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

ESV Study Bible English Standard Version. (2008). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Knight, G. W., & Ray, R. W. (Eds.). (1998). The layman’s bible dictionary. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Books.


Shaunta D. Scroggins, M.Ed. is the lead contributor to The Bereans’ Commentary

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