WE have followed the Lord and the disciples through the country east of Jordan in the journey towards Jerusalem. We think of them crossing the sunny plains of Jericho, and climbing into the hills by the road which we learned about, in the parable of the good Samaritan.
Bethany was a little village in a pleasant, sunny nook on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives. It was near Jerusalem but hidden from the city by the Mount of Olives. When the Lord was at Jerusalem He often stayed at the quiet little village away from the noise, with its orchards of olives and figs, and its view out over the hills to the south and east. There was there a house where they gladly received Him, the home of Martha and her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus. ”Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Perhaps it was on this journey from Galilee that the Lord rested at their house, when Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and heard His word, but Martha was cumbered, or distracled, about much serving, troubled about the supper for the Master.
Is it wrong to lie busy? No indeed! But we ought not to be anxious and troubled while we work. The Lord taught this lesson when He bade us to consider the birds and flowers. We need to take a little time each morning and each night to sit humbly at the Lord’s feet to hear His word. It will help to make the day’s work or the night’s rest peaceful and useful. Each Sunday we sit at His feet to hear what will help us for the week; and if we remember the Lord and His words through the day and the week, our minds are at rest even when our hands are busy.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.—Luke X. 38-42.
It was now early winter, and the Feast of Dedication was being kept in Jerusalem. It lasted eight days, and was sometimes called the Feast of Lights, because the temple and the houses were brightly lighted. Do you want to know why this feast was kept? There was a time after David and the other kings had died and the people of Jerusalem had been captive in Babylon, and many of them had come back again to their city,–there was a time after all this and before the coming of the Lord, when a king named Antiochus Epiphanes ruled over Syria, including Palestine, having his home in the far north. This king defiled the temple at Jerusalem and tried to stop the worship of the Lord among the Jews, and to make all the people worship the heathen gods of the Greeks. But a brave man and his sons, who lived in a little town of Judaea, would not obey the king, and one of the sons called Judas Maccabaeus became leader of an army and overcame the king. He cleansed the temple and dedicated it again to the worship of the Lord. This was before the Lord came, B.C. 164. From that time they kept each winter the Feast of Dedication.
Now we understand when we read, “It was at Jerusalem, the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.” Solomon’s porch was a colonnade, probably along the east side of the temple court, where people gathered to listen to the teachers. The leaders of the Jews came about the Lord, not to learn but to hear something for which they might condemn Him. They had before persecuted the Lord and sought to slay Him when He healed the poor man at Bethesda on a Sabbath day in Jerusalem, and when on another Sabbath He healed the man born blind. Now when the Lord told them the truth, “I and my Father are one,” they took up stones again to stone Him, and He went away again beyond Jordan, where the people were more ready to hear Him than in Jerusalem.
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. And many believed on him there.—John X. 22-42.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Mary >> Spiritual Love
Mary sitting at the Lord’s feet >> Trustfulness and peace of Mary’s love
Martha >> Natural Love, full of service, careful and troubled in her self-confident effort
My sheep hear my voice >> Those who are in Truth obey the Lord from the faith of Love
They took up stones again to stone him >> Condemning with falsities
He escaped out of their hand >> False acts have no power over Divine Truth
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum