Today, Bethany is a little Arab neighborhood that lies behind an Israeli security wall, on the eastern slope of Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
He told me he had returned to his childhood home Bethany to help his mother after the death of his father.
Meeting him helped to personalize the story the Bible tells about his hometown.
Bethany was the home of 3 close friends of Jesus. The gospel writer John makes a point of saying that Jesus loved a man named Lazarus, and his two sisters Mary and Martha (John 11:5).
But something interesting happened when Jesus got an urgent message from the sisters asking him to come quickly because “He whom you love is sick” (John 11:3).
After getting the message we read, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was” (v 5).
By the time Jesus finally decided to come to Bethany, Lazarus had been buried for 4 days (17). Upon arrival both sisters at different times cried to Jesus saying, “Lord if only you had been here, my brother would not have died” (21, 32).
It was here in Bethany that the Gospel tells us that when Jesus saw how deeply the sisters and their Jewish friends grieved the loss of Lazarus, he groaned within himself. Here we also find the shortest sentence in the Bible that says simply, “Jesus cried.” (35).
The teacher’s tears caused the Jewish friends of the sisters to say, “Look how he loved him!” (36)
The resurrection of Lazarus that followed provided dramatic reason to believe Jesus when he said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (25-26)
A few days later, according to the Gospel writer John,many of the people of Bethany showed up in the clamoring crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as the long awaited delivering King of Israel (John 12:12-18).
Meanwhile, because of the resurrection of Lazarus in Bethany, the leaders of the Jewish people were plotting to kill Jesus (10-11).
The events of the next week help us to understand that Jesus didn’t just love Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They show much he and his Father love us.
Looking back, can we also find hope for ourselves, and the “divine delays” we are struggling with– in the words, ““Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was” (v 5)?