The Home at Bethany

Matthew 26:1‑16  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Matt. 26:1-16.1
IT was a wonderful six days that the Lord spent at Bethany. The beginning was His entry into Jerusalem, as King and Jehovah, according to the testimony of Zechariah, on an ass—the meek and lowly though true Messiah of Israel. Then, how marvelously all passed in review before Him, the Judge of quick and dead, even when they thought only of judging, condemning, and perplexing Him But, in fact, He, though never for a moment abandoning His own place of humiliation, though always and only the faithful Witness, pronounces divine judgment on every class that crossed His path. Chief priests, elders, scribes, lawyers, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, all were confounded, one after another. Next, in chap. xxiii. the nation was judged, but its restoration was predicted, when it should be prepared in heart to welcome the rejected Messiah. Closely connected therewith is the prophetic strain in chaps. xxiv. xxv., in which the Lord instructs the disciples, or faithful remnant, touching the intervening circumstances, and, above all, touching the effect of His coming on the Jews, on the Christians, and on the Gentiles at large.
Now, when this is finished, and the time of His entire and final rejection is at hand, He finds a home for a little season at Bethany. It is most sweet to follow Jesus into that momentary retreat of love, where His heart, straitened though it ever was till the cross in a world which understood it not and refused it, enjoys the answer which itself had produced.
The opening of the chapter shows us how calmly the Lord awaited the judgment which was about to fall on and how simply He announced it to the disciples; “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.” If He had judged all according to God, and finished all His sayings in these respects, He is ready to be judged and to suffer to the uttermost, fulfilling His own love according to the counsels of God. “Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that-they might take Jesus by subtlety and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast-day, lest there be an uproar among the people.” How little they knew that all was known to Jesus, and that what they muttered in the darkness was spoken by Him in the light, with the openness of One who came for this very end! He communicates with His friends about His crucifixion: they, His enemies, plot about it with each other. It was all ordered beforehand of God, who has a long look out, and accomplishes a great deal with a little. We, looking at the beginning of things, may think they are all going wrong when they seem to be adverse. The happy way is to trust in the Lord, and to believe He is guiding. But we must abdicate our own wisdom for this. Faith alone gives the perspective of what God does: to human understanding all looks crooked.
How laborious wickedness is, and what pains men must take about it! (ver. 3-5.) With what ease Jesus had spoken and acted, let the circumstances be ever so heart-breaking to Himself!
There is often great difficulty felt by His people in turning from one thing to another of a different character. The truth is, we want to be nothing, which is the secret of this power. Jesus was always ready for everything. He was of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord. Divinely perfect, He was also thoroughly human. In us, that which is immediately from God must be given, if we would be kept from the inroads of our own character in each case. The Lord could one moment expose the Pharisees and their temptations, the next moment take up young children in His arms and bless them. And again, we repeat, it is very striking to see how, when events are closing in around Him, He finds, as it were a home. If the world is completely against Him, He can take rest for His spirit with this family of Bethany He lets His heart out in accepting what is done unto Him. How perfectly human is the Lord here! He delights in accepting all their kind thoughtfulness and love.
Throughout His course, there had always been tension of service. Save in communion with His Father, when was He, for an instant, unbent? He found not so much as time, to eat. When He wanted sleep at another time, it must be in a boat. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Here, however, it is not the same thing. For a brief season He has a kind of home. He takes the kindness which the heart can give, and likes it.
And let us mark how the heart that is entirely devoted to Jesus gets into the right place, and does the right thing. (Ver. 6, 7.) There may not have been intelligence in this woman, of what she was going to do, but her feeling seems to have been that she was about to lose Jesus, and that she must spend all she had most precious upon Him there. There is an instinct of affection, that finds its expression when wanted. “Me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.” Jesus interprets it. She broke the alabaster box. It was really of no use, but sanctified affection is of use. Disciples might say, to-what purpose is this waste? and talk about giving the money to the poor; but whatever is spent on Jesus, God delights in. And Jesus accepts the affection, and is conscious that He should be the object. “Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me,” &c. There is nothing so acceptable to God in the saint as knowing the person of Jesus, and appreciating Him in love. If in service we anticipated the mind of the Lord, how we might help one another! and how graciously He reckons! For ignorant as the woman was, the Lord speaks as if she had known about His death and burial, as He did Himself. And He rewards accordingly.
It was just so that He said to the disciples, “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me.” He owned their devotedness as a heavenly value, though, in fact, it was He who had deigned to continue with them. Rom. 8:26, 2726Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26‑27), is in character with this love, and most encouraging for us.
“Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.” She did everything, as it were, in that one act. So, in one sense, Paul did more during the two years of his imprisonment, than in all the rest of his ministry. The great thing is to cultivate that kind of devotedness to Christ, which makes Him the one object. It was thus the woman acted, and got Christ's approval. It is not an easy thing to be satisfied with His approval, and nothing else; but this it is which strengthens the soul, and puts it on seeking His direction.
But in the next verses, 14-16, what a contrast of darkness with light? The little picture we were looking at is soon gone. How thoroughly a passing scene, and now how changed! Judas thought he could deliver up Christ to whom he liked, but he could not, nor could the band, with their officers and weapons, take Him “They went backward and fell to the ground.” He gave Himself up, or they could never have taken Him. And what was Judas' estimate of Jesus? “What will ye give me,” etc. “And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.” Alas! Judas was the instrument of the enemy's malice as the woman was of the love of the Spirit, now that that most solemn hour approached, when the full truth of man, of Satan, of God Himself was disclosed in the cross of Jesus.