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CHAP.

V

* St. Luke x. 38

AT BETHANY, IN THE HOME OF MARTHA AND MARY.

145 which follows that of the home of Bethany, when one of His disciples asks Him to teach them to pray, as the Baptist had similarly taught his followers, seems to indicate, that they were then on the scene of John's former labours-north-east of Bethany; and, hence, that it occurred on Christ's return from Jerusalem. Again, from the narrative of Christ's reception in the house of Martha, we gather that Jesus had arrived in Bethany with His disciples, but that He alone was the guest of the two sisters. We infer that Christ had dismissed His disciples to go into the neighbouring City for the Feast, while Himself tarried in Bethany. Lastly, with all this agrees the notice in St. John vii. 14, that it was not at the beginning, but about the midst of the feast,' that · Jesus went up into the Temple.' Although travelling on the two first festive days was not actually unlawful, yet we can scarcely conceive that Jesus would have done so—especially on the Feast of Tabernacles; and the inference is obvious, that Jesus had tarried in the immediate neighbourhood, as we know He did at Bethany in the house of Martha and Mary."

Other things, also, do so explain themselves—notably, the absence of the brother of Martha and Mary, who probably spent the festive days in the City itself. It was the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles, and the scene recorded would take place in the open leafy booth which served as the sitting apartment during the festive week. For, according to law, it was duty during the festive week to eat, sleep, pray, study-in short, to live in these booths, which were to be constructed of the boughs of living trees. And, although this was not absolutely obligatory on women, yet, the rule which bade all make Succ. ii. 8 'the booth the principal, and the house only the secondary dwelling,' would induce them to make this leafy tent at least the sitting apartment alike for men and women. And, indeed, those autumn-days were just the season when it would be joy to sit in these delightful cool retreats—the memorials of Israel's pilgrim-days! They were high enough, and yet not too high; chiefly open in front; close enough to be shady, and yet not so close as to exclude sunlight and air. Such would be the apartment in which what is recorded passed ; and, if we add that this booth stood probably in the court, we can picture to ourselves Martha moving forwards and backwards on her busy errands, and seeing, as she passed again and again, Mary still sitting a rapt listener, not heeding what passed around; and, lastly,

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i No one who reads St. John xi. can nor hence that their home was in Bethany. doubt, that the persons there introduced 2 Comp. •The Temple and its Ser. are the Martha and Mary of this history, vices,' p. 237, &c. VOL. II.

L

BOOK

IV

Luke x. 38

how the elder sister could, as the language of verse 40 implies, enter so suddenly the Master's Presence, bringing her complaint.

To understand this history, we must dismiss from our minds preconceived, though, perhaps, attractive thoughts. There is no evidence that the household of Bethany had previously belonged to the circle of Christ's professed disciples. It was, as the whole history shows, a wealthy home. It consisted of two sisters—the elder, Martha (a not uncommon Jewish name,' being the feminine of Mar, and equivalent to our word “mistress '); the younger, Mary; and their brother Lazarus, or, Laazar. Although we know not how it came, yet, evidently, the house was Martha's, and into it she received Jesus on His arrival in Bethany. It would have been no uncommon occurrence in Israel for a pious, wealthy lady to receive a great Rabbi into her house. But the present was not an ordinary case. Martha

must have heard of Him, even if she had not seen Him. But, Comp. St. indeed, the whole narrative implies,a that Jesus had come to Bethany

with the view of accepting the hospitality of Martha, which probably had been proffered when some of those “Seventy,' sojourning in the worthiest house at Bethany, had announced the near arrival of the Master. Still, her bearing affords only indication of being drawn towards Christ-at most, of a sincere desire to learn the good news, not of actual discipleship.

And so Jesus came—and, with Him and in Him, Heaven's own Light and Peace. He was to lodge in one of the booths, the sisters in the house, and the great booth in the middle of the courtyard would be the common living apartment of all. It could not have been long after His arrival-it must have been almost immediately, that the sisters felt they had received more than an Angel unawares. How best to do Him honour, was equally the thought of both. To Martha it seemed, as if she could not do enough in showing Him all hospitality. And, indeed, this festive season was a busy time for the mistress of a wealthy household, especially in the near neighbourhood of Jerusalem, whence her brother might, after the first two festive days, bring, at any time that week, honoured guests with him from the City. To these cares was now added that of doing sufficient honour to such a Guest-for she, also, deeply felt His greatness. And so she hurried to and fro through the courtyard, literally, 'distracted * about much serving.'

See Lery, Neuhebr. Wörterb. ad voc. quently in Talmudic writings as . Martha occurs, however, also as a abbreviated form Elasar or Eleazar male name (in the Aramaic). 3 The name ()

() occurs fre

περιεσπάτο. .

an

(אֶלְעָזָר)

MARY HATH CHOSEN THAT GOOD PART'

147

CHAP.

V

Her

younger sister, also, would do Him all highest honour; but, not as Martha. Her homage consisted in forgetting all else but Him, Who spake as none had ever done. As truest courtesy or affection consists, not in its demonstrations, but in being so absorbed in the object of it as to forget its demonstration, so with Mary in the Presence of Christ. And then a new Light, another Day, had risen upon her; a fresh life had sprung up within her soul: "She sat at the Lord's Feet,' and heard His Word.' We dare not inquire, and yet we well know, of what it would be. And so, time after timeperhaps, hour after hour—as Martha passed on her busy way, she still sat listening and living. At last, the sister who, in her impatience, could not think that a woman could, in such manner, fulfil her duty, or show forth her religious profiting, broke in with what sounds like a querulous complaint: ‘Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve alone?' Mary had served with her, but she had now left her to do the work alone. Would the Master bid her resume ber neglected work? But, with tone of gentle reproof and admonition, the affectionateness of which appeared even in the repetition of her name, Martha, Martha—as, similarly, on a later occasion, Simon, Simon—did He teach her in words which, however simple in their primary meaning, are so full, that they have ever since borne the most many-sided application : "Thou art careful and anxious about many things : but one thing is needful ;? and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.' It

was, as we imagine, perhaps the first day of, or else the preparation for, the Feast. More than that one day did Jesus tarry in the home of Bethany. Whether Lazarus came then to see Himand, still more, what both Martha and Mary learned, either then, or afterwards, we reverently forbear to search into. Suffice it, that though the natural disposition of the sisters remained what it had been, yet henceforth, 'Jesus loved Martha and her sister.'

" This, instead of Jesus,' is the reading more generally received as correct.

? Few would be disposed to adopt the

reading : 'but few things are needful, or
one'-meaning, not much preparation,
indeed, only one dish is necessary.

CHAPTER VI.

AT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES-FIRST DISCOURSE IN THE TEMPLE.

(St. John vii. 11-36.)

BOOK

IV

It was Chol ha Moedas the non-sacred part of the festive weekthe half-holy days were called. Jerusalem, the City of Solemnities, the City of Palaces, the City of beauty and glory-wore quite another than its usual aspect; other, even, than when its streets were thronged by festive pilgrims during the Passover-week, or at Pentecost. For this was pre-eminently the Feast for foreign pilgrims, coming from the farthest distance, whose Temple-contributions were then received and counted.2

Despite the strange costumes of Media, Arabia, Persia, or India, and even further; or the Western speech and bearing of the pilgrims from Italy, Spain, the modern Crimea, and the banks of the Danube, if not from yet more strange and barbarous lands, it would not be difficult to recognise the lineaments of the Jew, nor to perceive that to change one's clime was not to change one's mind. As the Jerusalemite would look with proud self-consciousness, not unmingled with kindly patronage, on the swarthy strangers, yet fellow-countrymen, or the eager-eyed Galilean curiously stare after them, the pilgrims would, in turn, gaze with mingled awe and wonderment on the novel scene. Here was the realisation of their fondest dreams ever since childhood, the home and spring of their holiest thoughts and best hopes—that which gave inward victory to the vanquished, and converted persecution into anticipated triumph.

They could come at this season of the year—not during the winter for the Passover, nor yet quite so readily in summer's heat for Pentecost. But now, in the delicious cool of early autumn, when all harvest-operations, the gathering in of luscious fruit and the vintage were past, and the first streaks of gold were tinting the foliage, strangers from afar off, and countrymen from Judæa, Peräa, and Galilee, would mingle in the streets of Jerusalem, under the

1 Also Cholo shel Moed and Moed Katon.

2 See ch. iii. of this Book.

IN JERUSALEM AT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.

149

CHAP.

VI

* Jos. Ant. viii, 4.1

ever-present shadow of that glorious Sanctuary of marble, cedarwood, and gold, up there on high Moriah, symbol of the infinitely more glorious overshadowing Presence of Him, who was the Holy One in the midst of Israel. How all day long, even till the stars lit up

the deep blue canopy over head, the smoke of the burning, smouldering sacrifices rose in slowly-widening column, and hung between the Mount of Olives and Zion; how the chant of Levites, and the solemn responses of the Hallel were borne on the breeze, or the clear blast of the Priests silver trumpets seemed to waken the echoes far away! And then, at night, how all these vast Templebuildings stood out, illuminated by the great Candelabras that burned in the Court of the Women, and by the glare of torches, when strange sound of mystic hymns and dances came floating over the intervening darkness! Truly, well might Israel designate the Feast of Tabernacles as 'the Feast' (haChag), and the Jewish historian describe it as 'the holiest and greatest.'a 1

Early on the 14th Tishri (corresponding to our September or early October), all the festive pilgrims had arrived. Then it was, indeed, a scene of bustle and activity. Hospitality had to be sought and found; guests to be welcomed and entertained; all things required for the feast to be got ready. Above all, booths must be erected everywhere-in court and on housetop, in street and square, for the lodgment and entertainment of that vast multitude; leafy dwellings everywhere, to remind of the wilderness-journey, and now of the goodly land. Only that fierce castle, Antonia, which frowned above the Temple, was undecked by the festive spring into which the land had burst. To the Jew it must have been a hateful sight, that castle, which guarded and dominated his own City and Temple --hateful sight and sounds, that Roman garrison, with its foreign, heathen, ribald speech and manners. Yet, for all this, Israel could not read on the lowering sky the signs of the times, nor yet knew the day of their merciful visitation. And this, although of all festivals, that of Tabernacles should have most clearly pointed them to the future.

Indeed, the whole symbolism of the Feast, beginning with the completed harvest, for which it was a thanksgiving, pointed to the future. The Rabbis themselves admitted this. The strange number of sacrificial bullocks—seventy in all—they regarded as referring to “the seventy nations of heathendom. The ceremony of the out- + Succ. 55 ;

For a full description of the Feast of Tabernacles in the days of Christ, I must 17a; 194a; refer to “The Temple and its Services.'

Pesikta, ed.
Buber, p.

1

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