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Bethany of the Privilege. Chapter Six from The Alabaster Jar by Theresia Saers

Bethany of the Privileges

Chapter Six from The Alabaster Jar by Theresia Saers

In what we read about John the Baptist and about Christ himself, the town of Bethany plays a large part. The maps that accompany Bible studies show two Bethanies, quite close to one another, one on the Jerusalem side of the Jordan, one across the river. Trans-Jordan Bethany is mentioned as a place where John spent some time preaching; the other town of the same name, home to Mary, Martha and Lazarus is at walking distance from Jerusalem, a good half hour. It would be interesting to know if there really were two towns of the same name so close to one another as some maps suggest. However we are left in the dark on the subject, just as we have to guess at Jesus’ whereabouts once he has started on his mission. We are made to understand that Jesus is indeed a travelling preacher and healer. He warns his disciples, however, to follow this aspect of his way of life: when he has taken up his abode in one of the towns he will stay in this town or village as long as it seems fit, never giving up a welcoming home for the attractions of a better one. John mentions Bethsaida as the hometown of Simon and Andrew; yet, when Jesus has called these two at the Lake, they go to Capernaum, and Jesus takes up lodgings in Simon’s house, where the latter’s mother-in-law is prevented by illness from fulfilling her duties of hospitality. In the course of events Jesus will call down a curse on both Capernaum and Chorazin, because these towns have not accepted him. Having stayed in these places for some time, he must later have left them in disgust, shaking the dust from his feet against them.

No consistent topological line is to be found in the gospels, nor a consistent chronology. The only thing that seems to matter is perfect theological consistency – a consistency which is authenticated by thematic cohesion and a great many references to Scriptural prophecies, shown to be fulfilled in first John and then Jesus. Gospel-writers strove to be regarded as true and loyal members of the People of Holy Writ, for in Israel Scriptures only could legitimise theology.

Actually it does not matter much for our story about the Magdalene to achieve topical correctness. What happens in the town of that name, so near Jerusalem, is what concerns us. According to Scriptures some rather remarkable things take place in Bethany. First Jesus’ visit to the house of Martha and Mary, when Martha reproaches her sister Mary with neglecting hospitality and the latter is subsequently praised by the Lord for having chosen the best thing. Then there is the resurrection of Lazarus and finally Mary’s anointing of the Lord. Moreover Luke winds up his gospel with the remark that Jesus’ ascension into heaven took place in Bethany.

© Theresia Saers

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