Arrival at Bethany

Arriving at Bethany, He abides there for the night. John xii. 1-9. The next day He sups with Simon, a leper,—Lazarus, Matt. xxvi. 6-13. Martha, and Mary being present. Here He is anointed Mark xiv. 3-9. by Mary, while Judas and others are angry at so great waste. At even, many come out of Jerusalem to see Him and Lazarus. The rulers in the city hearing this, John xii. 10, 11. consult how they may put Lazarus also to death.

The date of the arrival at Bethany is to be determined from the statement of John, (xii. 1,) that He came " six days before the Passover." But how shall these six days be reckoned ? Shall both extremes, the day of His arrival and the Passover, be included, or both excluded ? or one included and one excluded ? The latter mode of computation is more generally received. Adopting this mode, we reckon from the Passover exclusive to the day of arrival inclusive. But here a new question meets us. What day shall be reckoned as the Passover, the 14th or 15th Nisan? The

language of Moses is express, (Levit. xxiii. 5,) "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's Passover." Counting backward from the fourteenth and excluding it, the sixth day, or the day of the arrival at Bethany, was the 8th Nisan.1 What day of the week was this? If the fourteenth fell on Thursday, the eighth was on Friday preceding ; if on Friday, the eighth was on Saturday, or the Jewish Sabbath.

Owing to these differences in the modes of computation, very different results are reached by harmonists. Robinson, including both extremes, and counting from the fourteenth, or Thursday, makes Him to have arrived on Saturday the ninth. Strong, computing the same way, but making the fourteenth to fall on Friday, makes the arrival on Sunday the tenth. Greswell, including one extreme, and placing the Passover on Friday, makes it to have been on Saturday. Luthardt, counting Thursday the 15th as the Passover, makes it to have been on Sunday. Most, however, making the fourteenth Thursday, place it on Friday the eighth.3 And this seems, on other grounds, the most likely. That Jesus would, without necessity, travel on the Sabbath, we cannot suppose; much less that He would go on that day from Jericho to Bethany, a distance of twelve or fifteen miles.3 Some, as Robinson, suppose that He went on that day only a Sabbath day's journey; but that He should have come on Friday so near, and then have encamped, to finish the journey after sunset of the Sabbath, is not probable. The supposition of Greswell, that He spent that night at the house of Zaccheus, who lived between Jericho and Bethany, and went on to Bethany the next day, is wholly without proof, and, besides, does not meet the difficulty.

1 So Meyer, Alford.

a Friedlieb, Bucher, Wieseler, Lichtenstein, Tholuck.

a Wieseler, 878.

We infer that He did journey directly from Jericho to Bethany • first, from the fact that the whole intervening country is a wilderness, without city or village, where no one would, without necessity, spend the night; second, that He was with the crowd of pilgrims, whose course was direct to Jerusalem, and who would naturally so arrange their movements as to reach it before the Sabbath.

We can easily understand why the Lord should desire to stop at Bethany rather than go on to the city. Here He found repose and peace in a household, whose members were bound to Him by the strongest ties ; and here, in se^ elusion and quiet, He could prepare Himself for the trials and anguish of the coming week ; and here continued to be His home till His arrest.

The distance from Jericho to Jerusalem is, according to Josephus,1 a hundred and fifty furlongs; and from the Jordan to Jericho, sixty. Porter estimates the former at five and a half hours, and the latter at two hours. From Jericho to Bethany is about fifteen miles ; and all travellers agree in describing the way as most difficult and dreary.

It is much disputed when the supper was made for the Lord. John merely says: " Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany—there they made Him a supper." This does not determine whether the supper was upon the day of His arrival, or the next, or even later; still the more obvious interpretation is, that it was that day or the next. He also gives us another note of time, in v. 12 : " On the next day much people... took branches of palm trees," &c. But to what is this " next day " related ; to the events immediately preceding (vs. 9, 10) the visit of many of the Jews to Bethany, and the consultation of the chief priests, or to the day of His arrival at Bethany ? If to the latter, as by Meyer, the supper must have been in the evening of the day of His arrival; if to the former, as by Friedlieb, it is left undetermined.

i War, 4. 8. 3.

Those who put His arrival at Bethany on Saturday, or Sunday, put the supper on the evening of the same day ; but most of those who put the arrival on Friday, put the supper on the following evening, or the evening of the Sabbath. And this seems most probable ; for the language, " there they made Him a supper," implies that it was a feast given specially in His honor, and not an ordinary repast.1 The presence of the Jews from Jerusalem, at Bethany, is thus, too, most easily explained; the sojourn of Jesus over the Sabbath giving ample time for His arrival to become known, and for all who wished to visit Him.

That the supper mentioned by Matthew (xxvi. 6-13) and Mark, (xiv. 3-9,) is identical with this of John, has been questioned, but without good grounds.3 But if identical, why do the former place it in such direct relation to that assembling of the chief priests which took place two days before the Passover ? From this relation many have inferred that Matthew and Mark narrate it in chronological order, and that John mentions it by anticipation.3 If so, it was upon the evening following Tuesday. But the arguments for this order, are not convincing. A close examination of Matt. xxvi. and Mark xiv., shows us that the account of the supper is brought in parenthetically. Two days before the feast of the Passover, the chief priests and elders hold a council at the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest, and consult how they may kill Jesus. They dare not arrest Him openly, and with violence, but will do it by subtlety; yet, even this they fear to do during the feast. The result of their consultation thus was, that the arrest be postponed till the feast was past. But the Lord had declared, that after two days was the Passover, and then He should be betrayed to be crucified.

1 As to feasts upon the Sabbath, see Luke xiv. 1; Winer, ii. 47 and 346t

2 Lightfoot, Clericus, A. Clarke, McKnight, Whitby, make them distinct. See, contra. Michaelis in Townsend, part v. note 37.

8 Bynaeus, Newcome, Robinson, Da Costa, Wichelaus, Owen.

Matthew and Mark, therefore, proceed to show how the Lord's words were fulfilled through the treachery of Judas, and the priests and elders made to change their resolution. This apostate, coming to the priests, offers to betray Him into their hands, and will do it so soon as an opportunity presents. Thus the matter is left between Judas and them, and they await his action.

Turning now to the account of the supper, we ask why it is thus interposed between the consultation of the priests and the action of Judas ? Plainly that it may explain his action. He was offended that so much money should be wasted at the anointing of the Lord, and in his covetousness, as here revealed, we find the explanation of his subsequent treachery. But it is said that neither Matthew nor Mark make any special mention of Judas at the supper, and, therefore, give no explanation of his treachery. They say only that certain of the disciples were displeased. It must be admitted, that had we not the narrative of John, it would not be obvious why they should mention this supper in this connection. There may be some reason, unknown to us, why they omit the name of Judas, as the one chiefly offended. Yet, even with this omission, an impartial reader could hardly fail to infer that Matthew and Mark design to say that Judas, the one of the Twelve who went to the priests to betray Jesus, was one of those that had indignation; and that to the supper at Bethany we may trace the immediate origin of the treachery they relate. Some, however, think the supper to be mentioned here upon other grounds.1 There is nothing in the language of Matthew or Mark, which necessarily implies that this supper took place two days before the Passover 5 for the statement of the former, (v. 14,) "Then Judas ... went unto the chief priests," does not connect the time of his visit with the supper, but with their council, (vs. 3-5.)

* Ebrard, 474; Strong, Har., note 51.

All between vs. 5-14, comes in parenthetically as an explanatorystatement. But against this it is objected,1 that Judas would not have cherished a purpose of treachery four days in his heart without executing it. But the betrayal of his Lord was not a hasty, passionate act, done in a moment of excitement. It was done coolly, deliberately; and this is what gave it its atrocious character. Greswell remarks (iii. 129) that "this history is divisible into three stages, each of which has been accurately defined ; the first cause and conception of his purpose; the overt step toward its execution ; and lastly, its consummation. The consummation took place in the garden of Gethsemane; the overt step was the compact with the Sanhedrim; the first cause and conception of the purpose, if they are to be traced up to any thing on record, must be referred to what happened at Bethany."

Although Matthew and Mark speak of Jesus as being in the house of Simon the leper, yet many have supposed that the supper was made by the family of Lazarus, principally from the fact that " Martha served." But against this is the fact that Lazarus appears not as the master of the feast, but as a guest. According to some, it was a feast prepared in common by the disciples and friends of the Lord at Bethany, and held at the house of Simon. Of Simon we have no knowledge; but it is probable that he was a leper, and had been healed by the Lord. • One tradition makes him to have been the father of Lazarus.3 Another makes him to have been the husband of Martha.3 We may readily believe that, although the supper was at the house of Simon, Martha and Mary may have been active helpers in its preparation.

* Robinson, Har. 210. a See Ewald, v. 401, who defends it.

« Winer, ii. 464.

It is not necessary to suppose any kindred to explain Martha's service, for she would gladly honor her Lord, to whom she was so deeply indebted, by every act of personal attention it was in her power to render.

How often the Lord was anointed, and by whom, has been much discussed by harmonists and commentators from the earliest times. Some have affirmed that Luke (vii. 37) mentions one anointing; Matthew (xxvi. 7) and Mark (xiv. 3) another; and John (xii. 3) a third. But most have affirmed two anointings; some identifying the narratives of Luke and John,1 but more identifying that of John with those of Matthew and Mark.3 A few, as Grotius, affirm that He was but once anointed, making the narratives of the Evangelists all to refer to the same event. It is now generally held that there were two anointings; that mentioned by Luke, and that mentioned by the other Evangelists.3 In regard to the persons by whom the Lord was anointed, there has been like difference of opinion. It is plain from John, (xi. 2,) that Mary the sister of Lazarus anointed Him once; and we cannot doubt that she is the person alluded to by John, (xii. 3,) and by Matthew and Mark. By whom was He anointed upon the occasion mentioned by Luke ? Many affirm that this was also done by the same Mary.4 This opinion is the ruling one in the Romish Church, being sanctioned in her ritual. The Greek Church, on the other hand, holds them to be different persons.5

1 Jerome, chiefly because both mention the anointing of the feet.

2 Augustine, Calvin, Bynaeus.

3 So Newcome, Trench, Teschendorf, Robinson, Meyer.

4 So Augustine, who refers to John xi. 2, as showing that Mary would not be thus spoken of had there been another person who had done a like act.

5 Origen and Chrysostom.

We can scarcely believe that the sister of Lazarus, a member of that family whose society the Lord seems often to have sought, whom He loved, and whose name is associated in our minds with His words of praise, (Luke x. 42,) could have been ever a professed harlot, for such it would appear was " the sinner " of whom Luke speaks, (vii. 37.)1 As the anointings must be distinguished from each other as to time and place, there is also no sufficient reason why the persons anointing should be identified.8

We give the following as the probable order of events. Jesus, leaving Jericho on the morning of Friday, reaches Bethany in the afternoon, perhaps about sunset. He leaves the pilgrims with whom He has journeyed, and who go on to Jerusalem, and with His apostles, stops till the Sabbath should be past; they being probably received by some of His friends, and He Himself doubtless finding a home in the dwelling of Lazarus and his sisters. The next day, being the Sabbath, is spent at Bethany, and in the afternoon Simon the leper makes Him a supper, at which His disciples, and Lazarus and his sisters, were present. During the afternoon the Jews of Jerusalem, who had heard through the pilgrims of His arrival, go out to see Him and Lazarus, and some of them believe on Him. This, coming to the ears of the chief priests, leads to a consultation how Lazarus may be put to death with Jesus.

1 See note upon this passage, p. 259.

3 As to the opinion of some that this Mary is the same as Mary Magdalene, see page 260.