And he led them out as far as Bethany
Not the town of Bethany; could that be thought, it might be supposed that he led his disciples thither, to pay a visit to his dear friends there, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, before his ascension; but the town of Bethany was fifteen furlongs, or near two miles distance from Jerusalem, ( John 11:18 ) whereas the place from whence Christ ascended was but a sabbath day's journey from it, which was two thousand cubits, or about a mile, ( Acts 1:12 ) . This Bethany, therefore, was a tract of land, so called from the town, which began at the Mount of Olives, where Bethphage ended; see ( Mark 11:1 ) and hither from Jerusalem Christ led his disciples, in order to ascend to heaven in their sight; and this was the spot of ground, where he began to ride in triumph to Jerusalem, and here he ascended in a triumphant manner to heaven; this was the place he frequently retired to for solemn, and solitary prayer, and where he had put up many a strong cry to God, and now from hence he ascended to him; this was the place whither he went after he had ate his last passover, where he was taken, and from whence he came to suffer and die for his people:
and he lift up his hands, and blessed them.
The lifting up of his hands was not in order to put them upon his disciples; though the Ethiopic version adds, "and put them on"; nor was it used as a prayer gesture; nor was the blessing of them prayer wise, or by praying for a blessing on them; but as Aaron, his type, lift up his hands towards the people of Israel, and blessed them, when he had offered the offerings for them, ( Leviticus 9:22 ) so Christ, as the great high priest, having offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of his people, lift up his hands towards his apostles, and blessed them in an authoritative way, by bestowing blessings upon them: he blessed them with a larger measure of the Spirit; for though they were to wait some few days longer for the extraordinary effusion of the Spirit, yet, in the mean while, they received from him more of it than they had formerly had; for he breathed upon them, and said, receive the Holy Ghost, ( John 20:22 ) . He blessed them with larger measures of grace, and with more spiritual light, and understanding into the Scriptures of truth, and with much inward peace of mind, and with the fresh discoveries of pardoning love; and which seemed necessary, since by their conduct towards him, one by denying him, and the rest by forsaking him, the peace of their minds was broken, and they needed a fresh application of forgiving grace. The form of blessing the people used by Aaron, and his sons, the priests, who were types of Christ, is recorded in ( Numbers 6:23-27 ) and though our Lord might not use the same form in blessing his disciples, yet it seems he used the same gesture, lifting up his hands, as they did. The Targumists say F4, the blessing of the priests was done by stretching, or spreading out their hands; but other Jewish writers observe, it was by lifting them up: concerning which their rule is F5;
``in the province, the priests lift up their hands, as high as their shoulders, but in the sanctuary, above their heads, except the high priest, who did not lift up his hands above the plate of gold on his forehead.''The reason of this was, because the name Jehovah was written upon it, and it was not proper his hands should be lifted up above that. The account Maimonides F6 gives of this affair is;
``how is the lifting up of hands? in the borders, at the time the messenger of the congregation comes to service, when he has said, who ever will all the priests that stand in the synagogue, remove from their places, and go, and ascend the desk (or pulpit), and stand there with their faces to the temple, and their backs to the people, and their fingers closed within their hands, until the messenger of the congregation has finished the confession, or thanksgiving; and then they turn their faces to the people, and stretch out their fingers, and lift up their hands to their shoulders and begin to bless, and the messenger of the congregation pronounces them (the blessings) word by word How is the blessing of the priests in the sanctuary? the priests go up into the desk (or pulpit), after the priests have finished the morning daily service, and lift up their hands above, over their heads, except the high priest, who does not lift up his hands above the plate of gold, on his forehead; and one pronounces them (the blessings) word for word, as they do in the borders (in the country)''And as our Lord used this gesture in blessing, it is very likely he complied with another rule, by expressing it in the Hebrew tongue; for the Jews say F7, the blessing of the priests is not said in any place, but in the holy tongue.
F4 Targum Jon. in Num. vi. 23. & Targum in Cant. vii. 7.
F5 Misn Sota, c. 7. sect. 6. Bemidbar Rabba sect. 11. fol. 203. 3.
F6 Hilchot Tephilla, c. 14. sect. 3. 9.
F7 Hilchot Tephilla, c. 14. sect. 11. Vid. Targum Jon. & Rabba, ut supra, & T. Bab. Sota, fol. 38. 1.