"The House of Dates."

Luke 10:38-42; John 11:19, etc., John 12:1-8; Luke 24:50.

I desire to trace a little some striking incidents connected with this place, and some blessed practical realities which flow out of them. Bethany was a spot which had a peculiar place in the heart of the blessed Lord, while journeying through this earth. He is presented in Scripture as the perfect stranger in this world, particularly in John, where is set forth the fact of His rejection from the outset. He was Light in the midst of darkness, Life in the midst of death; a stranger out of sight and out of mind. At Bethany only did He find that which met His heart. There He was understood and appreciated, at least by one, and there He often loved to retire. Truly it was a spot where alone He found that which was congenial to His spirit. There are three distinct namings of it in the New Testament, for I cannot connect the scene of Luke 7 with it. I do not see any warrant for saying the woman in the seventh of Luke was Mary, or that it was at Bethany. Scripture lays stress on the fact that Martha received Him into her house, in all the love of her heart. Every service to Him found its full value in His eyes, who never overlooked anything; yet it was nothing compared to the ministry of Mary. The treasures of Martha's house were at His feet; but Mary gives Him her heart, her affections, and this is what the Lord looks for. And may I not say, as He looks around now on every side, He sees no lack of service - service abundant on every hand? and His heart fully values all that is done for Him. It surely has its place, and far be it from me to lessen it; but with all the activity, and energy, and, zeal which have "the poor" for their object, what the Lord is looking for is those who will minister to His pleasure. The Lord appreciated the care of Martha; but when she sought to make a depreciating contrast between herself and Mary, His judgment and thoughts express themselves. And solemn it is to think, that though many may be serving after their own way and thoughts, there are but few who really enter into His mind and mission. Mary turned her ear to Him as she sat at His feet, in order that He might relate to her waiting heart what He delights to tell. This is what He looks for now, as then; but, oh, how few of His beloved people understand the mind and ways of their Lord. There is nothing He so values as the listening ear turned to Him - nothing that meets Him like one that waits on His fulness. Mary is thus the vessel into which His own fulness is emptying its treasures. Do we know this blessed attitude? Oh for that abstractedness of heart that has leisure from all around, and as well from all within, so as to sit and listen! "She sat at His feet." The Christ, His person and moral glory, so attracted her that it brought her into restfulness. We never can hear aright till we are restful, and we must be restful ere we can profit by what we hear. The Word is the voice of God to me. Till the heart is brought into a position of complete abstraction from things around, to wait in the presence of Christ and give Him the ear, there is no profit. Would to God our hearts had a deeper sense of it! The Word is the communication He makes from Himself to us today; but in order to receive it, the heart must be at leisure, and the soul at rest, and the ear pre-occupied by Christ.

"Martha was cumbered about much serving." There is a tendency to distraction in all service, blessed though it be in its place. All of us have, some service given us to do for Christ - it would be sad indeed if we were in a position that we had nothing to do for Him the great point is the way it is done. What is needed is the quietness of communion so as to go out from Himself, and then to return to Himself. There are those who work, thinking thereby to get into communion. They can, never know or enjoy it this way. All real service must flow from communion: then it is Christ and Christ's thoughts. It is a wonderfully blessed thing to get outside the influences of the world, as well as our own hearts, into His thoughts. Nothing is so terribly soul-devastating as the influence of "the age of this world;" we must be abstracter from the atmosphere through which we are passing, in order to have rest and power. Mary ministered to the heart of Christ, because she was in His secret. It is a blessed thing to be in the secret of Christ's heart, the secret of His love, and thus to be in communion with Him. Mary was as much in His secret when she sat and heard His word, as when she anointed Him with the ointment. When she sat and listened, He was moulding her into His own mind and thoughts. Do we know how to be exercised as to whether we are in the secrets of Christ or not? Do we know what His desires, His longings are? What His heart is set on? We have a beautiful illustration of this in 2 Samuel 23:15. There was no command or direction here, no expressed desire; but there was a longing utterance of David's heart, "Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem!" David knew Bethlehem well; his heart pined for draughts from the waters of its well; he knew what was to be found there. Are we near enough to Christ, so abstracted from all around, as to wait at His feet with the attentive ear, and upturned eye, and outstretched neck, to catch the desires of His heart? Are we studying His pleasure, so as to do His will - not taking our own thoughts, but His thoughts, as to what would suit Him? In Mary we find one in the world who was in His secret as to His mission in it. She opened as it were a sanctuary for Him. She was but a poor thing in herself, but her ear was opened to catch the sounds of His voice, so as to receive what He was so ready to communicate. The Lord give us to know what it is to be drawn aside by the excellency and beauty of this blessed One, thus to sit before Him and study the secret of His heart and pleasure. Now turn to John 11. We get here the same town of Bethany, but devastated by death: it is a scene of every day life in this world's history. The sisters are the same Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus, but death has come in. Blessed spot though it was, Bethany was no exception to the tale of sorrow that marks this world. As soon as death had come, we have Mary in the presence of Jesus uttering her need. There is the greatest difference between complaint and need. The need that waits upon His fulness is precious to Him. We find complaint in Martha need in Mary, and she expresses it. In verse 32 we find her at the spot that was familiar to her heart - "she fell down at His feet." It was a well-known spot to Mary. Is it so with us? It is these little incidents that make the place where He meets with us, and we with Him, such familiar and blessed places to our souls. If you have got burdens, or difficulties, or anxieties resting on your heart, do you know a spot so familiar to you, where you can come and leave them? She does not come complaining, but casts herself at His feet, and spreads her sorrow in the presence of divine fulness - a broken heart in the presence of the Healer of hearts. What a scene! If we look at it on His part, we see how He enters into everything as to what had caused the sorrow as well as the sorrow itself. He bore it in His spirit before God. Human sympathy is only the expression of our helplessness and weakness; it is all we can do; but we find Christ meeting everything, groaning, weeping, carrying all in His spirit before God. Thus bearing it before Him in a way none other could do. Do you know how to study the groans and the tears of Jesus? He weeps at the grave; bears in His spirit the death that sin had brought in, though He was about to remove it by His power as Son of God, the quickener of the dead; yet this did not in any wise hinder His going underneath it all in spirit. His tears and His groans were not His sorrow for the family, not like human sympathy for the loss of a common loved friend; He was there as the Lord of life and glory, the quickener of the dead, to raise Him up; but He first, as I have said, carries all in His own spirit before God. Am I speaking to some who are no strangers to need and sorrow? What do you do with those sorrows? What do you do with your cares? Blessed are the sorrows and cares that become opportunities of bringing us into the presence of the only One who is able to meet our every need. In this scene of John 11 we get not only the power of Christ, but Mary expressing her need in His blessed presence, and finding the expression of it enough.

John 12. Here we have Mary again in the secret of Christ. She takes that which is most costly to her, and anoints the feet of Jesus. Two things are very striking here. First, she felt the enmity of man towards Christ; secondly, the expression of how she appreciated Him, when all hated Him, and when He was about to die. She felt the enmity and hatred of both Israel and the Gentiles towards Christ. We are all naturally selfish, engrossed with our own things. Oh, how little are we at leisure from self to be of like mind with Him! Her heart was free enough to think of the enmity of man towards Him, and she as well expresses her own love and appreciation of Him, and therefore she takes what is costly and valuable to her, and anoints His body for the burying, and by this action she as it were declares that if He dies everything in this world has lost its charm for her. She is in His secret; she knows He is about to die; consequently everything she has is as nothing to her; she buries her world with Him, all must go into His tomb. How much have our hearts laid hold of the glory of His person, of the blessedness of that Christ, the eternal Son, ever in the Father's bosom? Has He such a place in our hearts, that everything is esteemed and valued in relation to Him? Is He the simple measure of the value we set on all, even the best below? Here is a poor weak woman, ready to face the enmity of the people, because she enters into God's thoughts about His Son, when the thoughts of nearly all were very distant from His mind. There are hardly any who are independent enough to act simply, in reference to Christ; if you do, you must stand alone. If you are merely a benefactor of man, your labours will be noted. If Christ is simply before you, filling the vision of your soul, if all you do is in reference to Him, if you are ministering to the pleasure of Christ, all the world will consider it "waste;" and, alas! many of God's own children. What was it when she was blamed kept her heart? Three things. First, the blessed Lord understood her. How comforting to know that Christ understands me! It is wonderful comfort. Secondly, He vindicated her. Thirdly, He appreciated her. This kept her in the midst of the non-recognition of those who were half-hearted. There was no heart there to enter into what she was doing but Himself; no tongue to vindicate her but His. But He was enough! We want more of that holy boldness that is satisfied with Christ's vindication, more of that holy satisfaction which Christ's pleasure imparts, to take our stand on that platform of holy elevation-the Lord knows. His smile is enough, His vindication sufficient for me. Thus we find Him communicating to Mary in Luke 10, His fulness waiting on her need in John 11; and in chap. 12 she was in sympathy with Him as to what was then before His soul. We find in Luke 24. He ascends out of this world from Bethany, the spot with which He was most linked in all its varied memories; it was to Him; as it were, the brightest spot on earth, an oasis in a howling wilderness; there and there alone this blessed perfect Man had turned and found solace; but this is the spot from whence He departed when He left the earth. Think of the character this fixes upon the earth; if He left it from the place that was to Him the brightest spot upon it, if any place could be called bright, it marks this earth at once. Its best had become but the platform of His departure out of it. What a sight this, the risen, glorious Man, who has triumphed over everything, going down under the ocean of judgment, forsaken of His God on the cross, now risen out of those depths into which His undying love had led Him. What a sight for faith! Himself leading His disciples to the place that was familiar to His heart, the only spot where He had ever found refreshment as the weary stranger on earth, and to gaze at Him as He ascends from thence and is carried up into heaven. But first, how blessed to hear Himself pronounce their peace, thus quieting their fears, answering their troubled hearts (vv. 36-40); then the very hands that were pierced and nailed to the cross were lifted up in blessing, and from those uplifted hands what showers dropped upon them. Blessed it is to think that His very last act was blessing. The last they saw of Him was commanding the shower to flow from Himself. Have we hearts free enough to follow the departing One through such scenes? And as we follow, do we find ourselves carried up and away to heaven with Him who has gone from this earth? Thank God, though He is not here, we know Him in heaven. Are our hearts familiar with Him there? Can we say, "I have gained Him in heaven if I have lost Him on earth, I am one with Him there?" Thus it is you miss Him here; thus alone His absence makes the earth a desert to you. There are two ways of looking at this poor earth. First, because of what is in it - sorrow, difficulty, and trouble of every kind; but secondly, and mostly, because of His absence. This makes it a far more real desert scene to the heart that knows and loves Him. If He is our object, we must miss Him as we move on through time; but if we know Him in heaven, the world is a dreary, desolate spot to us, because He is gone out of it. If He has left it from the very place where He alone found any response to His heart and affections, what sort of a world must it be with this appraising of it? May the Lord by His Spirit give us to hear Him speaking "peace" through His risen lips, and likewise to know the blessing that drops from His outstretched hands, so that we may know what it is to be in the secret of His heart, by having every affection of ours centred in Him.

W. T. Turpin.