The Bethany Height of Faith.
The Bethany story is one of the tenderest of all. It touches the heights. It's a hilltop story, both in its setting amidst the Bethany blue hills where it grew up, and in the height of faith it records. It has personal friendship and love of Jesus and implicit trust in Him as its starting point. And from this it reaches up to levels unknown before. Faith touches high water here. It rises to flood, a flood that sweeps mightily through the valleys of doubt and questionings all around about.

At the beginning there is faith in Jesus of the tender, personal sort. At the close there's faith that He will actually meet the need of your life and circumstance without limit. The highest faith is this: connecting Jesus' power and love with the actual need of your life. Abraham believed God with full sincerity that covenant-making night under the dark sky. But he didn't connect his faith in God with his need and danger among the Philistines.[69] Peter believed in Jesus fully but his faith and his action failed to connect when the sore test came that Gethsemane night.

The Bethany pitch of faith makes connections. It ties our God and our need and our action into one knot. This is the pith of this whole story. Jesus' one effort in His tactful patient wooing is to get Martha up to the point of ordering that stone aside. He got her faith into touch with the gravestone of her sore need. Her faith and her action connected. That told her expectancy. Creeds are best understood when they're acted. Moving the stone was her confession of faith. Not that Jesus was the Son of God. That was settled long before.

No: it meant this -- that the Son of God was now actually going to act as Son of God to meet her need. Under His touch her dead brother was going to live. The deadness that broke her heart would give way under Jesus' touch. The Bethany faith doesn't believe that God can do what you need, merely. It believes that He will do it And so the stone's taken away that He may do it. God has our active consent. Are we up on the Bethany level? Has God our active consent to do all He would? Is our faith being lived, acted out?

And the feast of grateful tribute that followed has an exquisite added touch. The faith that lets God into one's life to meet its needs gets clearer eyesight. Acted faith affects the spirit vision. There is a spirit sensitiveness that recognizes God and discerns how things will turn out.

Notice Jesus' words about Mary's act of anointing. There is a singularly significant phrase in it. "Let her keep it against (or in view of) the day of My burying." "Keep it" is the striking phrase. What does that mean? We speak of keeping a day, as Christmas, meaning to hallow the memories for which it stands. "Keep it" here seems to mean that. Let her keep a memorial. Yet it would be a memorial in advance of the event remembered and hallowed.

It seems to suggest that Mary thus discerned the outcome for Jesus of the coming crisis, and more, its great significance. The disciples expected Jesus' power to overcome all opposition. She alone sensed what was coming, His death and its tremendous spirit-meaning. And it is possible that the raising of her brother helped her to sense ahead another raising. For there is no mention of her at the tomb, as would otherwise have been most natural.

Her simple love-lit faith could see, and could see beyond to the final outcome. This is the story of the Bethany faith, faith at flood. This highest simplest truest faith, that had come in answer to Jesus' patient persistent wooing for it, opens the way for the greatest use of His power on record.

There's one story more in this true-blue faith list. It is the story of the Greeks. At first it seems not to belong in here. There is no mention made of the faith of these men nor of their acceptance of Jesus. But the more you think into it the more it seems that here is its true place, and that this is why John brings it in, not simply to show how the outside world was reaching for Jesus, but to show the inner spirit of these men towards Jesus.

Whether the term Greeks is used in the looser sense for the Greek-speaking Jews,[70] or for non-Jewish foreigners, or, as I think most likely, in the meaning of men of Grecian blood, residents of Greece, the significance is practically the same, it was the outer world coming to Jesus. These had come a long journey to do homage to the true God at Jerusalem. Their presence reveals their spirit.

They were eye and ear-witnesses of the stirring events of those last days in Jerusalem. The stupendous story of the raising of the man out in the Bethany suburb was the talk of the city. And then there was that intense scene of the kingly entry into the city amid the acclaiming multitudes. They knew of the official opposition, and the public proclamation against Jesus. They breathed the Jerusalem air. That put them in touch with the whole situation.

Now notice keenly they seek a personal interview with Jesus. This is the practical outcome of the situation to them. It reminds one of that other man, under similar conditions though less intense, at an earlier stage, cautiously seeking a night interview. Their desire tells not curiosity but earnestness, and the very earnestness reveals both purpose and attitude towards Jesus.

And this is made the plainer by the very words they use as they seek out the likeliest man of the Master's inner circle to secure the coveted interview. They say, "Sir, we would see Jesus." The whole story of conviction, of earnestness, of decision, is in that tremendous little word "would." It was their will, their deliberate choice, to come into personal relations with this Man of whom they were hearing so much.

And it seems like a direct allusion to that tremendous word, and an answer to it, when Jesus, in effect, in meaning, says, "if any man would follow Me." Both the coming under such circumstances, and the form of the request, seem to tell the attitude of these men towards Jesus and their personal purpose regarding Him. It would be altogether likely that they accompany Philip as he seeks out Andrew. It would be the natural thing. And so they are with Philip and Andrew as they come to tell Jesus.

Then this would be the setting of these memorable intense words that Jesus now utters.[71] He senses at once the request and the earnest purpose of these men seeking Him out. It is for them especially that these words are spoken. And if, as some thoughtful scholars think, Jesus spake here, not in His native Aramaic, but in the Greek tongue, it gives colouring to the supposition. The intense earnestness of His words, and the revealing of the intense struggle within His spirit as He breathes out the simple prayer, -- all this is a tacit recognition of the spirit of these Greeks.

The parallel is striking with the Nicodemus interview where no direct mention is made of the faith that later events showed was unquestionably there. It seems like another of those silences of John that are so full of meaning.[72] And the silence seems, as with Nicodemus, to mean the acquiescence of the inquirers in the message they hear.

This then would seem to be the reply to the request. They have indeed seen Jesus. And they accept it and Him, as most likely they linger through the Passover-days at hand and then turn their faces homeward. And so the warm wooing has drawn out this warm response from the cultured Greek world.

So we trace the blue thread in John's tapestry picture, the true faith that is drawn out from nothing to little and more and much and most, under the warmth of the brooded wooing of this great Lover.

growing faith
Top of Page
Top of Page