Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“I will praise Thee with my whole heart…In the day when I cried, Thou answered me with strength in my soul…Though the Lord be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly…Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me…The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.”
“I came to the swift, raging river,
And the roar held the echo of fear,
‘Oh, Lord, give me wings to fly over,
If You are, as You promised, quite near.’
But He said, ‘Trust the grace I am giving,
All-pervasive, sufficient for you
Take My hand – we will face this together,
But My plan is – not over, but through.’”
(This happens to be one of my favorite poems. In times when I cannot make out a path in my future, I return to these words penned by Lee Webber. For those of you who are fearful today and don’t know what the future holds, remember, there is ‘One’ who not only knows the way, but He promises to get us through whatever challenge we face!)
Today’s Study Text:
“And while they were on their way, it occurred that Jesus entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha received and welcomed Him into her house.”
“The Fragrance of His Presence” Part 2
“Received and Welcomed”
“Hospitality is about a relationship – one cannot be hospitable without guests.”
If Jesus passed through my town unexpectedly, would I welcome him into my home?
What do I believe the word “hospitable” means?
How would Jesus’ daily presence in my life change the way I live?
“Hospitality is a test for godliness because those who are selfish do not like strangers (especially needy ones) to intrude upon their private lives. They prefer their own friends who share their life style. Only the humble have the necessary resources to give of themselves to those who could never give of themselves in return.”
Erwin W. Lutzer
“When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat; and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger you welcomed Me.”
Our introduction to the family in Bethany begins with Dr. Luke sharing the fact that at this particular home, the word “welcome” was always visible. Not only was Jesus, “received and welcomed” but His disciples were as well. As J.R. Macduff so beautifully conveys, “The town of Mary and her sister Martha furnishes us with a garnered treasury…one of the very loveliest of the Bible’s domestic portraits…at this quiet abode of congenial spirits (Jesus) seems to have had His main ‘sips at the fountain of human joy’, and to have obtained a temporary respite from unwearied labour and unmerited enmity.”
Just imagine what it was like for the Savior of the world to know that at this home, He could drop in anytime and not only rest His weary body but eat at the table of an accomplished chef.
If we can picture in our minds, the city of Bethany was in a perfect location for Jesus and His closet followers as historians tell us it was just a little over 1.6 miles east of Jerusalem on the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives.
I can only believe there were many times when after spending time alone in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, Jesus may well have walked in the darkness of the evening, down a familiar path to Bethany’s favored home, for He knew full well He would always be received and welcomed. As my Greek dictionary helpfully explains, when Jesus “entered” or “intentionally came through” Bethany, He did so knowing that at a specific home and with a specific family, He would be “hospitably entertained.”
Just so we get the correct idea of what the word “entertained” meant at the time in history when Jesus walked the earth, the key that opens our understanding is found in Hebrews 13: 2, the only time in Scripture where the word “entertained” is specifically used: “Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers – being friendly, cordial and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously, for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it.” I linger on this word entertained – meaning providing generous care – for at some point in Jesus’ life, He made the acquaintance of the family in Bethany. Growing up in Nazareth and working in his father, Joseph’s carpenter shop, most likely made it impossible for Jesus to have much time for free traveling during the first 30 years of His life on earth. But at some point during His ministry, something changed when it came to the three residents in Bethany. While we can only surmise what may have drawn Him into a circle of friendship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, it becomes quite evident that in this relationship – Jesus knew without a doubt that He would always be welcomed and received by these three residents of Bethany.
As I was writing my book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, I was able to read and reread the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as I wanted to make certain I wasn’t missing even one important detail. Sadly, I found as I studied that while Jesus’ life was filled with many inspirational moments when miracles, unlike any seen before took place wherever Jesus went, I couldn’t help but recognize also the glaring fact that there were dark clouds of hatred which followed Him as snipping comments and legalistic marksmanship was hurled by the religious leaders who never missed an opportunity to demean Jesus’ ministry. The holy men – the Pharisees and Saducees – stalked Christ, willfully calling good – evil! Just as they blasted Jesus and labeled Him a compulsive law-breaker.
Knowing that this continuous hatred would be stealthily endeavoring to undermine Jesus’ heaven-sent work of redemption, only serves to help us realize that the hospitable environment of the favored home in Bethany had to have provided Jesus with a solace that uplifted His spirit and refreshed His heart.
I share this thought because I believe that in our world today, filled as it is with so much turmoil, strife and hatred, the gift of hospitable kindness has sometimes been relegated to the bottom drawer of Christ-like service and love. Way to often, when generosity of spirit could potentially work wonders, healing wounded hearts and broken lives, we choose instead to resort to the pedestal of Pharisaical righteousness to try and prove how right we are or that God is on “our side,” when we should be freely spreading the balm of blessing in a world so desperately in need of a vision of how Jesus treated the sinners He met, even when they had 5 previous husbands and lived with someone they weren’t married to. May we never forget that over a request for a cool cup of water, the woman at the well in Sycar was transformed by Jesus into a mighty evangelist who brought her entire town to the feet of her Saviour. In some of the most tender words penned by J.R. Macduff, “a wandering star was, in the course of Jesus memorable journey, to be reclaimed from its devious orbit, and a glorious testimony was given as to how God’s sovereign grace can triumph over all obstacles.”
What a lesson for us today. Whether it was Mary, Martha or Lazarus – someone in that family made a move which led the King of Heaven and Earth to know that whenever He passed through Bethany, - when He needed a place to rest from His lengthy travels; or when He longed for a good home-cooked meal, the welcome mat would always be out at the residence of three individuals who would become some of Jesus’ best friends and most faithful followers.
There’s a special prayer written by Thomas Ken at the door of a Christian hospital and today it is my prayer that these words will also be engraved upon my own heart as well:
“O God, make the door of this house wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, and a heavenly Father’s care; and narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride, and hate. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children or to straying feet, but rugged enough to turn back the tempter’s power, make it a gateway to Thine eternal kingdom.”
“We can best minister to Him by helping them
Who dare not touch His hallowed garment’s hem;
Their lives are even as ours – one piece, one plan.
Him know we not. Him shall we never know.
Till we behold Him in the least of these who suffer or who sin.
In sick souls He lies bound and sighing; asks our sympathies;
Their grateful eyes thy blessing bestow;
Brother and Lord, - ‘Ye did it unto Me.’”
(From Making the Most of Life)
“Lord God, I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will. Put me to doing, put me to enduring; let me be employed for You,
or laid aside for You, exalted for You or brought low for You; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You are mine and I am Yours. So be it.”
“Here am I, send me.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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