Christ in Bethany


Luke: 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, he entered a village, and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things; one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”

The village home of Martha and Mary was visited more than once by Jesus. It was while here that he later raised their brother, Lazarus, from the dead (John 11). The columns and roof edge in the right panel suggest a portico. A tree grows alongside it and other stone buildings are visible in the distance over the low portico wall.

A table in the left panel is being set for a meal. Next to the table stands Martha, a pitcher in her right hand and a large bowl of fruit and bread held against her body by the other. She looks toward Mary and Jesus, as if she has just entered and asked her question. She pauses, waiting for a reply.

This time the central figure is Mary, wrapped in royal blue and sitting on a bench. She looks up toward Jesus in rapt attention, her hands folded in her lap.

Robed in white and purple, Jesus, with a halo, is seated on the right. His left hand is raised near his chest, while he gestures downward toward Mary with his right. Instead of glancing at Martha in reproach, Jesus looks away with half-closed eyes. He does not condemn her hospitality but wants her to understand that Mary’s choice is more important than “many things.” Perhaps he was thinking of his temptation experience, when he answered Satan, “Man does not live by bread alone.” (Luke 4:4)

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