His Heart's Satisfaction
Now we continue with the passage: "...received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word." Literally the words are: "who also took her seat at the feet of Jesus and went on listening to His word." "Took her seat at His feet and went on listening." It was that which irritated Martha: she went on listening. What Martha really said to the Lord was in the same tense, the imperfect. When she came to the Lord she said: "Dost Thou not care that my sister doth keep on leaving me to serve alone?" "Keep on leaving me" - because she "kept on listening"!
What is this? Well, it is that which provides the Lord with what He most desires. It is the heart satisfaction of the Lord that is represented by this. The heart satisfaction of the Lord was found in what Mary did. It is here that we understand the meaning of Bethany. You go over to Matthew 21, and you will find the story of the fig tree. Jesus is moving between Jerusalem and Bethany; He has been into Jerusalem and has seen things in the temple, and is heart has been pained, shot through with the agony of disappointment. He has looked around upon all things, and has said nothing, and has gone back to Bethany. In the morning, as He is in the way, being hungry and seeing a fig tree, He comes up to it, to see whether perhaps it is bearing fruit. But He finds none, and says, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever"; and as they return, the disciples mark that the fig tree is withered and dead; they point out the fact.
Now that fig tree, as we know, was bound up with Jerusalem, and was a type of Judaism as it then was. The heart disappointment which the Lord had met in the temple was one with His heart disappointment in coming hungry to the fig tree and finding no fruit; the two things are one. That order of things, then, passes out of His realm of interest; Judaism goes out for the rest of the age - "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever". It cannot satisfy Him, and it goes; it is a withered tree providing the Lord with nothing.
But when that heart disappointment is felt so acutely, and registered in that way by Him, He goes to Bethany, and Bethany means "the house of figs." No in the temple, and not in Jerusalem, does the Lord find His satisfaction, but in Bethany. That is why He is always going there. Heart satisfaction for Him now was not in the cold, lifeless, formal religious system of the day, but in the living, throbbing, warm atmosphere of the Bethany home. He always knew that, while His words were rejected in Jerusalem, they would be accepted there, and listened to eagerly, and there would always be someone who would "keep on" listening.
I am impressed with Acts 2: it says that after Pentecost those who believed "continued steadfastly in the apostles teaching" (verse 42). You see, there the Church came in, and that is its feature: "they continued steadfastly in the apostles teaching." We are so used to those words that they do not seem to convey very much to us. Will you bear with a simple practical way of seeking to apply it?
(continued with # 4)