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Bethany

The little village of Bethany with the adjoining village of Bethpage rest on the Eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. It was and is the area from which the Palm Sunday procession began. A beautiful little church commemorates three events in the life of the Lord. 1. Here he stayed at the home of Martha and Mary. 2. Here he raised Lazarus from the dead. 3. Here he was anointed for his burial. A large monastery stood here in Crusader times.

The Biblical city of Bethany is primarily known in the gospels as the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Ancient Bethany held an important place in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus often found Himself staying in Bethany at the home of His closest friends. He could receive shelter and meals from His friends.

Bethany became the final stop before Jerusalem. Just off the main east-west road coming from Jericho, it was an easy stop for travelers and traders. Being located at the foot of the mountain, the inhabitants could not see Jerusalem, thus giving Bethany a sense of seclusion and peacefulness. The road between Bethany and Jerusalem provided a ready route for travel across Olivet with the journey taking about fifty-five minutes to walk.

There are no Old Testament references to Bethany in the Bible. However, The primary event in the New Testament taking place in Bethany involved the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This magnificent miracle by Jesus demonstrated His authority, prepared for His resurrection, and was even magnified through the name of His friend, Lazarus. The name Lazarus is an abbreviation of Eleazar, meaning, "God has helped".

After a message was sent to Jesus in Perea by Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, He returned to Bethany four days after the burial of Lazarus. Following spending time with Martha and Mary individually, Jesus' love for Lazarus and His family became evident in His tears. Then in a public display of prayer and power Jesus raised His good friend from the dead.

Another significant occurrence in Jesus' life occurred in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper. "And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper … coming to Jesus in front of everyone, she brought a costly alabaster vial of perfume and emptied it upon Jesus' head and feet" in John 12:3). Jesus used this circumstance to emphasize His temporary earthly stay and the fact that He should be exalted above others.
Besides a number of smaller references to Bethany, one final event took place there. Bethany provided the location for Jesus' final blessing to His disciples and His subsequent parting. This encounter made up the final scene of the ascension in Luke's Gospel (24:50-53) - "And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven."

The Church of Lazarus, built over a grotto where visitors may see a chamber commonly known as the “Tomb of Lazarus”, is a modern construction from the early 1950’s. It is built in the form of a Greek Cross, crowned by a low dome supported on a polygonal tambour and flanked by a graceful bell tower.

The present Church of Lazarus stands on the site once occupied by the ancient religious buildings which rose and fell there over the centuries. Patches of mosaic paving are visible in the courtyard which belonged to previous buildings. The interior of the church resembles a mausoleum. The decorations in the lunettes, by G. Vagarini represent the Conversation of Martha and Mary and Jesus, Feast of Bethany in the House of Simon the Leper and Jesus Resuscitating Lazarus.

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