Bethany, Israel: Home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus
Located just a short distance from Jerusalem, Bethany is a town where Jesus often stayed. It is only a short 40 minute walk from the Mount of Olives. All three major religions have a presence here: The Catholic Christians have the Franciscan Church, the Muslims have a mosque built over what is believed to be the place that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and the Greek Orthodox Church has a church nearby.
Of course Bethany plays a part in many of the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus. His encounters with Martha and Mary are recorded not only in the raising of Lazarus from the dead but also in the account where Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not doing her fair share of the work, with Jesus telling Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke: 10:41.
It is clear from many passages that the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus was a familiar place for Jesus to spend the night. Bethany is mentioned numerous times in all four Gospels and, although there is not a great deal to see here, it is worth spending time and reflecting upon the every-day life of these three people and how they inter-acted with Jesus on a familiar basis.
The Feast of Saint Martha has traditionally been celebrated on July 29, and still is, but in 2021 Pope Francis added Mary and Lazarus, so now we celebrate the Feast of Martha, Mary and Lazarus on that date.
Do not confuse Bethany with Bethany Beyond the Jordan, which is in the Kingdom of Jordan and is believed to be the most accurate sight of the Baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist.
About the Franciscan Church of Saint Lazarus:
The Franciscan Church is fairly recent, being finished in 1954. It is built over the ruins of three previous churches that had stood on the site.
The tomb of Lazarus is located near the Franciscan Church under the Mosque of al-Uzair. The Muslims also venerate Lazarus and have constructed steps leading down to where it is believed Jesus stood and called Lazarus out. There are over 20 uneven steps that have been carved out of rock that will take you down to an area that is believed to be the tomb.