I remember the first time John and I drove into Bethany three years ago.
The city was not what I had imagined. Part of the Palestinian territory, it was nothing like the city of Jerusalem’s beauty and order.
A discarded washing machine sat next to the road on one side as we passed raw sides of meat hanging from open-air butcher shops on the other.
But when our driver turned down the road leading to the St. Lazarus Church in Bethany, a compound ran by the Franciscan Order of the Catholic Church, I caught a sense of the place that had lived in my heart for years.
During my first trip to Bethany, it had all felt very rushed. Our tour guide seemed uncomfortable being there, so John and I hurried to take our photos and tried to drink up as much of the experience as we could before leaving.
Going back to Bethany to film Lazarus Awakening was a much different experience.
With permission arranged beforehand, we were welcomed into the compound by a Franciscan friar who showed us to a side room in the compound, inviting us to leave our things there while we filmed.
It was an unexpected hospitality. One which we desperately needed.
For the first time during our trip, weather was an issue. The clouds were forever shifting which made getting consistent footage difficult. Because Frank shot two takes of each segment, if the sun was out during the first one, we had to wait for the clouds to roll by before shooting the second.
Throughout the day, we had periods of rain as well. Not heavy, but enough to require restyling my hair for continuity’s sake as well.
The Gift of Hospitality
The Franciscan friars weren’t the only hospitable people we met in Bethany. The owner of one of the gift shops lining the lane in front of Lazarus’s tomb appointed himself our tour guide.
“We show you Simon the Leper’s house!” the Palestinian Arab told us as he and his brothers helped carry our equipment. It was another unexpected blessing as I’d been unable to pinpoint this obscure spot for months.
While there’s no way of knowing whether the ruins are authentic, it made a great backdrop for the segment on Mary’s anointing of Jesus during a dinner given in His honor (mentioned in John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).
The brothers also helped us as we filmed outside Lazarus’ tomb. It was a surreal yet special experience to be able to share about my Jesus, not only to people who would one day watch the DVD studies, but to these kind and generous men as well.
Hospitality. It was all around me in Bethany.
Martha offered hospitality when she opened her home to Jesus in Luke 10:38-42. Mary offered hospitality in the form of worship when she spilled her greatest treasure on Jesus’ feet in John 12.
And it was gracious hospitality the Franciscan friar and Palestinian shop owner both showed a small team of Americans. Simply because they could.
I’m challenged by each example in the middle of my life back here at home. Because hospitality isn’t an option as a Christian. It is a calling.
“Practice hospitality,” Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:13.
“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling,” Peter advises in 1 Peter 4:9.
While it may not come naturally to most of us, it is a quality we must work to develop.
For when we offer hospitality “to one of the least of these…” Jesus says in Matthew 25:40 (NKJV), no matter what shape or form that hospitality takes, our most gracious Savior declares:
“You did it to Me.”
High calling. High privilege. Loving people in tangible ways – all because we love our Lord.
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I’d love to hear from you…
Tell me about a time when someone’s hospitality blessed your life.