“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
(He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, KJV)
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown… When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.” Luke 4:14-30
Today we visited the “Nazareth Village”, a tour that at first I thought was a little cheesy. We started off in a dark room with a recreated stable in one corner and a tour guide talking about 2000 year old pottery pieces found in shatters in the bottom of an ancient wine press. I was already a little bit disappointed in the way I found Nazareth – not at all the way I had pictured it in my mind. There were small cars whizzing through crowded streets, tall apartment buildings with laundry strung from the balconies, trash strewn throughout their yards, and a big mall advertising a “Crocs” store. I wanted to see it as it was when Jesus lived there. I don’t know exactly why, but I expected dirt paths and sheep grazing on the hillside.
But I found myself being drawn into the tour as we left the first building and went outside. Somehow they had managed to preserve a little piece of land, maybe three or four acres, and fashioned the sort of place I imagined Nazareth to be. Along the path we saw an animal enclosure, donkeys and sheep grazing on a rocky hillside, friendly “actors” dressed in first-century garb, olive and almond trees, an ancient wine press, a carpentry shop (complete with Joseph), a traditional home, an olive press, and a synagogue. Our guide, Daniel, was Jewish (with an accent I couldn’t quite identify. Maybe it was Jewish!)
The synagogue was maybe 20X30, with three rows of stone benches hewn into three of the four walls. Stone columns rose to one level, then another section of wall set higher with small windows rose to the roof fashioned of timber beams. A scroll and four oil lamps sat on a small table about two-thirds of the way into the room.
Daniel waited for us to come into the synagogue before quietly picking up the scroll and reading from Isaiah 61, just as Luke 4 records Jesus doing. To our group comprised of American, French, Norwegian, Dutch, and British individuals, he then said:
“Don’t you know what this means? Jesus was saying ‘I am the Messiah!’…But those listening to Him wanted Jesus to say that salvation was only for the Jews. Salvation is not for Americans, French, Norwegians, Dutch, and British!”
But of course we know that salvation is for all who believe and obey, Jew and Gentile alike.
Having heard this account many times (it is one of John’s favorite passages to quote,) I understood the significance of what Jesus was saying. But today, sitting in that small synagogue and imagining Jesus surrounded by people who had perhaps known Him all of His life, who were filled with such unreasonable wrath that they immediately brought Him to the top of a high, steep precipice in order to kill Him, I was filled with sadness.
He came to bring glad news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those who were captive. He came to recover sight to the blind and to set at liberty those who were oppressed. Why did that make them angry? Why does it make some of us angry today?
Maybe because His words to us are too painfully honest, and He hurts our conscience. Maybe because He wants to USE US to bind up the brokenhearted and help the poor, and that makes us uncomfortable. Maybe because we want everything He says to be easy and smooth. Maybe because we see ourselves as being better than those He said He came to help. But what we don’t realize is that without Him, we ARE the poor, brokenhearted, captive, blind, and oppressed. So I am thankful that He left heaven and came to a small hillside town in the hill country of Judea – and beyond – to help those of us who are poor, brokenhearted, captive, blind, and oppressed.
Wow, I’m a little emotional tonight! But how can I not be touched by seeing things in the added dimension of walking where Jesus walked?
Here is how our day went:
John and I were both awake at 3:45 a.m… I woke up yesterday at 3:30. Maybe tomorrow I’ll sleep all the way til 4! So we tried to whisper quietly to keep from waking Micah, but I think we woke him up anyway.
We were checking out of the Caesarea hotel this morning, so we had to have everything packed and ready to go by 6:30. Breakfast was the same wonderful spread, and not knowing if I was going to have to eat SHAKSHUKA again for lunch, I tanked up on protein – eggs and cheese!
We were on the road by 7:15, beginning with a short devotional where John read from Ephesians 4, reminding us to be longsuffering and forbearing with one another…seeing how we will be in verrrrryyy close quarters for two more weeks and need to always see the good in one another. Of course we are all getting along famously (except Doug is pestering me, of course.)
We picked up our tour guide, Tsvi (sounds like Tsvee!) along the way. He was born and raised in Jerusalem, and we all immediately liked him. He is short…I mean, vertically challenged, with a thick but very understandable accent. He looks a lot like the actor Ben Kingsley, with hair! He is obviously very knowledgeable about the area, customs, and people. Lindy had told us earlier that he knows how to talk his way into anything. He will be with us every day until almost the very end of the trip.
Doug put the GoPro on the van, and we then drove down the Via Maris, the “way of the sea”.
John has talked about this so many times in his geography classes, so I was glad to see firsthand what he has described. Steep embankments with what appears to be limestone rock embedded into them rose on either side of the highway. We curved back and forth for several miles, and then all of a sudden, as John said, “BAM!” The narrow, curving mountain road all of a sudden opened up into a beautiful, flat valley for miles around: the Jezreel Valley – the path of least resistance, a crossroads, a trade route, the bread basket of the northern region of Israel. Travelers chose this way as an easier route between the mountains to get wherever they needed to go. Thus, it became a very important junction where trade sprung up to meet the needs of the people.
We all jumped out of the van for John to film a short segment about Har Megiddo, or “Armageddon” in the middle of a field. Yossi parked on the side of the busy road, and we all carefully ran across. Tsvi said: “You know, what is most dangerous about Israel is the drivers!”
We then made our way to Megiddo, most likely one of Solomon’s chariot cities. Some scholars think it belonged to Ahab, but regardless of who it belonged to, it is definitely Israelite. Jon, who apparently is itching to do some excavating, said: “If you gave me a shovel, I’d start digging!”
John filmed several sections here against the ruins of the ancient city, and in particular, at the gate. Not being particularly war-minded, I have never quite understood battle positions and such, but it is easy to see from standing up high at Megiddo – how important it would be to control the trade routes below and have a defensive posture above. Much like the view from Mt. Carmel, the scenery is breathtaking, with Mt. Tabor and Mt. Moreh visible across the valley.
Archaeologists have unearthed layers and layers of this city. They have found and rebuilt ancient altars to idols. Stables were found. An ancient grain silo with very narrow and very steep steps leading to the bottom is toward the back of the city. And Tsvi told us how a deep well inside the city was dug to the spring below for a water source for the city, until it went dry, and then a tunnel was channeled further underground until more water was reached.
As any of you who know John can attest, Bible geography is his passion. As we made our way through Megiddo, he was zipping back and forth from one thing to another, nearly out of his mind with happiness. I told Tsvi – “he is like a kid in a candy store!” To which he replied – “Ees a beeg candy store!”
The main route out of Tel Megiddo is 183 steps down into the well, then out through the poorly lit tunnel and up 80 more steps until you finally reach the exit. I was concerned about how dark it was inside the well, and how steep the steps, until I got all the way to the tunnel and realized I still had my sunglasses on…
We had a quick lunch at Megiddo consisting of “grilled” chicken (which was delicious, but tasted more like stewed chicken), jasmine rice, mixed vegetables, A-MAZING fresh, warm pita bread, hummus, and garden salad. I was surprised about how good it was!
Then we were on our way to Nazareth, where it was Jon’s turn to film about Jesus growing up in Nazareth. As I mentioned, the terrain and population of Nazareth surprised me. I did not realize the elevation was as high as it is – even though it sits in the low part of a mountain. We drove up as high as we could and then hiked on foot to the precipice. More breathtaking views. But sad, too, to think how the natives had sought to throw Jesus down the very steep mountainside.
There is a monument at the top. Read it and see if you can spot what is biblically inaccurate about this inscription:
While we were there, a tour group climbed to the top. They appeared to be Russian or Armenian by their dress and their accents. All of a sudden one of the men began singing/chanting and all of the group immediately stood where they were, faced a certain direction (I think it was south) and echoed some of his words. It was quite beautiful.
Our next stop was the Nazareth Village tour. As I mentioned, it was enjoyable. They showed early tools, and Philip was coaxed into demonstrating the olive press (and did very well) and Micah tried to use an early form of a drill (and didn’t do so well!) They talked about wool dyes made from natural ingredients – yellow colors came from saffron, walnuts made brown dye, green tree leaves made green dye, pomegranates gave a reddish tone. And they showed some beautiful little dolls made with the spun wool.
Next we drove on to Cana, where Jesus had performed His first miracle of changing the water into wine. An old stone water jar was at one of the early Catholic churches – it was huge, and held about 25 gallons. It was Rick’s turn to film – this one about “The Presence and Preaching of Jesus in Galilee”. We had permission to film in one of the churches claiming to be the one where the wedding had taken place, and there was a wedding going on while we were there! An old Russian Orthodox church also claimed to be “the place” but we were not allowed inside.
Rick nailed his lines, but wanted to perfect them, so we moved to an old, narrow street with a church doorway in the background. It began to softly rain, and the sun had gone down so it was cold. Rick’s nice green shirt then had rain drops on it. Then two little girls walked in front of the camera. Then a car came down the street. Then a little old stooped woman in a black scarf slowwwwlllly made her way behind Rick, and then over to where we stood, touching the wall for support, then touching the camera’s tripod for support, before she went on down the street. Trying another venue, in front of the Greek Orthodox church, as Rick began his lines, an old diesel pickup pulled up close to us, making enough noise to wake the dead, then decided he had to maneuver his way around us by pulling forward, backing up, pulling forward a different direction, backing up, etc… before he FINALLY left. Then Rick began his lines again, and the wedding couple came down the street behind him. Mat loved it and thought the sight would add a lot to the scene, but then Doug was walking step by step behind the bride, and didn’t realize Mat was trying to film. THEN, we moved to a busy sidewalk where Rick wanted to just say a few words. Mat decided it would be fun for Rick to cross the street before his lines. We learned a couple of things: Israelis use their horns a lot, and Rick can move pretty fast when he needs to! AND, he did a fantastic job presenting his lesson.
Mat and Doug have the hardest, busiest job of all of us. They’re constantly looking for the best vantage points and carrying their equipment all over. I can’t wait to see the finished products!
Some incidental things I’ve noticed:
“Gross” is a universal term. A teenage girl, speaking to her parents in Hebrew, jumped and screamed when she saw one of the many black millipedes inside Megiddo. Then, very distinctly, Micah and I heard her yell “GROSS!”
The Israeli army has a very prominent presence. We saw multiple fighter jets yesterday and today, tanks driving down the roads, and soldiers set up in an area not far from the Carmelite monastery yesterday.
Israelis argue very loudly, evidently even when it’s a friendly argument.
It doesn’t appear that Israelis are very worried about being sued. We climbed all over the Herodian ruins yesterday with steep drop-offs and narrow, nearly invisible steps…and all over Megiddo today, without the typically American warnings and “we are not responsible” signs.
I walked 24,250 steps yesterday, just under 10 miles. So I can eat an extra dessert.
The sun is up really, really early. Like around 5 a.m.
Tsvi told us that Israeli Arabs are allowed to vote for parliament. They are citizens just as anyone else, but the only difference is that they are not allowed to serve in the army, for fear of being traitorous.
If you’ve hung in this long to read this, you may want to know what tomorrow holds: Mt. Arbel, the Mount of Beatitudes, a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, and Capernaum.
We all send our love!