Learning the Jewishness of the Bible
Another beautiful day here in Israel! Our morning began with a visit to Capernaum. In Hebrew the word Capernaum is two words meaning Village of Nahum. It was here that Jesus based his ministry. Capernaum was a busy community, strategically located on a major highway.
Most of the miracles that Jesus performed are not recorded in Scripture but we know of eight healings done by Jesus in Capernaum. The signs and miracles Jesus performed demonstrated that He was the Messiah. It was also the town along with Chorazin and Bethsaida which Jesus pronounced judgment. They were indifferent to the miracles that Jesus performed and therefore received greater judgment. Sadly Tito, our guide shared how he has led many groups on tours here and the priests and pastors teach that because the Jewish people abandoned Jesus He abandoned the Jewish people. But we must remember that this judgement from Jesus was on these three local communities only. Nowhere in the New Testament do we read that God has rejected or replaced Israel. God is going to restore and repair this fallen world according to a His promises.
We walked around the ancient ruins of Capernaum and got a glimpse into Jewish life in the first century. We saw the remains of what tradition says is Peter’s home. One aspect that I found very interesting was the small homes with windows. Their day began at sunrise and they ate dinner before sunset because most people were poor and could not afford the expensive oil to provide light. They would only use oil for emergencies or important events such as when a young women was awaiting her bridegroom. If she was wise before dark she would prepare her lamp every night in anticipation of her bridegroom coming for her. Our guide Tito shared this practical story and I was reminded of Jesus' parable of the 10 virgins and how that parable becomes so much clearer by understanding the time and culture of the Jewish people. The Bible is truly a Jewish book!
We saw the ruins of a Roman period synagogue. It has artwork of the fruits and grains of Israel, a menorah, the tabernacle, and what we refer to today as the Star of David. That term “Star of David” originates from around the 15th century and was actually referred to as the “Shield of David.” The shield is God Himself. There was no printing press and the people learned by hearing and through pictures.
We then headed to the town of Nazareth where Jesus once lived. Nazareth Village is a replica of 1st century Nazareth, right in the middle of the modern town of Nazareth. This is where we were able to see firsthand what life was like in Nazareth for Jesus and the people of this time. What an experience it was!
There was so much to take in. We learned that when an olive tree begins to die, the new shoots or branches grow out. Jesus was called the branch in Isaiah 11:1, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” They explained the burial process at a tomb. As we walked through the farming patches of a stone ground path between the farming fields, it gave new meaning to the parable of the sower. We watched how a carpenter would perform his tasks, how a weaver would make clothing. Then we sat in a synagogue like the one Jesus would have been in when He read from Isaiah 61:1-2, a declaring to those listening that He was the awaited Messiah. To me, it was going from reading the Bible on the page to experiencing it in 3D. The tour ended with a Bible era lunch that was amazing and for the less loving falafel people- it was a double treat. For anyone visiting Israel make sure to visit the Nazareth Village—you will be glad you did!
After our great time in Nazareth Village we visited a Jewish National Fund forest where we had the privilege to plant trees. Many planted their tree in memory or honor of a loved one. Most do not know that Israel plants about 3 million trees a year. The forests are important to keep from the water becoming stagnant which is how swamps develop leading to malaria. Planting a tree was a tangible way we could bless Israel while we were here.
Our touring today concluded with a brief stop on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to the thousands of people. It’s a beautiful hill that could easily accommodate all those listening to Jesus. A church was built on this site in the 1930s which is run by Italian Franciscan nuns.
Tonight after dinner, we had a special opportunity to hear Major Elliot Chodoff speak about the military and political situation facing Israel and the Middle East. It was eye-opening to think how well the Israeli people flourish in their country in the midst of great threat. It also made me think how we all need to be praying more for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).
Links where we visited today:
Nazareth Village: http://www.nazarethvillage.com/
Jewish National Fund: http://usa.jnf.org/jnf-tree-planting-center/
Mount of Beatitudes: https://www.bibleplaces.com/mtbeatitudes/
Major Elliot Chodoff: http://me-ontarget.org/pws/page!1495