Israel: One Year Ago Today

One year ago today (Sunday, May 8 ) I was in Israel.

Actually, I had been there a week already.

At this stage of our trip we had visited a few locations in the Galilee. This is the sunset from the east side of the Sea of Galilee looking west. If I was given the opportunity to live anywhere in the world, this would be at the top of the list.

We began the morning visiting a Roman city named Sepphoris (or Zippori). It is the only Roman town like it in Galilee. A very Hellenistic city in a strongly Jewish part of the land. It was very near Nazareth – approx. 4 miles – where Jesus was raised. This is interesting because Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, and Judah was given the area of land south of Jerusalem. This area is much further north

The Bible tells us that Jesus’ father was a “carpenter” (cf. Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3). The Greek word, however, is tekton and can refer someone who uses various materials including wood, stone, and/or metal. There is a Roman-style theater in the city that was built around the beginning of the first century A.D. Perhaps Jesus’ father left his ancestral home looking for work for Roman funded projects, like this theater.

Roman cities usually had a large, main street that flowed north and south and another street that went east and west. The north-south street was called the cardo, while the east-west street was called decumanus. Where the two streets crossed was the center of the town. There was typically a pagan worship site at or near this main intersection. Here I am standing at one of the street corners of this intersection. This may be the location that Jesus has in mind when he says:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matt 6:5 ESV).

In other words, Jesus may not only have been reprimanding overly devout Jews (“in the synagogues”) but also false pagan practices as well (“at the street corners”). Jesus was calling everyone – pagans and the pious – to repent of practices that drew attention and praise to themselves.

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