Archaeologist believes he found the site of Jesus’ trial by Pontius Pilate

(I’ll go back to blogging on Morocco later this week)

This is apt for this time of the year! (As we are in Easter and Passover)


(Worth mentioning that this is from a secular Israeli news source)

Passover and Easter, crackerbread or chocolate?

This week, I got to go to several Pesach (Passover) meals which happens to be about the same time as Easter.

Many people think Easter has been distorted from its original story of Jesus’s death and resurrection into a nonsensical pagan feast of eggs and rabbits, but actually the original Passover feat as a lot more in common with Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice.

The way the set of items are used in a Jewish Passover tradition is quite long, so I will just touch on a few of them;

The lamb shank bone is an interesting one, Jesus is often represented a lamb who was slain.

The matzah bread, which is really a large cracker wheat, has a pattern of holes and patterns, pierced and striped, the same injuries Jesus took on the cross.

Also, the matzah bread is often served covered with a linen cloth, something that also could be considered part of Jesus’s burial as his body was cleaned and wrapped carefully.

This passage from the Tannak says it best:-

Isaiah 53
1 Who has believed our message  and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.  Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.  For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Don’t get me wrong, I like easter eggs, but only as I like chocolate in general, and the shiny packaging, and would be happy if this type of packaged confectionery was sold year round, this morning  I decided to shove some chocolate spread on this bit of matzvah 🙂

This is a special event is well worth experiencing.

Nazareth – 13. Easter service at the Basilica

I didn’t find  anyone from the youth hostel who wanted to head into town that evening, so after an afternoon of looking around shops and reading a book in the lobby, I headed out and saw lots of people flocking towards the Basilica church.

This was the service for Easter Friday.

The outside of church seems very busy…

Inside, the place was packed!  all of the seats were taken, and people were in all of the aisles and blocking the door.
The surprising thing is the vast majority of people appeared to be young Arab Christians under 30 for the service, no foreigners as far as I could see.  I have no idea what was spoken in the service as it was all in Arabic.

A statue of Jesus was brought out of the service at the end.

Outside there were lots of people who couldn’t get in the service, they seem very friendly and most spoke English, a lot of the Arab Christians had non-Arabic sounding names, ie: Simon.Musicians where getting together for a parade outside..  Hang on surely, these aren’t bagpipes??

Whats this?  Its the flag of Christian Arab scouts of Nazareth.

The scouts are getting ready to do their bagpipe playing at the end of the Easter service!   Actually an Arab friend of mine told me that bagpipes are not that uncommon in the Middle East, there are bagpipe players in Jordan who play for the King there.   Maybe the Arabs are wannabe Scots or perhaps during the British Mandate of Palestine period, Scotland influenced people then? 🙂

The statue is taken on a tour around the city.

So was the Easter service a nice yearly social knees-up or the were the mostly young Arab Christians there praising the Lord on the weekend of his resurrection in the very town where Jesus spent his youth?   I am not sure but this was an enjoyable end to my trip to Nazareth, and despite only 15% of the town being Christian it was good that Easter was celebrated (actually there were no chocolate eggs for sale anywhere)  and this didn’t seem like a big show for tourists as there simply weren’t any around the town.

Seems like the modern day people of Nazareth are proud of their city.

1. Arrival at the city2. Staying in the old city3. The modern day Nazarene carpenter4. Where Jesus first preached5. Religious vehicles in Nazareth6. Mary’s Well and the Bath house7. The precipice8. On top of the Precipice hill9. More old city streets and market10. The spice shop11. Churches from A to Z or Alpha to Omega12. The Basilica church13. Easter service at the Basilica

Nazareth – 1. Arrival at the city

I have always hoped Michael Palin could do journals around the holy land one day, until this happens I try and blog on the places of the life of Jesus myself.  I am tired by the attitudes of the media and fellow Brits who try to slander Israel and accuse it of being a ‘Apartheid’ state amongst other things.  I set out to the central Galilee city of Nazareth, to see what it was like for Jesus to have grown up there, glimpses of places from the bible, how the Arab people there live in the centre of the Galilee and how different it is from Jerusalem.

Just before getting off the bus which took me from Jerusalem, I asked some people next to me if this was the right place to get off, and there didn’t seem to be a proper bus station, just a stop by the main road.   This Arab couple were really friendly and were happy oblige to walk with me from the street through some narrow streets uphill through the old city towards my hostel.

Jesus frequently went to and fro from here or the greater part of Galilee to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  When you live some distance from your family this must be a lot of effort to travel often.

This provocative message to Christians stands out a junction heading north towards the Synagogue where Jesus first preached.  Behind is the tall turret of the famous huge and grand looking Bisilica Church.   It says “and whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the hereafter he will be one of the losers. – Holy Quran”

I have a better message though: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14 : 6

I have seen this on some guides before, and all the research I did suggested Nazareth is a safe city to visit, and it is too.  I had a number of worries though to do with the busy time of year.  I booked this trip at rather the last minute as its in between Pesach and Easter, and with two different holidays, the buses are not running for some of those days, Easter making it more busy for Christian visitors, and I had hoped to visit Tiberias but both youth hostels were fully booked, so was one of the main hostels in Nazareth, and I got myself one night booked but not for the other days, this needed a lot of prayer of exactly how to figure out where to stay….

Soon!  Different Youth Hostels, the Spice Mill, Thousands of Arab Israelis Christians in the streets at Easter, the church at Cana for weddings, today’s modern Nazarene carpenters and residents finding hidden wells in the back yards by accident!

1. Arrival at the city2. Staying in the old city3. The modern day Nazarene carpenter4. Where Jesus first preached5. Religious vehicles in Nazareth6. Mary’s Well and the Bath house7. The precipice8. On top of the Precipice hill9. More old city streets and market10. The spice shop11. Churches from A to Z or Alpha to Omega12. The Basilica church13. Easter service at the Basilica

Easter weekend & Pesach

Spent Easter sunday and monday wandering around the old city.   On sunday there was an early morning worship service at the Garden Tomb. Some of my friends went to this, but it was 6am and I slept in, so I got there later in the afternoon only to find it shut (it doesn’t normally open sundays)  After the early morning service there done by my church (King of Kings Jerusalem)   there was several other services in French, Spanish, Swedish and Arabic by some other Christian organisations.  I then went to a conventional service at my church in their regular building.

Not to worry, I got to visit the tomb today (Easter Monday)  as its the last day of the Jewish holiday of Pesach as well.  Its really easy to forget as gentiles, but Jews wont eat anything with yeast in on this time, so going to the bakery near my work place was shut for the weekend, as any conventional form of bread, cake or pastries are not available.  At this time Jews eat Matzvah which looks like an oversized cracker bread instead.  So stick some hummus or jam on it, and its pretty good.

The tomb was quite busy today of course, with Christian visitors from all over there, the garden looked very pretty too.

Easter is truly about the greatest story ever told

Is the story of Jesus relevant today to those who are not Christian?   I have been thinking about some well loved movies and these recent stories has some startlingly similar elements to them.

The Matrix

Thomas Anderson aka ‘Neo’ is picked by his new employers to save the world, aside from as a software developer he does not really have the means to be a slick, fast thinking and smart super agent.  However his mentor Morpheus soon get him trained up and running.  Here just like Jesus was tempted in the desert, Neo is searched at his work place and consequently arrested and offered to have criminal accusations dropped in return to cooperate with the demands of Smith and his secret police.

Rather than walking on water, Morpheus teaches Neo that he can do miracles if he just trusts he can do it, ie: leap off of buildings and jump huge heights to another location, and cheat death by bouncing off the road, or dodge bullets.

Of course here, one of the members of the team, Cypher is really a defector working for Agent Smith.  Judas in the bible had the responsibility of looking after finances, here Cypher has the responsibility of being the main IT systems administrator and to oversee possible security threats to his employer, in both circumstances these roles are abused.  Instead of pieces of silver, Cypher sits in a software-virtualised high class restaurant and is told he can have ‘anything you want!’ by Agent Smith if he traitorously turns over the secrets of his organisation.

The Bible calls Satan the Father of all lies, and here in the Matrix, Agent Smith can easily clone himself or morph himself or his minions into any kind of person to his deceptive advantage.

1) Egypt banned the Matrix film because it contained the word ‘Zion’
2) The ship the Nebuchadnezzar has an inscription that reads “Mark III No. 11 made in the USA year 2069.” Mark 3:11 reads “And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, they would fall down in front of him shrieking, ‘You are the Son of God!'” – quoted from Wikipedia

Star Wars

Here as an enthusiastic young man who group up an ordinary background wanting to become part of the rebel alliance, Luke Skywalker has two mentors Obi Wan Kanobi and Yoda, both of these well respected individuals die, well they actually just seem to suddenly fade away, but only to be still around in spirit offering help when Luke goes through tough decisions.

Later on when Luke has a showdown with the Emperor, he is tempted by ‘I am unarmed, strike me down’ encouraging Luke to be more angry and resentful, seeing as he made his father turn away from good to evil.   Of course Luke after getting caught in this mistake before, he knows this is a trap and that the Emperor gets more powerful from absorbing hate, and uses talk of good things to ultimately defeat this particular character of Satan.

Of course, I do also like the building and scenery from Star Wars with white stone buildings although in a futuristic setting, and not a million miles away from the ancient buildings I see around in Jerusalem.

Fact: Endor, the home of the Ewoks tree top village, is also a place in the Bible.  See Joshua 17 1-12

Red Dwarf

In one episode, the four members of the ship Starbug, are looking for an essential spare part on a seemingly empty planet until a strange entity suddenly appears (voiced by actor Stephen Fry)  who announces himself as ‘My name is Legion, for we are many’  here there is an exact reference to a demon that spoke in Mark 5 : 10.

The Lion Witch & the Wardrobe.

Where as CS Lewis was a Christian, this probably has to be as a fictional story, the most closest set of ideas with Aslan the lion who mimics the death and resurrection of Jesus and with Eustace who betrayed Aslan for some Turkish Delight, albeit with a smaller (4 I think?) number of followers that the original 12.

Here, I think even the most hardened atheist should agree that the story of Jesus’s birth, ministry work, death and resurrection has had elements imitated in most probably thousands of books and movies ever since, we should be thankful for that the story this Easter really is part of the Greatest story ever told. 🙂

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