Today, we are acknowledging what has become known as the Protestant Reformation, one of the cataclysmic changes in Christian understanding that reshaped the world as we know it.
A trip to Israel illustrates and reminds us that the greatest reformation by far came in the person of Jesus Christ, a relative nobody, a tradesman from an inconsequential village in the upper reaches of the outback of Palestine.
Just one little Jesus tidbit from 10 days ago:
We were in Nazareth, a bustling Palestinian town today, largely Muslim, under which the 1st-century village of Jesus lies hidden. When new buildings are constructed and ancient things found, there is a legal compulsion to stop so excavation can happen. A recent find includes a 10th-century Crusader church on top of a 4th-century Byzantine chapel, on top of a 1st-century house with a magnificent tomb cut in the rock under the house.
This fits exactly with the description in the trip notes of Aculf, a German pilgrim to Nazareth in the 7th century. He describes a Byzantine church over a house with a tomb dedicated to “the righteous man” inside it, which is exactly what we see today.
That succession of churches indicates a line of tradition and a physical providence of the importance of the place. Aculf seals this and attributes the tomb.
Nazareth was a Jewish village. Tombs were always outside the city. There were only two exceptions – tombs for kings and tombs for particularly holy or righteous people. Since there were no kings in Nazareth, who might be “righteous” enough to have a tomb inside the town?
(Now everything from here on is pure conjecture.)
The term “righteous man” is not used lightly or casually. Remember Joseph of Arimathea who buried Jesus? He was “a good and righteous man”. Was there a righteous man in Nazareth? Well, in Matthew 1:19 we read, “Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man ……” This was after the betrothal to Mary but before the wedding. Joseph had the designation “righteous”.
Were we standing in the home of Joseph, husband to Mary, a “righteous man” so highly regarded that he was deemed worthy of burial inside the city?
If that was a possibility, who cut the tomb – the very carefully cut, beautiful tomb?
Jesus was a carpenter. Wasn’t he? Actually, yes and no. Jesus was a “tekton”, a builder. One visit to Nazareth makes it instantly clear that there is way more rock than wood. Builders may have finished in wood but they built in stone. Jesus was a stonemason!
Were we standing outside the tomb Jesus cut for his father, village elder, an honourable and righteous man?
Who knows? But it does make your spine tingle.
Good to be back,