Parables and Miracles

Course: Introduction to the New Testament: Gospel and Acts

Lecture: Parables and Miracles

(The following lecture is on a collection of slides and photos taken from Jericho, the Dead Sea, and the Jericho road and in Jerusalem.)

In this supplemental lecture we return to some PowerPoint slides that illustrate items related to the period of distinctive material from Matthew, Luke and John, added to a basic outside of Mark’s Gospel. We will also proceed to look at some slides which illustrate Jesus’ final journey from Jericho up to Jerusalem and events at the beginning of Passion Week. These slides show the reconstruction of one collection of archeologists informed imagination of a typical Inn such as in the parable of the Good Samaritan where the injured man is taken to. The next slide depicts an unusual photo of a camel pulling a hand crafted plow through a very arid portion of the Judean desert. The follow up slide reflects a more typical hand held plow draw by a donkey or burrow. In other cases, oxen were used but one thinks of the passage unique to Matthew and Luke in chapter 9 where no one can put his or her hand to a plow and look back and be fit for the Kingdom of God. Only looking ahead and down at the ground would enable one to create straight rows. The parable of the lost sheep whether it is one or two different episodes from the Life of Christ as illustrates by photo of a statue and particular Luke’s version in chapter 15 where it speaks of the shepherd picking up the lost sheep and carrying it on his shoulder to keep the sheep as immobilized as possible. The legs would have been drawn together and brought around the shepherd’s neck.

In John’s Gospel, much of the additional material surveyed involves Jesus’ extra trips to Jerusalem at festival times. We return to a scale model mockup of first century Jerusalem as best as it can be reconstructed; as visible at the Holy Land Hotel in West Jerusalem. Another mockup represents the waterway in the Kidron Valley and the bridges across it. Both sides of the valley going up to the walls to the west form the eastern boundary of the walled in portion of Old Jerusalem. Today, it is largely grass and gardens, particularly, the Garden of Gethsemane on the east. It would have been heavily populated on the west side, that which was related to the Temple Prescient. And on the east side with homes and shops of various kinds, looking from that point, the Garden would have just been out of sight.

The next photo is the other possible site of Herod’s Antonia Fortress, supposedly just north of the Royal Porch of the Temple and left of the ancient Sheep’s Gate. The stones actually reflect the fortification of King Solomon. They are not overly different in style and location from what the original fortification might have looked like. The Jaffa Gate where modern transportation can enter the west side of the walled in portion of Jerusalem. Looking across to the western most boundary and King Solomon’s wall of Old Jerusalem and then the light tan colored building furthermore to the right on the horizon, looking as if it is roughly straight from the south, up from the wall, is one of the building from Jerusalem’s University College; formerly the American Institute of Holy Land Studies, which for years has hosted long term study programs throughout Israel reflecting an evangelical Christian perspective.

A view from the air, one can see the Dome of the Rock, the giant golden domed building and the smaller El Axsa Mosque. The Dome of the Rock is the third holiest shrine in Islam after the Mosques of Mecca and Medina, both cities in what Muslim’s believe to be in the life of Muhammad, their prophet. The Dome of the Rock is erected over the traditional place of the near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, or as in Muslim belief, it was Ismael instead of Isaac. So the traditional site where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended into heaven at the end of his earthly life. Although the architecture is quite different from that of the Temple in Jesus’ day, the way in which this mount dominates the skyline as a daily powerful visible reminder of how little the ancient and modern world has changed. The next photo shows a beautiful work of architecture, all the more, coming from the 7th century, the beautiful inlaid tile, the decorative text of the Quran on the beautiful golden dome. It is possible for a Muslim tourist to view the insides, including the very large rock at the center of the mosque. The rock is separated from tourists by a rope keeping the area closed off. A requirement in visiting the rock is that people must take their shoes off upon entering the mosque.

Another view from the south of the Dome toward the southern side of the walled-in portion of Old Jerusalem shows reconstructed steps heading toward what would have been Solomon’s portico in the Temple in Jesus’ day. To this day, the streets and building in the Jewish quarter of Old Jerusalem must (by code) be built to fit into the very ancient buildings and structures immediately around about the area. So, on the left side of this pathway, you can see centuries’ old buildings and on the right, newer modern structures with a discernable difference in the color of the textures of stones, yet clearly the two fit together in ways that fully modern architecture would utterly destroy.

John, in his additional material that we surveyed in our last lectures at the Pool of Bethesda, John 5:1; among other things having five porticos or walkways around the perimeters of the pool. Until the 1890’s, archeologists had not discovered the site and many Biblical critics had assumed that John was merely inventing material, but upon its discovery, it fit the description exactly and reconstruction of it turned out to be twin pools. A walkway divides the two pools into two halves. The five porticos would then have been part of the rectangle surrounding the two pools. The other pool that features significantly in John 9 is the Pool of Siloam going all the way back to the time of the divided kingdom in Israel and Hezekiah’s tunnel adjacent to one end of the pool. Inscriptions also enabled geologists of the 1890’s to discover Hezekiah’s tunnel and depending on the amount of rainfall and hence the level of water in the tunnel and with appropriate clothing, one can walk through this same tunnel as in fact tourists do. Then another end of the Pool of Siloam today is shown spilling out above ground into a retaining tank, a more recently excavated outflow of the portion of the pool.

In John 11 as we come to the end of his traditional material overlapping with the main public segment of Jesus’ ministry. John describes the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus in Bethany and the incident that happened there, including most dramatically, the resurrection of Lazarus. A photo shows a tomb in the foreground, a black plaque with white lettering and white framing in the fore ground reflects a location of where Mary, Martha and Lazarus were discovered, though given the commonality of these names, it’s impossible that a high level of confidence to be sure that this is indeed their tomb, what eventually would have been a family tomb, since Lazarus would have died again, not to be resurrected back to life in this world. But, it is the traditional site in Bethany of this families’ final resting place and as what often happens on the West Bank or in Muslim Palestinian run portions of what once was Jewish territory, a mosque, in this case, a small one with a minaret has been erected next door to a significant Jewish or Christian site to symbolically depict the believed supremacy and victory of Islam over Christianity and Judaism.

As we turn to this series of slides depicting where the synoptic Gospels all rejoin the narrative, interrupted by Luke’s long extensive central section. We find Jesus in the environ of Jericho and then proceeding up the Jericho road coming near the Dead Sea to Jerusalem. The Dead Sea is more than 900 feet below sea level. The modern day highway that retraces much of that same Jericho road has a sign written in Hebrew referring to where the sea level point occurs. Another photo shows another view of the Dead Sea from Masada to remind ourselves of the elevation and its disparities. We are told that Jericho was called the City of Palms from ancient days. These still exist even lushful about the city as a kind of Oases in the Judean wilderness. Another photo shows what might be called the suburbs of Jericho with an expanding neighborhood and yet another shows additional lush greenery and the end of the Jordan River. As one winds their way up the Jericho road alongside the original road, there are still nomadic farmers and shepherds in tents. The photos also shows expanded Jewish settlements but only needs to walk in places, perhaps, one or two hundred yards or meters from the main highway and the semi-arid terrain on one side shows the reality of the real desert with views of sandy hills. In the spring time, however, then parts of the Judean desert can bloom which relates to the Prophet Isaiah and the restoration of Israel. Still further on, one can see vineyards and other plots of land with stone terracing fences and a vineyard tower.

Then reaching the Temple precincts, the massive collection of stone at the southwest corner of the western wall laid and put together showing six or seven layers of stone, formed the massive composite corner stone and very secure foundation, appropriate for imagery like that of Jesus in his description of the wicked tenets where a cornerstone has become rock for those who take offense at Jesus. Yet, another photo of another angle of the southwest wall and excavations at the bottom of the picture which may go back to 1st century Jerusalem, streets and foundations of shops that would have lined those streets. Looking east from the Temple Mount/area around the Dome of the Rock and El Axsa, one sees almost to the bottom of the Kidron Valley, just as one begins to go up the slopes of the hill of olives or mount. We see two of many giant tombs with magnificent memorials erected; the two most prominent ones shown in the photo are of Absalom and Zachariah but probably not pre-dating Christ more than a century or two and therefore we don’t know because they have not be excavated, as to who is indeed buried there.

As one moves closer to the events that lead to Jesus’ death, one reads the tragic story of Judas betrayal and then his remorse and return of the money to no avail. The priest, in turn, buys a field called, ‘acko dama’ meaning ‘blood’ with the money. In the distance, a house with a red tiled roof represents the traditional site of ‘acko dama’. The modern Holocaust Museum contains artwork that depicts mangled bodies and parts as it were with fence and barbed wire, a reminder of a kind of lament that Jesus uttered over Jerusalem and his longing for their response to him and their destiny to have been different, but as he put it, ‘you were not willing.’ On the Mount of Olives is this small chapel known as ‘Jesus Wept’. It is Russian Orthodox and has an off white color making for an impressive picture during somewhat rare light winter snow fall. And then a broader overview of the Mount of Olives with the church at the bottom, built in the 20th century, the Church of All Nations and a second Russian Orthodox Church about two thirds of the way up the hill, immediately behind the Church of All Nations, named after Saint Mary Magdalene. On a threatening cloudy day, with sun appearing through at one angle, a look from the top of the Mount of Olives shows, again, the Temple area, the Dome of the Rock and Kidron Valley. One can imagine the Temple there instead, a picture similar to what Jesus would have seen in his day. He took his disciples to that mount for one last time before his crucifixion. The photo shows both Old and New Jerusalem across from the Mount of Olives, from just a slightly more southern advantage point. A good portion of these slopes are taken up a densely populated Jewish Cemetery. It is a great honor to be buried in this cemetery on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, not least, has the Jewish tradition that those buried here will be raised first in the final resurrection of the dead and will accompany the Messiah and Zachariah. The prediction is that Jesus will return on the Mount of Olives and those who rise from the dead with accompany Jesus as he marches into Old Jerusalem in triumph.

That tradition is what caused Sula Mon and other Muslim leaders to wall up the beautiful Eastern Gate or Golden Gate so that now we simply have an outline of stone of where this double entrance way once stood. Believing in so doing, these Muslim leaders were preventing the Messiah from coming back reclaiming the city as prophecy has foretold. Another photo shows an angle looking straight on at the gates. The parable of the sheep and goats comes in Matthew 25 as part of Jesus’ teaching, just before Thursday night of Passion Week and the photo shows slopes just south of Old Jerusalem where sheep and goats graze together. Both by western standards somewhat scrawny, white and black, not always separable by outward appearance which is part of the message of Matthew 25:31-46, making imagery of Christian and non-Christians. And then we have another look down at the Field of Blood, red tiles roof house and what would have been the southern end of the Valley of Gehenna. The imagery of hell was derived from a place of child sacrifices in Old Testament times, a perpetual burning garbage dump in later centuries. But the north of the valley is a modern park enabling one to go down a path from the Jerusalem University College and its environs on the east side in Old Jerusalem and then cross over and up into the hotel and shopping districts in modern day West Jerusalem.