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The Gospels: Part 1 & 2

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Rediscovering Israel Online Biblical Study
Reading Assignment – Pg. 185-220
Reading Time: 6 minutes

When I was young, I had two favorite stories. Had you seen me wearing my white and black spotted sweatsuit with a Dalmatian on the front, sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by all of my Dalmatian stuffed animals, you’d know I absolutely loved the 101 Dalmatians movie.  I never got tired of it! And even though I wore out the VHS tape (oh, I just aged myself 🤦🏻‍♀️) and had it memorized, every time I turned it on, I would see a detail I had never seen before.

Fast-forward 30+ years, and while I still love the 101 Dalmatians, my other childhood favorite story has managed to stay my passion. And all these years later, it’s the one book I just can’t get enough of. 

You’ve probably guessed that it’s the Bible. Four out of the 66 books in my Bible show a little more wear.  They are the ones I am most familiar with, and I will never get tired of reading. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, known as the Synoptic Gospels, tell the story of Jesus’ time on earth. 

If the Bible isn’t the book in my lap, it’s safe to assume it’s another book teaching me more about the Bible. Rediscovering Israel by Kristi McLelland is one of those books.  I’m so thankful to Kristi McLelland for pointing out several new details in the Gospel story I’ve never seen before and summarizing the storyline in a way I’ve never heard. 

What is the Bible’s Story, Anyway?

I grew up with the understanding that Satan is real and he is evil, but also that God is more powerful and more important. Living in the Western world, a large focus of our entertainment has a storyline of good versus evil.  Consequently, it doesn’t surprise me that this concept creeps into our culture’s method of explaining and understanding the Bible. It is true that God is good, and His enemy is evil Satan. 

But Satan is not the opposite of God. God and Satan are not equals! They are on completely different playing fields. The Story of the Bible is not God versus Satan.

Kristi McLelland, Rediscovering Israel, Pg. 187

I have visited many churches over the years that preach hellfire and brimstone as their method of explaining the importance of accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. But the point of evangelism shouldn’t be to make someone so scared of Satan that they turn to Jesus for a “get out of hell free card.” 

My jaw dropped when I read Kristi’s explanation of the perspective of Scripture that she is contending for. I absolutely agree, but can honestly say I’ve never heard it explained this way. And I’m seeing a detail I have never seen before. 

Jesus did not come to save you from the devil; He came to save you from you. He came to change your life in such a way that you become a worthy offering to the world, so that the world will bear witness to Him.

Kristi McLelland, Rediscovering Israel, Pg. 187

I’m so thankful for Kristi’s perspective, which I intend to use to help others better understand the story of the Bible.

Stone! Not Just Wood

Since I’ve read and heard the gospel story hundreds of times, I thought I knew all there was to know about Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph.

Every picture of Joseph in a children’s Bible, every Sunday School lesson, and every devotional depicts and explains that Joseph was a carpenter and he taught Jesus his trade. Almost every translation of the Bible I own says in Matthew 13:55, in reference to Jesus, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” And the same goes for Mark 6:3, “Isn’t this the carpenter?” 

According to vocabulary.com, 
Carpenter (noun): a woodworker who makes or repairs wooden objects. 

As an American who’s spent the majority of her life in the Ohio Valley, along the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by trees, when I hear the word, carpenter, I automatically assume this person works with wood

But Kristi reminded me that Jesus did not grow up in my hometown. He was in a desert mountainous region of the world, where the primary resource used for building was stone. Jesus was a tekton, the Greek word for “artisan” or “builder.” So he may have worked with some wood but it is very safe to assume that He worked primarily with stone. 

With Nazareth being a village of only a few hundred residents, there likely wasn’t enough work for Jesus and Joseph in this town alone. So where did they go to work? Four miles away from Nazareth was a Vegas-like, Hellenistic, Greco-Roman city called Sepphoris, the capital of Herod Antipas’s Galelee until AD 19-20. An average workday likely included Jesus and Joseph walking to Sepphoris to build with stone, earn their wages, then return home to Jewish Nazareth in the evening. Have you ever considered that Jesus may have worked in a place with pagan elements?”

Kristi McLelland, Rediscovering Israel, Pg. 193

I read that quote with wide eyes, and my head tilted to the side. No, nope, nah uh, not for one minute have I ever considered that as a working environment for Joseph and Jesus. 

It is absolutely mind-boggling trying to adjust the picture in my mind of young Jesus and His earthly father. To me, it’s so foreign to consider they worked mainly with stone and were most likely four miles from home in a Greco-Roman city called Sepphoris instead of tucked in a nice little shop in Nazareth making wooden furniture. 

By learning the context of the Bible and getting to know Jesus in His cultural, historical, and geographic world, I’m seeing details I have never seen before! 

Location of Bethany

Years ago, I didn’t pay much attention to the context of the Bible. I thought it was enough to know that Jesus was crucified on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for my sins. I understood that He was the Lamb of God and that after His death and resurrection, no other animal sacrifices were needed. I have to admit, I’m so happy I lived with a child-like faith, not even considering that there could be another motive or reason why Jesus was killed. 

It wasn’t until adulthood that I began to consider why the Jewish leaders were mad enough at Jesus to have Him beaten and crucified. Once I understood that Jesus was considered a “rebel rabbi” and did things differently than the ancient Jewish traditions, my curiosity was satisfied. 

It is a bit unbelievable to me that I have read or heard the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead probably hundreds of times and never even gave the location a thought. Let alone make the connection between the location and Jesus’s death.

Just like I did, sitting down to watch 100 Dalmations, I’m seeing details of the Gospels as I have never seen before! 

“Something about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany causes the religious leaders to react so strongly that they start plotting to take His life. Why is raising Lazarus such a big deal? Location, location, location. Where things happen in Scripture matters as much as what happens. Many of Jesus’ miracles occur in the region of the Galilee.

When He comes close to Jerusalem, He brings the messianic reality to the doorsteps of the Pharisees and Sadducees. As long as Jesus is up north in the Galilee, the religious leaders don’t have to deal with Him, for He does not threaten their dealings in the house of God. Now that Jesus is in Bethany, a couple miles from Jerusalem and the Temple, a reckoning is about to take place.”

Kristi McLelland, Rediscovering Israel, Pg. 210-212

Suddenly, the pieces of the puzzle fit together, and I see a more complete picture. Jesus was more than just a “rebel rabbi”, He was a threat to the religious leaders. Their way of life and even their purpose in their community were in jeopardy. They were more than just mad; they were terrified. 

Always Another Detail

I love that the Bible is the living Word of God, with layer after layer, meaning after meaning, and detail after detail tucked into this amazing story about God’s heart and His indescribable love He has for His people. 

I can confidently say that the Bible will always be my favorite story. I can read and hear the stories millions of times, never tire of it, and continue to learn something new as I see details I’ve never seen before.  

Is the Bible your favorite story, too? Get your Bible Geek t-shirt today!

What details are you seeing for the first time during this Online Biblical Study, Rediscovering Israel?

Shop this study

Rediscovering Israel | Kristi McLelland

A 7-week study to experience Scripture as a timeless, transformational Story demonstrating God’s love and faithfulness. String the Biblical pearls to encounter the Bible as one cohesive storyline, rather than a book of stand-alone accounts.

Rediscovering Israel by Kristi McLelland - Exclusive Spring Study for Annual Members Only | Intentionalfilling.com

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