Archaeologists Find A Second Synagogue In The Hometown Of Mary Magdalene

In the ancient Jewish community of Migdal, also known as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, archaeologists discover the ruins of a 2,000-year-old synagogue found just within the vicinity of another synagogue known as Magdala. This is the first time two synagogues dating back to the Second Temple period have been discovered in a single community. 

Where Is Migdal

Migdal is a town in the Northern District of Israel that has a shoreline on the Sea of Galilee including the Tamar, Ilanot, and Arbel beaches. Its name came from a city in the Second Temple period called Magdala. In 1908 a group of German Catholics identified the site as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. The closest towns are Tiberias and Ginosar. 

During the first century, Migdal was known as a popular fishing village and the center of Jewish living.  In biblical texts, it is referred to as the ‘Tower of Fishes’ or ‘Magdala Nunayya’. The recently found ruins fit the description and location within ancient texts. 

Who Was Mary Magdalene

It might be interesting to know that Magdalene is not actually Mary’s last name but comes from the area in which she lived, Magdala. She was a follower of Jesus, a witness to his crucifixion and his resurrection. She is mentioned twelve times in the New Testament which is more than any other woman named in the Bible. There are many controversies surrounding who Mary Magdalene was; one of which is that she was never a prostitute. What is not debated is that Mary Magdalene spent a lot of time with Jesus and his disciples and is often referred to as the ‘apostle of apostles’ for that reason. 

sea of galilee

How Can I Visit Migdal

Friendships tours offer an Israel tour that tours many biblical sites mentioned in the Bible. Along this tour, you will take a memorable boat ride on the Sea of Galilee where the Migdal shore shares its sands. Migdal sits between Tiberias and Ginosar. Another tour offered is the Israel and Jordan tour which will also land in Tiberias near Migdal. Though these tours have similar sites that are visited they do have their differences making them unique tours in themselves. 

In light of the recent findings, it is imagined that Mary Magdalene along with her family and other community members visited this synagogue to participate in religious and communal events. According to the ancient texts, early Christians were known to gather socially and study biblical teachings. With more discoveries of ancient ruins, we can learn and understand in greater detail the people and their cultures that lived thousands of years ago. 

Photo @Steven_Van

Celebrating Easter And The Jewish Passover Connection

Spring is a time when everything in nature starts to bloom, the birds start singing outside of your window and the promise of warmer weather is just around the bend but it is also a time of celebrating the most important aspects of our Christian and Jewish faith.

What Is The Significance Of Easter

Easter is typically celebrated in the U.S. on the first Sunday after the 14th day of the month; celebrating God’s victory over death through the crucifixion and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus sits at the core of Christianity as Christians believe that whoever believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior will no longer be a slave to sin and receive eternal life. Celebrating the day Jesus rose from the grave, in turn, celebrates mankind’s freedom from sin and a new life with Christ. Though Easter is not a celebration that occurred during biblical times it later became one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar following the celebration of Passover.

The apostle Paul said that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and hope are in vain (1 Cor. 15:14). Without the resurrection, faith and preaching of the good news would be non-existent as Jesus would have only been seen as another teacher or prophet. The resurrection, however, became the foundation of everything; affirming that Jesus was not only the prophesied Messiah of Israel but the King of a new Jerusalem.

Today, Christians worldwide celebrate Easter in a variety of ways including non-religious traditions like Easter egg hunts with baskets full of goodies. Other meaningful traditions include making resurrection rolls that teach children about the empty tomb or decorating with Easter lilies as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice and the new life we have through Him.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – (1 Peter 1:3)

What Is The Significance Of The Jewish Passover

In the book of Exodus, specifically chapter 12, God instructs Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites in Egypt to mark their houses with the blood of a lamb so that when the angel of death came by it would ‘pass over’ their house and thereby spare their firstborn son which was ultimately a prophecy of Gods own son Jesus Christ who would later die on the cross for man’s sins that all would be saved. Within the first five books of the Bible, God gives instructions about the Passover with details on how to observe it once the Israelites left Egypt. These include Numbers 9:1-4, 28:16-25, Deuteronomy 16:1-6, and Leviticus 23:4-8. These references also reveal that God did not intend for the Passover to be a one-time event but instead an annual feast where the Israelites would show remembrance of how God saved them which even Jesus commemorated with His disciples before being turned over to the soldiers of the High Priest Caiaphas.

The Feast of the Unleavened Bread begins with the Passover meal on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month (which Easter follows) and lasts seven days. Together, these feasts commemorate Israel’s freedom from slavery in Egypt.

Why Both Hold An Even Greater Significance

The Passover was a feast for the Israelites to remember what God did for them and how He delivered them from the bondage of slavery they were in but there was an even greater significance to this feast as it pointed the Israelites to the coming Messiah who would eventually come to earth to free man from sin of whom we know as Jesus Christ.

The Israelites were to know Him through the blood of a slain lamb which was a sign pointing to Christ as the Lamb of God (Son of God). “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Yet, even when Jesus came and walked on earth they did not recognize Him.

When Jesus himself sat down to have the Passover meal with His disciples he spoke these words which shifted how his followers would see the Passover. He said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28) Jesus claimed himself as the Passover lamb knowing that he soon would be sacrificed and that through His sacrifice all that believed would be saved.

“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and as He told Thomas in John 14:6 “no one comes to the Father except through me”. As you celebrate the Passover feasts and Easter this season may you reflect on all that God has done for you and how He has been ‘Your’ Savior in this world.

Image credit @ slgckgc

Reinvigorate Your Bible Reading And Preaching With A Pastors Bible Tour Of Israel

Imagine being able to experience places of the Bible while on a tour of Israel with your church family where you can tangibly witness everything you’ve learned through your studies of God’s word. On a January tour in 2022 we will take you along a variety of sites like that of the first miracle in Cana, along the Sea of Galilee in a boat replica like one that was used in Jesus’ day, the Garden of Gethsemane, Mary’s Well, the Church of All Nations and the remains of the Second Temple, amongst many more.

Mary’s Well

Also known as ‘the spring of the Virgin Mary’, Mary’s Well is the place believed to be where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary announcing that she would bear the Son of God, Jesus Christ. It is located in downtown Nazareth along the main road. Today sits a modern version of the well as the original well house structure was demolished and rebuilt in the 1960’s. The ancient trough was used by women and animals for drinking water which came from natural springs and was an important source of running water during that time. Having fresh water was crucial for the villages and later in Roman times, a series of tunnels was constructed into the rock so that water could be distributed to the homes within the surrounding area. This fresh running water system was used throughout the ages.

Cana- Site Of The First Miracle

The site of the first miracle happened in Cana during a wedding. During this time frame, weddings were celebrated for seven days and were considered a family honor. Food and wine were supplied by the bride and groom’s families and flowed freely over the period of seven days. To run out was considered a dishonor to the family name as it implied that the hosts were thoughtless or impoverished. When Mary noticed that the wine was running low she went to Jesus and asked him for help knowing that if she couldn’t find a solution her family name would be shamed. As the bible tells us, Jesus took six jars filled with water and turned them into wine that was better than the wine that had already been served. This turning of water that was traditionally used for ceremonial cleansing into the best wine was a representation of the blood of Jesus that would later be shed for the forgiveness of man’s sins.

Sea Of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is a lake set amongst the hills in northern Israel. From a distance, it resembles the shape of a heart. It is also one of the lowest-lying bodies of water on earth. Other names for it include the Lake of Gennesaret, Lake Chinnereth, Lake Kinneret and the Sea of Tiberias. The Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake that is fed by the Jordan River as well as drained by it and serves as Israel’s main water reservoir though it can be limited based on the year’s water level. During the time of Jesus, more than 200 boats were known to fish its waters and export their catch-all over the Roman world. This is also the same body of water where Jesus is known to calm the storm and walk on water.

Garden Of Gethsemane

This garden is most famously known as the place where Jesus would spend his final hours in prayer before he was betrayed and arrested. To this day, olive trees line the garden and are a mark of history’s past. Olive oil was of great significance during this time as it was used for anointing oil, in oil lamps, for cleaning, cooking and medicinal uses. The name Gethsemane is composed of two words, Gat and Shemanei, which literally mean olive press. To this day olive oil is still pressed annually from the ancient trees that grow in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Church Of All Nations

Antonio Barluzzi was the Italian architect that built the Church of all Nations in 1924. Incorporated within its design is Islamic architectural features along with a Christian basilica in the front. On the same grounds of the church are remnants of a Byzantine church that were built in the 4th century and was later converted to a basilica by the Crusaders. Traces of this church can be seen inside through the most prominent aspect of the church is the presbytery and high altar which are behind a large piece of rock that is believed to be where Jesus prayed the night before his betrayal.

Remains Of Second Temple

The Second Temple played a major role in the life of the Jewish people as it was considered a holy site. Originally constructed by King Soloman in the mid 10th century upon the Temple Mount, a hill in Jerusalem known as ‘the place that the Lord will choose’, it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Cyrus the Great later decreed about half a century later that the temple be rebuilt so that exiles who were driven out by the Babylonians could return. Construction of the Second Temple began in 521 B.C. and was completed in 515 B.C. Around 20 B.C. Herod the Great enlarged and refurbished the temple only to again be destroyed during the time of the rebellion against Rome leaving us today with the remains of the Second Temple; most prominently the Western Wall.

This is just the surface of everything you will learn and experience on this tour of Israel next January on the 17th through the 25th in 2022. Click the link below for more details.

Pastors Bible Tour of Israel

Tips For Doing A Family Bible Study From Home

Now that almost everyone is home with their families because of Covid-19, many are taking the time to be intentional with their relationships. Outside of taking care of the daily responsibilities of work and online schooling, families are spending more quality time with their loved ones. One way of doing this is gathering together as a family and doing bible studies in their home. Since going to church is not an option currently, families are watching online church services and spending more time studying the word of God. How each family member does this is unique to the individual family but here are some tips for doing a family Bible study from home.

Go Into It With Purpose

Purpose is key in everything we do. Our purpose as Christians is God’s will and design for our lives. To be productive, fruitful and thriving, it’s important that we walk with purpose and that goes for every area of life and in everything that we do. Coming together as a family unit to study the Bible and its truths allows for us to engage in powerful moments as a family. We want to be intentional and purposeful with how we engage so knowing our families dynamics will help us to strategize a plan that will fit our families personalities, needs and desires with intention and purpose.

The main objective is to grow in our relationship with Jesus but how we go about that will look different from one individual or family to the next. Before sitting down for a Bible study with your family ask them some questions. Find out what they want to learn or questions they have of their own. See what interests them. This will help you decide where to start. Incorporate a time of reading, discussion, worship and prayer with a start and end time so everyone knows what to expect. There isn’t one rule of thumb on the order of how you do things but because everyone experiences the Holy Spirit differently, it’s important that this time offers a variety of ways to engage in God’s presence. Having a course of action that is tailored for your family will allow for this time to be interactive, relational and productive.

Be Creative And Have Fun

Let’s face it. Our kids don’t always want to sit down and do Bible studies as a family. It’s common for children of all ages to look at this time as ‘boring’ or a time where they express they would rather be doing something else, but as parents we see the bigger picture of what this time holds for their personal growth and relationship with Jesus which is why creativity may be necessary in order to get our kids involved. When we sit down with our family and ask them what they would like to learn we may also want to ask what ideas they have to ensure this time together as a family is fun for them. Incorporating their ideas will cause them to naturally engage versus them feeling like they are forced to.

Depending on your family unit, creativity will vary. If you have very small children then incorporating games, music, drawing or coloring may be necessary to keep them engaged. Young children often learn best through forms of music and games that incorporate memorization skills. Family units that have large age gaps between children may need to incorporate these ideas while engaging older kids in discussion times. Younger kids can work on coloring pages or drawings that have to do with the central theme while the adults and older children have deeper discussion. Even playing games like Bible trivia can be incorporated with older ages, providing a relaxed and fun atmosphere that they are more likely to engage with.

family bible study

Don’t Be Rigid!

However you go about starting your family Bible study from home, be sure that as you start to settle into a routine that you change things up along the way. It’s helpful to have an expectation of what this time will look like but sometimes routine can cause us to lose interest which is why changing things up can prove to be beneficial. Point being….don’t be rigid! God does not live in a box and neither should we. There’s freedom in Christ which enables us as followers of Christ to move freely in our relationship with Him. As we seek to deepen our relationships we must be willing to try new things.

God has so much for us that He wants us to discover and being able to experience those new found discoveries with our family is certainly special. Ultimately it is God’s plan that prevails so while we go into things with our own plans it’s important that we always leave room for flexibility and change. As we spend time together as a family during these unprecedented times we have an opportunity to go deeper into our relationships with each other and with God. Choosing to allow God to direct our paths along the way is essential in discovering what it is that He is saying and leading us to. We can read the Bible front to back a hundred times but without God’s direction we will most likely not hear His truths the way He intends us to, so creating routines that provide space for the Holy Spirit to move is key as we do Bible studies from home with our families.

God’s Agenda

God’s agenda is always to bring His kingdom here on earth. As we press into our relationship with Him both intimately and as a family unit we will find that how God moves in our lives is never just for us but for others as well. The graceful work He does in our hearts is always with the intention that we would be able to take the same love that Jesus pours out on us and pour it out to others. Our lives are meant to be an example of Christ-particularly His love which supersedes all human understanding. As we spend time doing Bible studies from home with our families lets always remember to place God’s agenda as the priority. It’s not just about our growth and blessing but how those things can bless others and help them to grow in their walks with the Lord too.

This is a very interesting time in which we live. We will find that even though we are home more and have less distracting us in life, we can always find things to keep ourselves busy. However, the hope is that this time can be productive as we take advantage of opportunities like we never have before; specifically in our relationships. There will come a day when we are able to go back to work, school, the gym, sports, events, etc but will we enter back into those things with thriving, healthy relationships or will we enter the future with what we had before which left us feeling unfulfilled, lost, alone, disconnected and possibly broken. We often feel like we don’t have enough time in our days to pour into what’s most important to us and now we find ourselves with that opportunity. An opportunity that will not go on forever. Taking the time that we now have to feed our relationships is vital. Whatever the future may be, a fruitful and thriving future is what we all long for.