Nazareth Village interest highest everBy Rosabeth Birky Koehn Mennonite Mission Network
Linford Stutzman, professor of culture and mission at Eastern Mennonite University and a co-leader with Gerber and others, said: “I had known Jesus, the living word, but I had never known the living world of Jesus. Jesus had entered my world but I had never entered his.”
One member of Gerber and Stutzman’s group, Conrad Grebel, University College student Cassie Mathies, better understood Jesus’ socio-political reality after experiencing his physical reality.
Mathies’ group re-enacted the moment when Jesus entered the synagogue and read from Isaiah, proclaiming the fulfillment of the prophecy about his mission (Luke 4:16-19).
In the Nazareth Village synagogue, the group divided into the different social groups that would have originally heard Jesus’ message — the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Zealots and the farmers. They placed themselves in the traditional synagogue seating arrangement based on the social hierarchy of the day and then discussed how each group would have responded to Jesus’ words.
John Mark Stratford, part of a Bluffton (Ohio) University Middle East tour, wrote: “Much of our time traveling around Israel and Palestine we saw ruins.”
Nazareth Village, however, was not ruins, Stratford wrote.
“On our tour I came close to getting to experience what being alive during biblical times would have been like,” he wrote.
Bluffton students not only observed Nazareth Village’s ministry, but helped enact it. After a brief tour, students donned first-century garb and joined the village’s population for the day.
Randy Keeler, Bluffton professor of religion and trip leader, praised Nazareth Village for offering, not a hard gospel message, but “a soft voice speaking the reality of the life of Christ,” he said.
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