Sunday, February 10, 2019

John 2-4

John 2: 1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee;

The modern day town of Kafr Kanna with almond blossoms in the foreground. This city is the traditional site of the wedding miracle of water to wine, but the more likely site of the biblical town of Cana is identified by ruins at the base of the distant hills on the northern edge of the Netofa Valley that runs between the two ranges of hills in the top right of the photo. Regrettably I have never been able to visit that site.

This interesting blog post shows the ruins of the biblical town of Kirbet Cana.

Traditional site of Cana. Today's Cana is just to the northeast of Gath-Helper

Modern Day Cana is an Arab town that is mostly Muslim.

The Wedding Church of Cana

Wine receptacles

Grapes on the alter

John 4: 5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

 Jacob's Well by David Roberts. (1839)

 Nablus/Shechem (1839)

Modern day Nablus. Jacob's well (and Joseph's tomb) lower right corner.

Shechem/Sychar/Nablus (1982 photo) from the southeast with Mt Gerzim (left) and Mt Ebal (right). Jacob's Well--the ancient main source of water for the city and where the Woman of Samaria met Jesus, sits between the mountains on the southeast end of town. In the 5th century BC Samaritans built a temple on Mt. Gerzim (a rival to the temple in Jerusalem), hence the Samaritans woman's comment about having a rival mount to worship on. The temple was destroyed before the time of Jesus but to this day Samaritans continue to hold Passover animal sacrifices on the mount.

Modern-day Samaritan priest in Nablus (1982)

While living in Nazareth (1988-89) I would often travel to Jerusalem. My mode of travel was always aboard Israeli run Egged buses. There were three options; 1) Nazareth to Beit Shean, down the Jordan valley to Jericho and then up to Jerusalem; 2) Nazareth to Hadera, south to Tel Aviv and then up to Jerusalem; or 3) Nazareth to Nablus and then through the hills of Samaria further south to Jerusalem. The third option was the most direct, but it went straight through the West Bank during the height of the Intifada (Palestinian uprising) and was thus not the safest option. I thus alternated between the two other routes.

I first visited Nablus in 1982 as a BYU study abroad student. As part of that field trip we visited Jacob's Well and a Samaritan Synagogue on the slopes of Mt Gerzin. As we were descending from the synagogue some Palestinian boys pelted our bus with stones--assuming we were Israeli visitors to the city. The front wind shield of the bus was cracked and one rock came through an open window and hit one of the professor's wives. That incident was during a fairly safe time in the Holy Land.

In 1989 Nablus was no longer as safe for such field trips. That I knew, but the geographer in me wanted to see the West Bank and Nablus once again. So, I took the early morning, once-a-day-bus to Jerusalem via Nablus and the West Bank. I figured that this route would not be very popular. It wasn't. Except for me, all of the passengers were Israeli soldiers in olive green uniforms coming and going from duty in the occupied territories with its daily confrontations between stone throwing Palestinian boys and rubber bullet shooting Israeli soldiers. I was the only unarmed person on the bus. As our red and white bus approached Nablus from the northwest, it stopped to have metal gratings placed on the front wind shields to protect them from stones. As we drove (me very wide eyed) through town nothing happened. South of town just past Jacob's Well the gratings were removed and many of the soldiers got off at a military installation to begin their duty. Our bus proceeded on to Jerusalem without incident.

During the time of Jesus, Galilean Jews traveling to Bethlehem to be taxed or to Jerusalem for one of the religious holy days would have had similar travel and safety choices: the coastal Via Maris or the Jordan River valley were less direct but they both skirted rival Samaria. Unlike most other travelers, Jesus on at least one journey chose not to avoid Samaria. He ventured in to "enemy territory" where he reached out to those who were traditionally scorned by the Jews. In particular he reached out to a troubled woman of Samaria and offered her living waters.

Years later as the first bishop of the newly created Spring Creek 18th Ward, it was my responsibility to select wall decorations for my office. One of the several paintings I chose was Carl Bloch's Jesus with the woman at the well. I chose it because it represented Jesus reaching out with love and forgiveness to a woman, a Samaritan, and a sinner. Many times when visiting with people in my office I referred to that painting and that story as a reminder of how loving, kind, forgiving and welcoming Jesus is to all.

John 4: 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

Large ruins of the Nabatean town of Avdat on the caravan route between Petra and Gaza. The hole in the center is a collapsed roof of a broken cistern.

Collecting rain water run off into cisterns is a common way to store winter rain water for use in the long hot summer. By the end of the dry season the remaining water can be pretty rank. This broken cistern was no longer in use and it was uncovered leading to the gross green color.

The fortress of Masada had large cisterns which made it livable for King Herod and later Jewish zealots

This ancient and large cistern still has plastered walls to help hold in the water.

Ramla on the coastal plain half way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was once a provincial Arab Capital, It is now a mixed Arab-Jewish city.

Ramla has no natural source of water (rivers or springs) so its residents survived for centuries on water collected in large cisterns. Now the city is connected to the National Water Carrier which brings in water from the Sea of Galilee. No longer needed, one of its largest cisterns has been turned into a water park, where visitors can rent row boast to float around the underground enclosure.

Cistern water insured survival, but the flowing and fresh living waters of rivers, springs and wells have always been much more preferable. Here is the Dan spring in Northern Israel that feeds the Dan River that is one of the three main tributaries of the Jordan River.

Fresh, life giving water seems to bubble up every where.

In not time those springs have formed a river.

The springs of Banias at the base of Mt. Hermon and a second source of the Jordan River.

Elisha's Spring in Jericho. This spring has enabled Jericho to be one of the longest continually inhabited cities on earth.

BYU Professor Craig Manscill cooling off with some refreshing water from the spring.  

Both Jesus and Jeremiah used living water as a teaching tool:

Jeremiah 2: 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

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