A New Year…

We are living in the midst of an unfolding New Year… The Christian New Year began in Advent before the celebration of Christmas, The Calendar New Year began on January 1st, and the Lunar New Year was ushered in just this past weekend. Each New Year offers us opportunities to learn about, experience and discover things around us and within us in new and deeper ways… so that we can come to appreciate and understand more fully the wonder of the lives we have been blessed to live and to share. What is it that you are hoping to learn more about or experience or discover in this New Year? Perhaps you have heard or read about how just last year, in 2016, Biblical Archeologists made some amazing discoveries. These three are not only interesting, but underscore the historical validity of The Bible.
 
Stone jar factory found near Cana
 
Recent excavations in a cave halfway between Cana and Nazareth uncovered a 2000-year-old quarry where stone vessels were produced. The cave, hewn of chalkstone, revealed numerous stone vessels; cups, bowls, and large stone jars, in various stages of production. In the first century, Jews in Galilee used pots and storage jars made of stone, as they did not become ritually impure. In John 2:1-11, John tells about Jesus turning the water into wine in stone jars during the wedding at Cana. The cave’s proximity to Cana suggests it may have been the source of the water jars that were used for the wedding in Cana attended by Jesus and his disciples.
 
Lachish gate shrine illustrates Hezekiah’s reforms
 
In the ruins of a shrine excavated next to the gate of Lachish, the largest city of the kingdom of Judah after Jerusalem, archaeologists found an altar, within one of the rooms in the city gate, with the horns intentionally broken off from each corner. This is believed to be evidence of the reforms of King Hezekiah, who “removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles” as part of his reforms (2 Kgs 18:4). They also discovered a stone chair with a hole in the middle, which archaeologists have identified as a toilet, in the corner of the room. This suggests an intentional desecration of the gate-shrine, and is reminiscent of the Bible’s description of Jehu turning the temple of Baal in Samaria into a latrine (2 Kgs 10:27).
 
Unsealing the tomb of Christ
 
For the first time since at least 1555 AD, the purported tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was unsealed, revealing the surface of the limestone burial bed on which it is believed Jesus’ body lay. The burial bed had been covered with a marble slab centuries ago to prevent pilgrims from chipping off pieces of the tomb as souvenirs. After removing the marble slab, archaeologists were surprised to find a layer of fill, and then a second marble slab with a cross carved into its surface. The researchers had been given only 60 hours to complete their work. Just hours before their time was up, the original limestone surface of the burial bed where the body of Jesus was believed to have been laid after his crucifixion was uncovered and found intact. While it is impossible to know conclusively that this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth described in the Gospels, the historical claims of the site are significant and nothing initially discovered in the recent unsealing would contradict the long-standing Christian tradition that this is the original empty tomb of Jesus.
 
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” In this New Year may we all be blessed to make new, exciting discoveries about our lives, our faith, our families, our church, our community, our world and our God.
 
Grace and Peace,
 
Pastor Mark