Archive for April, 2007

Road to Gaza (part 3)

(As I continue this journey of thoughts and words, I almost feel as if the end of this story may be, somewhat, anti-climatic or leave many readers fogged in mystery, thinking to themselves, “Huh?” At this point, I would like to say this is my “Epiphany” for better words. As I break for the weekend to rest, I want everyone to know I am still walking this journey. If it sheds any Light, that’s a good thing… at least for me and maybe the reader).

Based on several ancient text, there are a few different thoughts about the man named Philip in the above account. Some readers of this “travelers” story consider Philip to be the “Apostle” Philip. Others believe he was a lesser man, Philip the “evangelist” chosen by the “Apostles” to fulfill the duties of a servant in assisting widows and distribution of food freeing up the Apostles to teach. Two different men or just one man could be debated, I’m sure, until the end of time. Yet, Philip the Apostle according to the testimony of John, was a man who knew the law of Moses and the Prophets.

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

-John 1:43-46

Whichever Philip this was, he knew something about the sacred text, the law, the prophets and the good news of Jesus. He had just finished teaching and preaching Jesus when the Spirit of the LORD told him to head South on a certain road the desert road. I’m not sure how the Spirit communicated this but I doubt he could have ignored it. In listening he ended up on the “road to Gaza” and met another man. Not just any old man, he was a foreigner, wealthy, a eunuch and a Jew.

What I know about this Ethiopian man is this:

A foreigner:
He was also “an important official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.” A friend of mine, Nir Alon, in Israel wrote a wonderful piece with incredible photos about the Ethiopian Jewish faith and culture here. This story helped me realize more about this man who Philip encountered from another country. He was no accidental Jewish believer. Nir’s story helped give flesh to this man for the first time in my life.

Wealthy:
In charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He owned a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. The very fact that he owns his own scripture is a sign of wealth. Without the printing press, hand written scrolls were a luxury which many at the time never had. He also had servants and a chariot.

Eunuch:
Another strange thing included was, well he was… a eunuch. YIKES! Some form of this mutilation in ancient times included the removal of one or both lower male genital parts.) I must assume he was a VERY loyal servant to the queen before she became queen and that she trusted him very much with the wealth of her country.

Jew:
TRAIN WRECK!
This wealthy Jewish foreign man travels from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to the Holy city to worship God and make his sacrifice at the Holy Temple and is now on his way home via the road to Gaza. Run on sentence I know, but there is a problem… This was a Holy set apart place. The worship of the Lord in the temple had rules. The Temple mount is even well guarded today and there is no Temple.

According to the Torah, Deuteronomy 23:1, “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.” also, any “alien who wishes to take part in the passover must be circumcised.”

How could this man find his way into the promises of the Lord? How could this covenant be fulfilled with him since the law set him apart?

I can’t help wonder what was going on in this Ethiopian eunuchs mind when he traveled all this way to Jerusalem to present his offering and his pilgrimage ended with a sign that said, “NO EUNUCHS!” Well, there may not have been a sign but the fact of the matter is, Jewish law excluded him from the assembly of the Lord. So after a long journey of seeing the Temple but not being allowed into it, he makes his way home back to Ethiopia. Was he sad? Mad? What was going on in his head? “So close and yet so far.” “How can I ever get into the assembly of the Lord as a man emasculated?” “What kind of loving God would make such a rule?” “My place will always be outside the temple assembly.” “What good is all of this?”

So he heads home on a long journey with scrolls in hand and reads out loud the Prophet Isaiah.

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

-Isaiah 53

peace.
johno~

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Road to Gaza (part 2)

Now enter a story about a two travelers who inspired me.

Acts 8:26-39
Philip and the Ethiopian
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: (Isaiah 53)
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, 
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? 
 For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 37 Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

It’s a fairly simple story, (spared over time, delivered by the Spirit), but it most likely would not rate in the top 100 best known documented stories of this new beginning movement which was sometimes called, “the Way.”

However, it’s in this story I found the name “Road to Gaza.” It’s a simple story of two men, two worlds, two men listening to one God and lastly, a mysterious unknown ending. When I first took the time to really read this story, I would end up asking, “What just happened here?” I’m not sure if I really “got” it the first few times reading it. I guess I would have to say it took several years. Yet, It challenged me to listen, watch and eventually I would act. It is a story that is larger than the recorded words on one page could fill. As I read this story over and over again, I’ve come to see a bigger picture of God’s everlasting story and the LORDS enduring story in my life, because of these two men who met on the road to Gaza.

So the journey continues and soon to follow will be more of my thoughts.

peace.
johno~

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Road to Gaza (part 1)

(This story is a part of who I am. It has help me in my search for myself and how I live and see others. It is also a very long thought. I have decided to make this several parts to keep readers from being bored to tears.)

Not to long ago, one of my dedicated readers sent me a note asking, “Why the ‘Road to Gaza?’” I was eager to answer, however, my feelings or passion to get myself into these words, I knew, would take some time. Time. Some days I have it and some days I don’t. That is a personal struggle and I ask for your prayers not your criticism.

It does seem funny, I suppose from an outsiders view, for a 37 year old, white male American to name his personal weblog, (blog) Road2Gaza. I mean, I’ve never been to Israel or touched foot on any “holy” land in my life. More so, a land called “holy” yet carries generation upon generation of bloodshed and persecution. How could this land be called “holy” set apart. “the land of milk and honey?”

Yet, out of all this, the road to Gaza, out of all the roads to choose from this one road that travels South down from Jerusalem to Gaza would find it’s way in my life.

To give a bit of history regarding this road here is a bit of information regarding Gaza.

Strategically located on the Mediterranean coastal route, ancient Gaza was a prosperous trade center and a stop on the caravan route between Egypt and Syria. The city was occupied by Egypt around the 15th century BCE. Philistines settled the area several hundred years later, and Gaza became one of their chief cities.
In 145 BCE Gaza was conquered by Jonathan the Hasmonean (Brother of Judah the Maccabee). There was a prospering Jewish presence in Gaza until the Roman ruler Gavinius expelled them in 61 CE as part of the First Jewish-Roman War. In the times of the Mishnah and the Talmud there was a large Jewish community in Gaza, and on one of the pillars of the Great Mosque of Gaza there was a Greek inscription which read “Hananiah bar Yaakov” (a Hebrew name) with a menorah carved above it. This column was originally part of a Byzantine-era synagogue, destroyed at an unknown date…

-wikipedia

In short, it was a stop between travels. The “road” to Gaza in any direction would be people coming and going to and from their homes for many reasons… It was a travelers road. It is not about Gaza itself, but the travelers road and those who travel on it.

peace.
johno~

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