Following His denial of the temptations of the devil, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee … and he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all”, Luke 4:14-15. Eighty stone steps and column bases from Nazareth’s ancient synagogue are incorporated into the Synagogue Church. This may be where Jesus preached or possibly a later building used by the town’s first Jewish Christian community.
Jewish worship in the synagogue then, as now, consisted of prayers and readings from the Torah – the Five Books of Moses – the Prophets and the other Biblical Writings. All men were taught to read, although writing was a skill far fewer knew how to perform. Every male over thirteen years of age could be called upon to read during the Sabbath service, and men of wisdom would be invited by the rabbi to give commentary to the texts.
Thus it was natural for Jesus to teach in the synagogues of the Galilee as well as to preach in the open air, as he says in John 18:20 “I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple”. Luke tells of the reaction that day when Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. At first “all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth”.
*And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord… Luke 4:16-21
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