Ministry in the Towns and Villages of Galilee: Nain
Summer 31 AD

 

"Jesus was a wanderer, a walker wherever he went. His staff in his hand, his knees punching the front on his robe, he strode the lesser paths, never hurrying. At every village he turned aside and spent time with the villagers. A day or two, five days, the Sabbath. He ate with them, slept wherever offered shelter, talked. Taught. Healed." (Excerpt from the novel “Jesus,” by Walter Wangerin Jr.)


Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus did not conduct a ministry of baptism, nor did he preach only to those who came to him. His ministry was not about solitude. Rather, he went to the people and even sought them out, healing the sick, raising the dead and urging those who heard him to repent of their sins in preparation for the coming of the kingdom of God. Whereas John was fiery and passionate, Jesus was gentle and persuasive. His was a message of joy. In Galilee Jesus experienced many successes. Most of his listeners were impressed by his learning and deeply affected by his message. However, some were hostile, especially in his own hometown of Nazareth, where he received one of his worst receptions.


In the footsteps of Jesus...


From Bethsaida, we head back to Nazareth to explore the Arab souk (market or bazaar) (below left) and keepsakes and gifts for friends and family back home. It's also time for a late lunch and we've heard that Nazareth has the best falafel (below right) in Galilee.

Even today the atmosphere seems quite similar to that at the time of Jesus. The streets are narrow, crowded and exotic. The deeper we go in the market, the smaller the shops become ... and the lower the prices. Our guide cautions us to stay out of the trench running down the center of the street as much as possible, for obvious reasons — it's the donkey trail.

Within the tin-roofed shops is a wide assortment of goods for sale: shofars (ram's horn trumpets), scarves, leather belts and handbags, plastic buckets and jewelry, spices, coffee (small cups of a Turkish brand — hot, strong and sweet — are passed around to sample), kaffeyehs (Arab headdresses) and kippot (Jewish skullcaps). "Be sure to shop around and, above all, bargain for everything. Its expected, you know!"

From Nazareth we are back on Road 60, heading south to Afula, the commercial, administrative and transportation center for the Jezreel Valley. Because it lay on the Via Maris, the thoroughfare for armies and caravans making their way between Mesopotamia and Egypt, the Jezreel Valley was the scene of countless Old Testament-era battles. From Afula, we follow Road 65 up the hill, noting again the spectacular views of the Jezreel Valley on our right. The road passes Givat HaMore to the junction with a short road on the right, leading through fields of sunflowers, to the Arab village of Naim, biblical Nain, 6 miles southeast of Nazareth, on the lower slope of Mount Moreh.


Nain


At Nain, Jesus was moved to raise a widow's only son from the dead as his body was being taken for burial:


"Soon afterwards, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, 'Don't cry.' Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, 'Young man, I say to you, get up!' The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. 'A great prophet has appeared among us,' they said. 'God has come to help his people.' This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country" (Luke 7:11-17).


(Above left) modern Naim (ancient Nain, Arabic Nein) on the lower slope of Mount Moreh; (Above right) In the middle of the village, overlooking Mount Tabor (left side of photo), is the Nain church, built by the Franciscans in 1880 on the site of an earlier Crusader church commemorating Jesus' miracle.

Nain (probably of Hebrew origin, meaning "beauty") is nestled on a plateau on the lower northwestern slopes of Har (mount) Moreh, southeast of Nazareth. Also known as "Little Hermon," Mount Moreh rises 1815 feet above sea level and is parallel to Mount Gilboa to the south. It was here in Old Testament times that Gideon and his army of 300 (pared down from 32,000), armed with trumpets, torches and swords, attacked and routed a superior force of Midianites (Judges 7:1-25).

Medieval pilgrims mentioned a church at Nain that was later incorporated into a mosque. In 1181, the Franciscans built a modern chapel in the center of the town. Outside the village, to the west, are some tombs of a Roman necropolis (Greek, "city of the dead"), in other words, a cemetery.

Jesus' Life Home n Continue to Mount Tabor (site of the Transfiguration?)