Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Even though this cave is in Galilee, the guide used it to explain to us the cave where Jesus was born. He said that the people lived in the front part of the cave which is higher than the back part. The animals lived in the lower back part (of course it did not have columns.) There was no room for Mary and Joseph in the upper front part of the cave, so they were put in the lower back part with the animals. The guide pointed out that Luke in Greek uses the same word, "katalyma," for the space that had no room for Mary and Joseph and also for the space where Jesus arranged to eat the Last Supper with his disciples. Interesting that we sometimes speak of the the Last Supper taking place in the "Upper Room." I wondered whether this meant the Jesus and his disciples ate in the upper front part of a cave!
Because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in this front space, Luke says that the newborn baby was laid in a manger, an action he mentions three times in his brief account of the birth. The manger with hay in it for the animals would have been a rock shelf on the wall or a free standing trough. Ray Brown in his commentary, "The Birth of the Messiah," thinks that Luke wants to remind his readers of Isaiah 1:3 in which God complains, "The ox knows its owner; and the donkey knows the manger of its lord; but Israel has not known me; my people has not understood me." Now here in Bethlehem, Brown suggests, God's people have begun to know the manger of their Lord.