Sunday, June 2, 2013

What does "salt of the earth" have to do with a gymnasium?

Sardis, located in present day Turkey
My wife is always telling me that I use too much salt, and when I have my yearly visit to the doctor, this is also confirmed by elevated blood pressure numbers. Before there was refrigeration, salt was used as a preservative. Along these lines, Jesus said in Matthew 5:13, "You are the salt of the earth. If the salt loses its saltiness, it's no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on the ground by men."

In the book of Revelation, Jesus issues a strong warning to the church at Sardis which has lost its saltiness. "I know your deeds. You have a reputation of being alive but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God" (Revelation 3:1-2).

What led Jesus to say such strong words to this community of faith in Sardis? Was it because they were slowly compromising what they believed with the pagans among them? Or where there other reasons that Jesus' words became such a powerful teaching for those believers who chose to live at the crossroads of their world?

One of the most impressive ruins in Sardis (located in present day Turkey) is that of a Greek gymnasium and Roman bathhouse. The gymnasium was the center of Greek culture much as our fitness clubs, athletic centers and gyms are today. But for the Greeks, their gymnasium also served as the center for instruction in literature about the Greek gods, philosophy, math and medicine. They also enjoyed the pleasures and vices of the Roman baths.

The Sardis Gymnasium Synagogue
Here is the amazing thing--In one corner of that immoral, self-glorifying gymnasium, archaeologists have uncovered the largest synagogue of that time period ever found. They discovered defaced pagan symbols on the walls of the synagogue as well as images of the goddess Cybele.

I've always thought that it would be cool to have a church service within a gymnasium and then during the week, the gym would serve to benefit the community with basketball, volleyball, etc. But obviously, there was more going on in the Greek gymnasium than a simple pickup game of basketball.

Here's the question: Did the Jews in Sardis place their synagogue within the walls of the Greek gymnasium in order to influence the Greek citizens or did they adapt to the pagan way of life so much so that they saw no discrepancy between worshiping God and the pagan way of life? In other words, did the believers at Sardis lose their saltiness? Did they compromise with the culture of their day to such an extent that they would be seen by the Lord as asleep or dead? Are we making similar compromises? Are we losing our saltiness? Would the Lord utter similar words about our state of slumber or appearing to be dead? Just wondering?

Follow the Rabbi website
If you want to read more about Sardis and "The Salt of the Earth", go to one of my favorite sights: Follow the Rabbi.

 At Follow the Rabbi, you can learn about the world of Jesus, and journey in the footsteps of the disciples. You'll be able to study the Word in the original context, and explore the culture of Jesus' day. This website is a seminary education in itself since it opens your understanding to the Word of God and it's actual meaning to us through the context of the prophets and the apostles. 

Check it out. You won't be sorry. Follow the Rabbi will help you to better understand the Bible and bring you to a closer relationship with Jesus, the Rabbi of all rabbis, our Lord and Savior. 

No comments:

Post a Comment