Imagine Jesus standing on a synagogue platform and unrolling the Torah scrolls. As the community listens, he reads the familiar scriptures and pauses. Everything about the synagogue service has been routine until now, and then Jesus begins his life-changing message.

The Gospels record more than ten occasions when Jesus’ ministry took place in synagogues. Yet most Christian readers have never considered the significance of synagogue life, so central in Jesus’ ministry.

The synagogue provided a ready platform for Jesus’ teachings, and later the apostle Paul. But more significantly, it created a place for Jesus and his early Jewish followers to worship. The synagogue was not simply a place to teach God’s Word, but also a place for Jewish people to cultivate their relationship to God.

Modern Christians may be surprised to discover that many of today’s church practices are based on synagogue customs that Jesus followed. As we walk through the first century synagogue, we can better appreciate the cultural context of Jesus’ ministry, and how relevant his message remains today.

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