I know I’ve said it before but it really is true. When you make a trip to Israel, your understanding of Bible passages changes. Let me give you an example. I just finished reading the book of Romans. Paul finishes the letter telling them that he is ready to go back to Jerusalem with a financial gift of support from the churches across Macedonia and Corinth for the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. He knows that he is headed into trouble because those of the Jewish faith were fiercely opposed to Christian beliefs. On his way to Jerusalem, he makes a stop in Caesarea before finally going up to Jerusalem. He will eventually return to Caesarea as a prisoner and be held there for two years before being sent on his way on a ship, still as a prisoner, to Rome.
When we arrived in Israel, the first place we toured was that ancient city, Caesarea. Excavations have made it clear to see that it was a large, thriving seaport with several amazing architectural structures that would make it a beautiful city indeed. Set on the beautiful blue green waters of the Mediterranean, Herod’s palace was centered between two main attractions to the city: a huge ampi-theater and a very impressive arena, comparable to modern stadiums. Theater type plays, celebrations, and speeches were performed in the Ampitheater. Just a short walk away, was the Arena where chariots were raced in an oval with much fanfare. It was also the gruesome scene of Christians being chased and put to death. In the center of these two amazing structures is the excavation of the remains of Herod’s elaborate temple. A freshwater pool was fed by an aquaduct which brought fresh water from Mt. Hermon, many miles away. As you stand in what used to be Herod’s palace, you have a view of the most beautiful blue-green sea that you can imagine. You really do have to see it in person to capture the beauty.
I have now stood in the place where Paul would have given his statement, (aka, testimony) before Festus and Agrippa. I have also experienced the firm beliefs of the Jews that Christian beliefs are harmful to them. Both of those experiences make me understand more fully why Paul refused to go back to Jerusalem for trial. I also understand that Paul, being sure by the Holy Spirit, understood that he was to go to Rome.
I have a living map in my mind as I read in Paul’s letters that he wants to travel to Jerusalem. Now, I read between the lines and hear the compassion and drive Paul has for his fellow countrymen-something I didn’t really comprehend before. His frequent encouragement for the Gentile believers to give financial relief to the poor Jewish believers really shows me the depth of love that Paul had, even knowing how much they hated him. Knowing this now, brings a sense of awe. I can feel the great sadness that Paul must have had for Jerusalem.
These pictures were taken quickly, but I hope you can see just a little bit of what we saw. As a novice tourist, the fast pace we were always in, and the sheer amount of information made it impossible to ponder or process while there. If I ever go back, it will have to be for several weeks!
Please don’t forget to like and share on facebook.
Lots of love,