As you can see from the title of this post, we had a very busy day - and that was the norm throughout the trip. (UPDATE - I should have said, "from this post AND the next one" because I had to split the day into two posts! LOL) I asked our guide, Fabrizio, how our tour stacked up against other groups he'd guided, and he replied that Pastor Jim's groups always had very full and complete itineraries.
We had two buses, called "Garnet" and "Gold" in honor of the FSU Seminoles (quite understandable, since this trip was sort of sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Bobby Bowden was the co-host with Pastor Jim). Each bus had its own driver (Ziad, who drove the Gold bus, was awesome!) and guide, and Malcolm and Fabrizio, the guides, were extremely knowledgeable and helpful - we all loved them.
Don't forget that I thought I didn't have batteries for my Canon xSi (they were tucked securely away in an obscure corner of my suitcase all the while), so most of the pictures will be from my Droid (and thank you to Verizon Wireless for having an excellent international data plan and wonderful connectivity throughout Israel!). So, I was able to post from the Droid as we were touring - see here, here, here, here, and here, for my moblogs from this day - which was great fun; international moblogging, woo-hoo!
Anyway, on to the day - and this is going to be fairly long and have lots of pictures, so I'm going to put it under the fold:
Herod, however, had more personal motives: he wanted money. At that time, most sea-going traffic went along the coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea, and was restricted by the season due to weather, and only (I think) port had been down at Joppa. Herod actually built the first man-made port ever, and Ceasarea became a very profitable town.
It is also a very Roman town - Herod built it according to the Roman layout, as our guide Fabrizio explains here:
Ceasarea is, as Fabrizio told us later, the city of the four "P"s - Pontius, Peter, Phillip and Paul. Pontius Pilate (see also more links here), the Roman governor of Judea, had his main seat in Ceasarea. The apostle Peter came to Ceasarea to visit Cornelius, a Roman centurion, and the whole household was converted (Acts 10). After Phillip preached the Gospel to the Ethiopian eunich, he eventually wound up in Ceasarea (Acts 8:26-40). Finally, when Paul returns from one of his mission trips in Acts 21, he arrives in Ceasarea, stays with Philip, and then departs to Jerusalem, where he is accused of defiling the Temple and placed under arrest. In Acts 23, Paul is taken to Ceasarea to protect him from an assassination plot. He ends up spending at least two years there under house arrest, and speaks before Felix (the Roman governor - and I'm not clear on how he and Pilate relate re: Roman government of Judea), Festus (Felix's successor), and King Agrippa.
Ceasarea Maritima eventually became a major center of theology for the western branch of the church. The port was eventually destroyed by an earthquake in the 5th century and the majority of shipping activity returned down the coast to Joppa.
From the south end of the Ceasarea National Park to the north end, one travels about 1,000 years among the archaeological remains: the first area we visited was the reconstructed theater. (Please note, it is not an amphitheater, which would be completely in the round like the Roman Coluseum, but a theater, which only has a partial circle.) In the same area was the foundation of the palace and the hippodrome. However, up on the northern end are the remains of the town the Crusaders built and lived in, so it was an interesting slice of history!
As we sat down in the theater, Pastor Jim delivered a small - well, sermon isn't exactly the right word... I'll rephrase: Pastor Jim taught us the lessons of Paul's trials that took place in Ceasarea. Remember, he was unjustly accused of defiling the Temple, he was arrested because the Pharisees and Sadducees hated his doctrine, he was in danger of his life, he'd almost gotten whipped because of lies told about him, he was held because he'd appealed his case to Ceasar... Really a rather unlikely scenario for God to use to work His plan to spread the Gospel through the whole world, wouldn't you think?
First of all, Pastor Jim pointed out, all of Paul's trials should remind us of the SOVEREIGNTY of God. No matter that Paul's adversaies meant this to thwart him and repress the Gospel - God used all these circumstances to place Paul in each place at the right time to give testimony and witness to the Gospel. Paul eventually traveled to Rome in chains, and yet his life and behavior through everything proclaimed the goodness of God and the wonder and power of the freedom of His forgiveness from sin.
Secondly, Paul's trials should remind us that God LOVES the world, and He wants all to hear His command to repent and turn to His Son in faith so that they may receive His grace and mercy. No one is beyond the reaches of God's mercy, and so we should proclaim the Gospel with joy and tenderness to those who are perishing. Penn (of Penn & Teller fame) is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Christian, but even he sees the value of Christian witness done with humble love for the lost:
Finally, Pastor Jim reminded us that God's sovereignty and God's love displayed in Paul's trials should give us COURAGE in our own witness. When we live in loving obedience to God, keeping close to Him through repentance and prayer and service, when we live our lives coram deo, there is nothing that is so strong a witness as that. When we live lives that glorify God, He takes weak people and works His plans through them. A life first lived for God then gives powerful weight to words spoken for God, and we know that even when we are unfaithful, His faithfulness is forever. So we should never be afraid to follow where He leads us or to step out in obedience to His call, even when we cannot see what is ahead of us.
It was an edifying reminder of how to live the Christian life, and how we can have complete confidence in God!
After this, we wandered around for a bit with Fabrizio pointing out interesting facts and history of the area. We then went just a bit further north on the coast to see an aquaduct from Herod the Great's time before continuing up to Mt. Carmel.
Mt. Carmel is actually a ridge line rather than a single peak, so we are not certain of the exact place of Elijah's showdown with the prophets of Baal and Ashereh - but it's certainly easy to see why Mt. Carmel was a great place for the confrontation:
With a view like that over a vast region of Israel, it must have been a very impressive show! And, I think I've come up against a length limit, so I'll continue this in the next post...