Sunset on The Mediterranean Sea
Today was the beginning of day three, our group is well rested and ready to go! We started our time reviewing our prayer emphasis on un-reached people groups in Israel, and since we will be traveling through two Druze communities today and tomorrow, we spent much of our day praying for the Druze in Northern Israel. Specifically we prayed that the Gospel would break through to the religious and tightly knit community and God would open hearts and minds to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
This years trip is a little different than in years past, this year we are working with “Themes” that tie into biblical accounts and locations. Today’s themes were, “The Gospel and Race”, “The Gospel and Pride”, “Obedience”, and “The Word”. We had four primary locations today; Joppa, Caesarea, Mr. Carmel, and Nazareth. This blog contains Joppa and Caesarea, I will follow up with Mr. Carmel and Nazareth in a separate post.
Joppa: “The Gospel and Race” and “Obedience”
Our first stop was in Joppa where we had overviews of the Harbor Jonah would have set sail from as he fled from God and the traditional location of the house of “Simon The Tanner” where Peter stayed in Acts 9 and 10. Here we examined the biblical account of where God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, a people group that was hated by the prophet Jonah. After God sent Jonah to Nineveh he rebelled, was swallowed by a fish, repented and fulfilled his mission after all. This provided great teaching on obedience and racism. Roy Zuck writes, “When God calls His servants to carry out these decisions and be instruments of His grace to sinful men, they must obey, realizing that they too have experienced His mercy both corporately and individually.”
Mediterranean Overview From Joppa Harbor
Jonah 1:3–4 (ESV)
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. 4 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.
Jonah 1:17 (ESV)
And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
We also took time to see the traditional location of Simon the Tanner in Acts 9 and 10. This would be Peter’s lodging place, where he had the dream of eating unclean animals. The dream from God at the house of Simon the Tanner is the launching pad for the Gospel going to the Gentiles. It was here that Peter not only would lodge with a person who would be considered unclean, because he worked with dead animals, but God would prepare him for his future encounter with the Roman Centurion, Cornelius. It is here that we see God’s plan and working out of the Gospel going to the Gentiles. This was another great opportunity to see the how the Gospel breaks down all barriers, especially racially!
Traditional Location of Simon The Tanner
Acts 9:43 (ESV)
And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.
Caesarea: “The Gospel and Race” and “The Gospel and Pride”
Caesarea was one of the greatest cities built by Herod the Great. It consisted of theaters, a man made harbor, a palace that extended over the Mediterranean, Hippodrome, and massive temple. This was one of Herod the Great’s favorite cities. Many biblical stories happened here at Caesarea. In Acts 10 we see Peter going to the house of Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, who is a gentile. This is the first intentional encounter of the Gospel going to a non-Jew after Pentecost. Peter is welcomed and Cornelius and many of his families members are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Considering the culture and background of Peter in contrast with that of Cornelius and the city he lived in, Caesarea; we see how the transforming power of the Gospel breaks downs prejudices, traditions, and heritage for the sake of others who need to hear the Good News.
Herod Agrippa I, is also part of the history of Caesarea. It is here that Luke records, “On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” Acts 12:21–23 (ESV) Herod Agrippa is seen as a prideful man who not only killed James, the disciple, but pridefully accepted worship and people calling him a deity. We had some great teaching time on how the Gospel should crush our pride as we sat in the theater in Caesarea.
Lastly, we overviewed Paul’s arrest in Acts 21, his subsequent journey to Caesarea where he appeared before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa. It is here that Paul pleads his Roman Citizenship and is ultimately sent off to Rome for trial. These texts reminded us about the necessity of following the example of Paul and sharing our testimony at every opportunity and in every circumstance. It is here in Caesarea, under arrest that Paul shares the Gospel with all who will hear.
Theater In Caesarea
Acts 12:20-23- The Death of Herod