Excitement hung in the air like a birthday balloon at a three-year-old’s party. As I scurried from the packed tour bus, my feet first touched Israel’s soil at the ruins of Caesarea Maritime.
My first lesson of the day: There are two Caesareas. Caesarea Maritime rests on the coast north of our landing site, Tel Aviv. Caesarea Phillipi resides many miles inland. Who knew?? Of course The Preacher smiled and said he did…
Begun in 22 BC, by brilliant architectural visionary Herod the Great, the centerpiece was an immense horseshoe harbor made of cement and rock that took 12 years to construct. Josephus says Herod “grappled with the difficulties so successfully, that the solidity of his masonry defied the sea, while its beauty was such as if no obstacle had existed.” The shipping mecca rivaled Cleopatra’s harbor in Alexandria. How cool is that??
I strolled down to a peninsula covered in sand and rocks and noticed tile remnants scattered among the ruins of his beach palace. Thousands of half-inch hand cut stone tiles were placed in painstaking order to create beautiful “tile rugs” now splayed vulnerable to the elements. Placed strategically on this rocky outcropping jutting into the turquoise sea, his home would have boasted spectacular ocean views.
Herod’s desire for grand edifices showed itself in the building of “modern” amenities like an amphitheater seating 3500 and a hippodrome that held 20,000 spectators. Used for gladiatorial combat, horse races, games and chariot races—think Ben Hur, some historians say over a hundred years later, Christians were slaughtered in this very hippodrome.
The roll call of importants in Caesarea reads impressive. I mean really, who doesn’t want ocean front property?
Pointus Pilate resided here.
Peter travelled to Caesarea to meet with Roman centurion Cornelius who became the first Gentile convert.
Paul preached bold to Felix and Druscilla, and stood before Festus, Herod Agrippa and Bernice.
And Paul’s footprint was everywhere.
Crazy to think me, a nobody for Oklahoma just walked where Paul did and stood in awe before the crumbling walls that imprisoned him before he was shipped to Rome for his final stand. Acts 24-25
I stared and contemplated mournful. Did they give him a threadbare blanket as he curled on the unforgiving stone floor of the prison for two years? Did he shiver shaky as his flesh touched the hard coldness underneath his back? Was hunger a constant companion?
Acts 25:13-14 After certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to salute Festus. And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul’s cause to the king saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix. 23-When Agrippa came, and Bernice, with great pomp, and entered into the place of hearing…at Festus’ command Paul was brought forth. 26-Then said Agrippa to Festus, this man might have been released had he not appealed to Caesar.
But in the end, tragedy prevailed among the splendor. The spectacular amphitheater was the scene of Herod Agrippa’s smiting according to Josephus. Herod wore a garment of silver that shone in the sun in such an astonishing and resplendent way that it prompted a response that turned deadly.
Acts 12:21 tells of the horrific event. The people shouted out that he was a god, not a man and he was struck down by an angel of the Lord and eaten with worms because he did to give praise to God.
Josephus says he suffered for five days and died.
What bubbles beneath your surface?
All the wealth and comfort of our world cannot save us from what dwells deep in our soul.
Ask God for a pure heart poured out for him.