A CITY BY THE SEA

There are two cities named Caesarea in the Holy Land. One is called Caesarea Philippi. The other Caesarea is on the Mediterranean and is given the added name Maritima. This Caesarea was our first stop once we had rested and begun our tour. Here Herod built a magnificent Roman City complete with a grand theater for the thousands of Roman troops stationed there. There was also a great Hippodrome for horse and chariot races and other gladiator type events. Herod built an artificial harbor there by literally extending a man made peninsula into the sea. All of these structures and more are still visible and bear testimony to the truly cosmopolitan realities of the time of Jesus. Jesus may have been born off the beaten path, but the world was at his doorstep through the ever widening influence of Rome. Greek culture flourished in Caesarea, and for that matter, throughout the area of Galilee where Jesus grew up. Of particular interest in Caesarea was Herod’s magnificent palace. This would be the palace where Pontius Pilate lived most of his time in the Holy Land. He would go to Jerusalem at times when a Roman presence seemed necessary. This palace was immense. It had its own Roman bath and an indoor swimming pool. The remains of the structure may still be seen extending on a man made pier out into the Mediterranean. The palace had a large hall for meetings of state and holding cells for special prisoners, the most famous of which would be the Apostle Paul. As we stood looking down on the ruins, I shared a meditation on how Paul had appealed to Caesar and waited in the structure below us for his journey to Rome. I mentioned how vital this time was to the writing of his prison epistles. Scholars debate which of the prison epistles were written here rather than Rome. It is firmly believed that he could have guests and continue ministry while imprisoned there. Without the letters of Paul’s imprisonment our New Testament would be missing vital teachings. These letters are made up of Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. Though it is debated as to the exact origin of the letters from either Caesarea or Rome, the main point is that even Paul’s imprisonment bore Spiritual fruit. Likewise our own times of trial should yield a special fruit of faithfulness. Sometimes much of our best thinking and work comes in times of affliction. It was in an imprisonment experience that Paul exclaimed, “Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
We should also remember that Cornelius was a Roman soldier stationed in Caesarea when Peter was led supernaturally to share the gospel with him and others. Their conversion opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles. This important event was a harbinger of our own salvation and the world wide impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dan Wooldridge

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