The first day we were in Israel we rested by the side of the Mediterranean Sea in a small city north of Tel Aviv. Looking out on the Mediterranean, I was reminded of the passion of Rome to turn the sea into a Roman lake. Their vision was to dominate all the nations and cultures that surrounded the sea. When one sees the overwhelming evidence of just how Roman the Holy Land had become by the time of Christ, it is obvious that they succeeded. On one hand this fact looks sad. World domination is not usually a pretty thing. However, Rome had brought peace and stability with raw power. They had also developed an amazing system of roads. They had gathered up the language of the Greeks and spread it throughout the world. Whenever you see a mile marker on an interstate highway, you should remember that it was the Romans who brought such markers into use over two thousand years ago. Their impact on the world was to bring the world together with easier travel and a common language. This made the sharing of the Good News about Jesus easier and served to make the rapid advance of His message possible.
As I looked out to sea, I thought of the Philistines who populated the very coast that I was standing on and fought valiantly against the Hebrews long after other peoples of the Promised Land had been conquered. The amazing beauty of the Mediterranean helped me understand their determination. They were sailors, something the Jews never quite mastered in ancient times. I thought also of the great sea battles that had raged on those seas by Persian fleets, Greek fleets, Roman fleets, Egyptian fleets, and many more. As we waded in the surf, we saw sea shells and rocks that were different than any I can recall finding on the shores of the Americas. The very air was heavy with history. Jesus may have lived in a small obscure and occupied country, but he was on the threshold of the ages to come. The government and culture of the Mediterranean underlies much of the government and culture of this present hour.