It’s been a long journey since we began our trek to Israel. Our flight left the U.S in 2018 and landed in Tel Aviv in 2019! No doubt jet lag has already set in, but I can’t think of a more exciting way to begin the new year! Thirty-nine of us will be spending the next nine days in the Holy Land. This week, we will see first-hand the places that Jesus walked, taught, performed miracles, prayed, was crucified, buried, and where He rose again!
After going through Israeli Customs and of course getting a group picture, we began our journey of the Holy Land at Caesarea by the Sea (King Herod’s claim to fame). It took 12 years to build this impressive port city. We visited the remains of Herod’s theatre, which hosted all types of live entertainment. This was the arena where Paul made his appeal to Festus and Agrippa (Acts 23-26). Caesarea was a major hot spot in the day of Christ and also the location of Herod’s summer home. He also built a hippodrome here, where he would host chariots races and gladiator battles. Outside of Herod’s palace in Caesarea was also one of the places he would hold prisoners.
The Apostle Paul was one of those prisoners. Paul would sit in a dark cell, only being able to hear the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, the voices of Herod’s guests, and the chariot races which were happening less than 100 yards from his cell.
Our next stop was a literal mountaintop experience. Standing at the top of Mount Carmel, you can see where battles have been fought for thousands of years. This is where pagan worshipers bowed to Baal, but with God’s provision, Elijah threw the prophets of Baal. We looked at this passage in 1 Kings 18 where Elijah asked the question, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him. But if Baal, follow him.” We still live in a world where ‘gods’ compete for our affections and worships, but the Lord continues to prove that ONLY our God is the one who answers with fire! Only He is God! (1 Kings 18:14). From the top of this mountain, you can see down into the valley where the final battle will be fought in Revelation.
Finally, we end our day with the sun setting over Nazareth, the town Mary was told by an angel she would be having a son named Jesus! Nazareth was only home to about 200 people at the time, but now is populated by several thousand Muslims, and Christian Arabs. After returning from Egypt, Mary and Joseph raised Jesus here. We stood on the mountain from which Jews tried to throw Jesus after He told them He was the Messiah they had been waiting for (Luke 4). They couldn’t believe he was making such a bold statement, but Jesus was able to walk right back through the crowd unharmed. What a great reminder that Jesus is who He says He is… no matter who doubts it.
This evening, we checked into our hotel, overlooking the sea of Galilee. We are already looking forward to watching the sunrise tomorrow morning and can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.Pastor Jordan