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Monday, March 21, 2011
The Road to Jerusalem

By: Johnnie Moore, Day 3, Bet'Shean, Ceaserea Maritima, Megiddo, and Jerusalem

Today, we departed the gorgeous hills of Galilee to head toward Jerusalem.  Along the way, we stopped at one of the most important digs in the nation of Israel.  The city of Bet'Shean held the distinction of being the most glorious of the ten cities Rome constructed on its eastern most border (the so-called Decapolis).  Aside from being the city upon whose walls King Saul's body was hung after his fatal and final defeat, the ruins of Bet'Shean provided for us a perfect opportunity to acquaint the students with life in a Roman city during the time of Jesus.  Our lecture took us around the massive, but only partially uncovered city. Along the way we spoke about Roman entertainment in a Theatre, Roman life in a bathhouse, and the Roman economy along the cities central avenue. 

Here we're getting an explanation of the Roman love for Theatre in one.  It's from the theatre that we get the famous Christian word "hypocrite" - an actor.

 

Since Jesus lived during the height of the Roman Empire, and since the Gospel blanketed the earth from Rome's provinces, it's essential to understand the life and times of the Romans to master the context of the New Testament.  Thankfully, our guide was a veritable encyclopedia. He literally deposited with us volumes of information regarding 1st century life and culture over our two hour visit to the site.

 

From there we went on to Megiddo, where we visited one of Solomon's chariot cities, and looked over the Valley of Armegeddon.  Oddly, enough, along the way we discovered on the side of the road a Snowflex facility just like the one sitting on top of Liberty mountain!

From Megiddo, we could see Mount Carmel in the background.  With it in eye shot Clayton King gave us a recounting of the triumphant story of Elijah's defeat of the prophets of Baal there. 

We also spent plenty of time on Megiddo discussing warfare and trading from the time of the Old Testament. Our guide gave us a clear explanation about the significance of the Valley of Megiddo, and why it has been a crossroads of civilizations and a battlefield for so many centuries.  As he was doing it, Biblical story after Biblical story came alive in our imaginations. 

We then continued along our route to Jerusalem by way of Herod the Great's fantastic Roman city on the Mediterrean.  Caeserea Maritima was the Roman seat in the area, which also made it the seat of Pontious Pilate (archealogists even found there a stone with his name inscribed upon it).

It was also the city where the Apostle Paul was imprisoned for two years, and where he was tried before King Agrippa II.  I took the opportunity to read Paul's defense (as recorded in the Book of Acts) in the very theatre where Paul made his defense.  From here, Paul was transferred to Rome where he would remain under house arrest until the day he was martyred. Interestly, Paul concludes the book of Philippians by sending greetings from all the believers in Rome, including "those from Caeser's household." 

Perhaps, Paul excercised his right, as a Roman citizen, to appeal to Caeser for the sole purpose of getting an opportunity to take the Gospel with him into Caeser's presence?

After a long day, we road into Jerusalem, and found ourselves awestruck by the site of the city as we pulled into town.  The city is awe-inspiring.  Looking at her rolling hills and ancient walls make you feel like you've been transported to another time and place.  It's like stumbling into a time machine.

We'll spend the next several days her exploring the sites and sounds of this place that millions have declared "holy" for thousands of years.  As we're doing it we'll follow Jesus step-by-step to the cross.


 
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