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King Herod's Seaside Palace
Amphitheaters, Stadiums and Roman Ruins in Caesaria, Israel
While in the ancient port city of Jaffa (Yafo or Joppa), Peter had his vision of the 'sheet with four corners' that opened him up to the idea of sharing the gospel with non-jews. From there, he journeyed north along the plains of Sharon and the Mediterranean sea to another port city called Caesaria. This is the location where Peter baptized the first Gentile, Cornelius!
And so, on our first day in Israel, our black Mercedes van—filled with ten Christian gentiles, a skilled Israeli driver whose Hebrew name (Nissim) means miracles and our Orthodox Jewish tour guide from Brooklyn—continued up the Mediterranean coast with a brief stop at the palace King Herod the Great built for himself 2000 years ago.
This is the same place where Paul stood trial before the Roman governors Felix and Festus and King Herod Agrippa II. During Paul's trial we see the idea of a Roman Ekklesia on full display. As you may well know, Yeshua (Jesus) said that He came to build His Ekklesia (a Greek word often translated as 'church') and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. This term 'Ekklesia' is a Greek word that had been well adopted by the Romans.
While Yeshua would not have been speaking Greek with his disciples (Jewish rabbis speak to their talmudim in Hebrew), the idea of an Ekklesia is something that was commonplace in this culture. As Yeshua would have been speaking Hebrew, I posit that the Hebrew term he likely would have used is Kehillah—which has a much more expansive meaning for community than the narrow Greek meaning of Ekklesia. Nevertheless, I digress.
When two or more are gathered together as an Ekklesia, they carry all the weight of the kingdom. In Paul's trial, he points out that he is a Roman and the guard is a Roman (two or more Romans gathered together), so the rules of Rome come into play. After claiming the right of a Roman citizen to be tried before the emperor, Paul began his long journey to Rome from the port at Caesarea.
Also of interest at this site in Caesaria is the ancient Roman Theater. On one side of the ancient complex is an amphitheater and the other side a stadium where chariot races would have taken place. After listening to an inspiring expository from Dr. Gayle (Simka Foundation), we were all given an opportunity to make a symbolic loop around the stadium and re-envision the race our Creator has called us to run.