Over the past 3 months I have been preparing to travel to Israel to study and to produce videos that we will be using in an upcoming sermon series at Oak Grove. The series is called Six Days To Die and it’s all about the last 6 days of Jesus’ life. We are actually recording at many of the sites where Jesus spent his last week and we will be showing them to you in our series starting on Easter. You will want to see this or check it out on our website if you can’t see it live. I have now been in the country of Israel for a little over 36 hours and I am very grateful to be able to share with you what I am seeing and learning. So, let me give you a quick rundown on the first two days.
Day one started at the Mediterranean Sea! We landed in Tel Aviv at approximately 8 in the morning local time and went directly to our first site. After spending just a few minutes looking at the Sea and a first century aqueduct built by Herod to supply his beach house at Caesarea, we then traveled about 5 miles down the beach to Caesarea.
Caesarea – Caesarea is the location of several important Biblical events including one of the imprisonments of Paul while waiting to be transported to Rome. It is likely best known however for the palace that Herod built right on the sea. The picture above is of the remains of Herod’s personal swimming pool right on the sea. Herod was a very complex man who was likely a very demented man, but he accomplished much. However, despite all of his great efforts, you can’t help but recognized that his kingdom has crumbled and the Kingdom of Christ (whom he tried to have killed as a baby) has continued to grow and expand.
Mount Carmel – After leaving Caesarea we traveled to Mount Carmel. I’ve always envisioned Mount Carmel as one mountain but I learned that it is more like a range of mountains. Mount Carmel is the location of the great battle that took place between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Check out 1 Kings 18 and read about the Baal worship taking place and Elijah’s faith in the promises of God. Also, from the top of Carmel you can look down and see the Valley of Jezreel which is also know as Megiddo – the site of the yet future battle known as Armageddon which you can read about in Revelation 16.
After visiting Mount Carmel we finished the day by arriving at our home for the next 3 days: The Sea of Galilee. More on that later.
Day two began with traveling to a northern location known as Dan.
Dan – Dan is one of the northern most locations in Israel and was a very important location during the divided kingdom time period in the history of Israel, shortly after the death of Solomon. Dan is also mentioned several times in the Old Testament concerning the promises of God for land: Israel was to inhabit the land from Dan to Beersheba. Now, to understand Dan, you need to read about a man named Jeroboam in 1 Kings 11 and 12. Since Solomon refused to obey God, God promised the 10 northern tribes of Israel to Jeroboam. 1 Kings 11:35-39 says:
I will take the kingdom from his son’s hands and give you ten tribes. 36 I will give one tribe to his son so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my Name. 37 However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. 38 If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. 39 I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.’”
If Solomon’s problem was that he didn’t obey God, Jeroboam’s problem was that he didn’t trust God. God made promises to him and he was afraid of losing his kingdom, so he built major places of worship at Dan and completely disobeyed God because of a lack of trust. This site is actually visible today!
Caesarea Philipi – Caesarea Philippi is a very important location in the northern portion of Israel where Herod built a temple at the mouth of a great cave that originally had a very deep spring flowing out of it. This became a site of great idol worship (see the picture above). It was here that Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?” in Matthew 16. You’ve got to read this passage. Now, if you are a Christ follower, remember this – Jesus went to a place of great idol worship and boldly declared that the gates of Hades would not prevail against his church. This is a bold reminder to be actively engaged in your culture to see people know and follow Christ.
Kursi – the final location for the day was on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Kursi is a site that has been traditionally thought of as the location for the events of Mark 5 and Jesus’ interaction with a demon filled man. This site was incredible because you can see caves above in the hills and a steep slope below where the demons might have gone into the pigs and ran down the hills into the Sea of Galilee. When you read this account, don’t miss verses 18 through 20 which say this:
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said,“Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
Even here Jesus is all about found people finding people! Now, we will be traveling more tomorrow so there will be more soon!