Ok, I know I’m going a little out-of-order but after many hours without sleep and lots of work, this is the day that is the most fresh in my mind right now. I will get back to Turkey I promise.
Our fifth day in Turkey started in a very special way…with a 2:15 am wake up call. I wish I was kidding, however this is actually true. We needed to be packed and ready to leave Kusadassi by 3:15 in order to make our 1 hour drive back to Izmir and then board a plane for Istanbul by 5:15 am. Once we arrived in Istanbul we then had to say goodbye to our Turkish guide Shebnem who was absolutely amazing. We then boarded a plane destined for Athens, Greece in order to continue the next leg of our journey. Our day in Athens was a short one due to our early morning travel, however we were able to two different sites: Mars Hill and the Acropolis of Athens.
- Mars Hill/Areopagus – Mars Hill is an important site for understanding the ministry of the Apostle Paul, specifically in Acts 17. The site of Mars Hill was a location where the men of the city, especially the philosophers would gather and debate every new idea and thought process. Athens was known for this. They were known for the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Here at Mars Hill two different schools of philosophy were represented: the Stoics and the Epicureans. Without explaining too much, let me say this:
The Stoics were focused on the eternal soul and the material was not of much consequence to them.
The Epicureans were focused on this life – eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!
It was at the gathering of the Areopagus that Paul was invited to come and explain this new philosophy – the idea of the resurrection! Neither of these groups embraced the idea of the resurrection. Afterlife? Yes, but not in bodily form because the Stoics wanted to be free from the body. So, Paul came and in approximately 90 seconds shared an amazing summary of the gospel with arguments from small to great. Some responded by laughing, some with curiosity and at least 2 responded in faith. Here are two thoughts for you regarding Mars Hill and Acts 17. First, our faith needs to come into the public arena in a way that is accessible and understandable for others. Notice how Paul engaged them in a way that they would understand, even quoting from their own poets. Second, Paul talked about something that resonates in our culture – the fact that the Athenians were unsure about the idea of heaven and the afterlife. So are many in our culture and yet because of Jesus’ resurrection what may seem unsure has been made sure for those who trust in Him
Are you sure of your eternal destination?
- Acropolis – Next we traveled up the nearby hill and visited the sites of the Parthenon, the Temple of Nike and the Erechetion. It is here that we learn a lot about the Athenian culture and also about how God was preparing the way for the gospel to come here. If you’ve ever seen the move 300 you know about Xerxes – the Persian King who conquered much of this region. He came to Athens and did the same, but rather than dying, the Athenians left the city and hid, but in the midst of that, Xerxes’ navy which had approximately 1,700 ships made a major mistake and found themselves trapped in the straight between Athens and the Island of Salmina. Although the Athenians only had 140 ships they were able to surround and trap the Persians who eventually destroyed themselves due to confusion and thereby destroyed all of their supplies for their 1.7 million man army. The Athenians wisely realized that it was not them who deserved the victory but that someone from above had won the day. So they built the Temple, just below the Parthenon called the Temple of Nike or victory. This was to remind them all that the victory came from someone else – from god above. This particular Athenian idea paved the way for the gospel which reveals Jesus as the one from above providing and securing our victory, even though it’s not what we deserve.
Oh, by the way, we were able to visit the Parthenon, one of the single most recognizable locations in antiquity. Here the King/Priests of Athens resided before the development of democracy here in Athens. Eventually, the goddess Athena was worshipped here as the Athenian patron god.
Now, just a little touch of what tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow we will be in Corinth and I can’t wait to share all of that with you.