Why build a brand new elegant city with temples, palaces, sports arenas and a deep water harbor by a small fishing village on a lonely stretch of shoreline in Israel? In His book “The wars of the Jews” Josephus Flavius, the first century historian, gives us the answer. Speaking about King Herod’s motives, Josephus wrote that “He chose for himself a lost city on the sea shore, named “Straton’s Tower”, because it had beautiful scenery and was worthy of respect.”
The fact is that Herod received this small Phoenician fishing village, together with the rest of the coastal plains of Israel, as a gift from Augustus Caesar following the Roman conquest of Judea. In his typical fashion of erecting grand monuments and pandering to his superiors, Herod named the town in honor of Caesar Augustus and built it into a prominent city with a deep water port, recreational facilities, bathhouses, temples and sports arenas. Overnight, the sleepy fishing village was turned into a bustling metropolitan hosting kings, imperial visits, military headquarters and international trade.
The city served as the political and administrative hub of the Judean Province of Rome for centuries to come, appearing prominently in the book of Acts as the seat of the regional Roman government during the early days of the Gospel. It was in Caesarea that the Gospel was first proclaimed to a non-Jewish audience by Peter, and it was from Caesarea that the Apostle Paul sailed to Rome on his last missionary journey where he would lay down his life in His Master’s service.
Caesarea went through periods of both prosperity and neglect throughout the Muslim centuries, the Crusader’s period, the Mamelukes’ conquest and the Ottoman Empire. A Jewish Kibbutz was established next to the ancient Arab village during the British Mandate, and in 1952 the Israeli town of Caesarea was built near the ruins of the old city. It was then that archeological excavations of the site started in earnest, and the work continues to this very day.
Unearthed treasures continue to shed light on many historic civilizations, revealing the remains of temples, palaces, a deep water port, an amphitheater, a stadium, a synagogue, churches, a hippodrome, obelisk and the famous water aqueduct. An archeological marvel stretching along the stunning shoreline of central Israel, Caesarea on the Sea is thought by many to be the most beautiful archeological site in the world. But for those who love God’s word and God’s ways, Caesarea remains the special place where the great gate swung open for the Good News to go out to the nations of the world.
Up till Acts chapter 10 the Good News was an internal Jewish affair, nearly all the disciples were Jewish, and the message was primarily declared only to fellow Jews. It was the unlikely combination of Peter’s obedience to the heavenly vision and Cornelius’ angelic visitation, both unusual behaviors for a Kosher Jew on the one hand and a Roman Career Offer on the other that sparked the miracle. For the first time in recorded history, a Jewish Apostle entered the home of an “unclean gentile” and gave a bold and public witness to the God of Israel and His plan of Salvation through the Messiah with signs and wonders following.
This historic miracle took place in Caesarea, and every person of faith who visits the site with any of our groups can join the choir of praise, giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for the Good News that has been spreading like an unstoppable wild fire throughout the whole earth.
See you in Israel.