The alarm went off this morning at 6:00am. Honestly, it was worse than a fire alarm – it was so startling! We rushed to get dressed and head to breakfast… but so did all 300+ other people in our tour group. We battled our way through the line and grabbed breakfast.
We left the hotel around 8:00am and headed toward Cesarea Maritima, the ancient city where the apostle Paul was held prisoner before making his appeal to Caesar Augustus and later converting the first Gentile to the Christian faith.
The ruins in Cesarea Maritima are comprised of a palace, amphitheater, bath house, and more. Knowing that people lived here more than 2,000 years ago is incredible to think about!
Cesarea was built in 3rd century B.C. by the Phoenicians. It was built up by Herod the Great and dedicated to Julius Caesar who had proclaimed himself to be God. He was one of the first members of the original Triumvirate. Caesar adopted Octavian, who became part of the 2nd Triumvirate. Marc Anthony was also part of the 2nd Triumvirate. There was a power struggle for the control of Rome at that time that led to the battle of Action. Octavian became Caesar Augustus when he returned triumphantly from that battle.
The belief at that time was that Caesar Augustus was the Son of God, Julius Caesar, and the Prince of Peace since he had brought the end of the unrest with the 2nd Triumvirate. The Apostle Paul disputed this idea and was thrown in prison because of it.
Herod and Pilot were both trying to gain favor with Caesar. That was the card played with Jesus’ crucifixion because it was claimed that Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God, Prince of Peace, Bearing Good News.
Paul understood that if he was going to make his life a testament to God, he would have to sacrifice everything. Jeff Cavins gave an incredible lecture on the history of that era and the importance of reflecting on your own life and the sacrifices you are willing to make in your own life to be closer to God. It was an incredible lecture. He left us with a final thought to reflect on: who am I building my life for? Am I building for God’s kingdom or my own kingdom? Am I more like Paul or Herod?
After Cesarea, we headed up the mountains to the Mount of Armageddon. This is the Tel that will overlook the Valley where battle of Armageddon will be fought one day. The Tel is layer upon layer of fortresses that were conquered, destroyed, and built upon. We finished this part of the tour by climbing down into the aqueduct of the fortress.
We had Mass in a beautiful church on the Sea of Galilea. The alter had been built to resemble an ancient fishing boat. We were blessed to have our priest, Father Angelo, lead the mass. It was incredible to see him joyfully give the Mass in front of the Sea of Galilea.
We finished the day in Magdala, the home of Mary of Magdalene. This town found the ruins of the ancient city 9 years ago when they were starting to build a hotel. These ruins included the synagogue where Jesus would have worshipped during his visit to Magdala. This synagogue still contains painted frescos and mosaic tiles from the 1st Century. I experienced the most incredible goosebumps when we entered this site. To know that I am literally standing in the same place Jesus worshipped was incredible!