DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20: CAESAREA, CARMEL, MEGIDDO, SEPPORIS, PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, TIBERIAS
Today was our first full day here in Israel. We encountered off and on rain and showers this morning (not originally predicted), but in the afternoon we were blessed with breaks of sun. The temps were comfortable, with highs in the mid 60s.
After a full buffet breakfast and checking out of the hotel, we boarded the bus and drove about 10 miles north to Caesarea. This was a city built by Herod the Great in 22 BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea, the city had everything a typical Roman city would have elsewhere: a theater, palaces, many mosiacs, and a hippodrome. We saw all of this here! Caesarea also had a massive harbor for ships. There are many biblical connections with this city, such as Philip who lived here for about 20 years (Acts 8, 21), Cornelius and Peter (Acts 10), Herod Agrippa (the grandson of Herod the Great who died in 44 AD, Acts 12), and Paul (Acts 9, 21 and 23-26). Paul sailed in and out of the harbor a few times, and resided here before saying to Rome for 1.5 years. Before leaving the Roman site, we also saw the Crusader walls, gates, and mote. Along the sea, we also saw the aqueduct Herod built in order to bring water in from the Carmel Range.
Next, we drove to the top of Mt. Carmel. This is a mountain range of about 13 miles long. Sitting in the Carmelite chapel, we read for I Kings 18 about Elijah confronting the 450 prophets of Baal here. We also read from 2 Kings 4 (Elisha), Amos 1, Isaiah 35, and Song of Songs 7. From the rooftop of the chapel we got our first glance at the Jezreel Valley. While the view was a bit cloudy and overcast from here, we could see Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 7), Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31), and part of the city of Nazareth (Luke 1, 4). Following the visit here, we ate lunch at a Druze restaurant.
“Today we visited five sites with biblical connections. My favorite was the last stop to the precipice of Nazareth. The view provided a marvelous persecutive of the Jezreel Valley. As Pastor John said, the ‘backyard’ of Jesus!” – Tour member –
Driving down into the Jezreel Valley, Tel Megiddo was our next visit. After seeing a model of this Canaanite and Israelite city, we climbed the tel. On the way, we saw three different city gates, the stables of Solomon, and a sacrificial altar dating to the time of the early Canaanites. We considered the passage from Revelation 16. Some suggest that the Battle of Armageddon will take place. One thing is for sure… that when Christ returns, God will have the final word. We are on the winning side of redemptive history! Leaving the site we passed by the grain silo (8th century BC) descended down through the incredible water system (dating to around the 9th century BC).
Driving across the Jezreel Valley, we were able to squeeze in an extra site, Sepporis. This was the most prominent Hellenized Jewish city at the time of Jesus. The city continued to flourish during the Roman period. Here, we saw many amazing mosaics, including the famous Mona Lisa of the Galilee.
Precipice of Nazareth
Our last encounter of the day was the Precipice of Nazareth. The view from here gave us our third view of the Jezreel Valley below. We read from Luke 4 and John 1. Jesus taught from Nazareth’s synagogue, proclaiming the purpose of His kingdom ministry! We were invited to come and see (the words of Philip, John 1) Jesus anew! We closed with a time of reflection and a song as the sun set to the west.
It took about an hour to travel to our hotel along the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee through the traffic jams in Nazareth and Cana (John 2). Upon arriving, we enjoyed dinner together followed by a brief time of sharing on the water’s edge. The almost full moon was spectacular to see over the water! God is indeed a God of wonders!