Caesarea Maritima: the amphitheatre/hippodrome (6)



The finish line for the chariot races conducted in the amphitheatre/hippodrome in Caesarea Maritima was on the east side, near its southern end. To be precise, it was located directly in front of the dignitaries’ tribune (the VIP seating area). That area is pictured in the photograph above. Not visible here, but quite close to this seating (toward the right side of this photograph) is where a shrine stood with images of various gods and/or goddesses. And it is quite likely that it was on this very spot that Herod Agrippa I, a grandson of Herod the Great and king over all Palestine from 37-44 A.D., met his end.

We have both a secular record (Josephus) and a Scriptural account (Acts 12.21-23) of the death of Herod Agrippa I. The two accounts go well with each other. Josephus tells us:

“After his seventh year of rule, Agrippa came to Caesarea to celebrate games in honor of Caesar. At daybreak he entered the theater, dressed in a garment of woven silver which gleamed in the rays of the rising sun. His flatterers started addressing him as a god, but then he looked up and saw an owl perched on a rope overhead was struck with intense pain. ‘I, whom you called a god,’ he cried, ‘am now under sentence of death!’ Five days later he died, at age 54.”

Luke’s account in Acts 12.21-23 reads:

“On the scheduled day Herod dressed himself in royal attire, seated himself on the throne, and gave a speech to the people. Those assembled kept shouting, over and over, ‘This is a god’s voice, not the voice of a mere human!’ Immediately an angel from the Lord struck Herod down, because he didn’t give the honor to God. He was eaten by worms and died.”

It was this Herod, Herod Agrippa I, who executed the apostle James and who had the apostle Peter arrested.

Jaffa: summation



This pic marks the end of photos I’ll share here taken recently at Joffa (Joppa; Yafo). The next round of pics will be from Tel Aviv.

In this pic that’s Tel Aviv in the background on my right. You can see there’s no real way to see where Jaffa stops and Tel Aviv begins; the ancient (Jaffa) and the modern (Tel Aviv) are that close to each other. Behind me and to my left is some of Jaffa’s harbor, one of the oldest working harbors in the world. Also in view (as if my hitchhiking thumb was pointing toward them) are the rocks to which ancient writers claimed Greek mythology had reference to in the chaining of Andromeda and her rescue from the sea monster by Perseus.

But as we leave Jaffa, I would ask you to mentally tag it with one thought in particular: God’s love for all. Or think “missions,” if you please. For as Mark Coppenger has well noted:

“When we think of biblical locations associated with gospel outreach to the Gentiles, we may well think first to Jerusalem, where Peter’s preaching at Pentecost was heard by people of many nations … (Acts 2), and where the Jerusalem Council determined that non-Jewish converts would not need to be circumcised … (Acts 15). Or perhaps we might turn to Paul’s Macedonian call, which came to him in western ‘Turkey,’ whereby the Lord led him for the first time into Gentile ‘Europe.’ Or maybe to Antioch, described as a multi-ethnic, missionary-sending church in Acts 11 and 13. But … Jaffa is front and center in this connection, the site of two events which revealed God’s love for all of humankind. … it was here Jonah defied God’s call to missions [Jonah 1.1-3] and Peter argued with God over the status of Gentiles [Acts 9.36-10.48].”

Jaffa: Tabitha’s (Dorcas) resurrection thru Peter



Posting continues here of one photo per day from my recent trip to Israel. My intent is to do so (with rare, brief intermissions) for the next several months. Read the text along with each day’s pic and by the end of this posting series you’ll have taken a bit of a trip to Israel yourself! The postings will generally follow the order of the trip’s actual itinerary.

If you’re familiar with the Bible, you likely recall the account of Peter raising Tabitha [aka: Dorcas] from the dead (Acts 9.36-42). What you might not recall is that this happened in Joffa (Joppa; Yofa) and what you might not know is that the traditional location of this happening is where St. Peter’s Church now stands in Jaffa.

violence & my Lord: what did Jesus’ apostles do?

V-for-violenceHow did Christ’s original apostles (excluding the one who betrayed him, Judas Iscariot) respond when confronted with violence?

As we seek the answer to that question, let’s consider most closely Simon Peter and John. Why? Because Peter was the one our Lord chastised and snubbed for displaying and suggesting the use of weapons. Peter was the one who Jesus rebuked for attempting to defend him and who took off a man’s ear with an errant swing with a sword. If there was ever a follower who had proven himself ready to use deadly force to defend himself and those he cared for, it was Peter. Consequently, we’d do well to note how this man behaved following his Lord’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

Similarly, let’s pay close attention to John for he was the one whom Jesus loved like none of the rest. It was John who stood close to the foot of Christ’s cross, who was spoken to directly by our Lord from that cross, and who did not leave the cross, watching his Lord draw his last breath and die an agonizing and brutal death. How did this one so close to our Lord’s heart and ways react?

And so, how did Christ’s apostles respond in the face of violence?

When those who had been behind Jesus’ arrest and death came to seize Peter and John, like their Lord, neither of them violently resisted in any way. (Acts 4.3)

When the same group who had tortured and killed the Christ threatened them with torture (or worse) if they continued to speak in Jesus’ name (Acts 4.17-18), they spoke not a word of insult, threat, or violence. Instead, they declared their continued allegiance to the Lord and promised not to compromise that allegiance at all. (Acts 4.19-20)

Remarkably, they found themselves released from custody, if only for a time. Arrested once more, and this time thrown into jail, (Acts 5.17-18), it was God’s own special intervention that kept them from suffering violence and caused them to be released from confinement. (Acts 5.19) And what did they do with their freedom, freedom that could easily have been dripping with great, and justifiable, outrage? They continued to do what they had done: declare their allegiance to the Lord and speak of him openly to others. (Acts 5.20,25)

A third time they were brought into custody by the those who instigated Christ’s murder. (Acts 5.26-27) And how did Peter, John, and the apostles respond this time? Peter denounced to their face the violence done to the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 5.30). For this, their captors beat them, and then released them. (Acts 5.40)

And so now we know how the apostles responded to terrible injustice and violence. We know this is what they did not do:

  1. they they did not arm themselves with weapons;
  2. they did not use violence in any form, not even violent words;
  3. they did not plot revenge or seek retaliation.

And we know this is what they did do:

  1. celebrate the fact they had been considered worthy of suffering loss and shame in the Christ’s name (Acts 5.41);
  2. continue what they had been doing all along, teaching and preaching Jesus as the one in charge of things (Acts 5.42).

Sometime later, for a fourth time, Peter was seized and hauled off to prison (Acts 12.1-5), and yet once more, Peter did not resist, entrusting his life and well-being to the God who had always delivered him from death, and did so once again. (Acts 12.6-19)

Now don’t miss this. Through all of this it’s John‘s steady consistency and Peter’s great change that stands out to all who are paying attention. The attitude and actions of the Peter depicted in Acts sharply contrasts those of the Peter related to us in the Gospels. Our Lord was not only working through him, but on him. And as for John, we see a steady, unwavering avoidance of answering violence with violence.

To sum up, Peter and John are two very different men who started out from two very different places, but who wound up in the exact same place of understanding and practice as to how the Christ would have them respond to the threat and use of violence against them and others. When it came to violence, John never went there, and though Peter did go there at first, he repented, growing out of it.

Four questions now come to my mind:

(1) How could I have missed this crystal clear example for so long in my walk with the Christ?

(2) Isn’t it easy to see the Christ himself continuing to engage this violent world with peace and non-violence, doing so now through these men, his apostles?

(3) Wouldn’t our vision of the Prince of Peace be blurred and distorted, twisted and perverted, had the apostles responded to the use of physical force levied against them with physical force, or violent words, in response?

(4) How might our world be different today if every Christian since the apostles responded to violence the way Jesus Christ and his apostles responded to violence?