From Jaffa, we traced Peter’s trip to Caesarea Maritima, or Caesarea by the Sea. While the scriptures will typically refer to it simply as Caesarea, Caesarea Martima is the location to which they refer. There are also other areas that bear Caesar’s title, i.e. Caesarea Philippi in the north.
Strategically located on the Mediterranean, this was the perfect location do a deep water harbor for commercial trade. Herod built a gorgeous city which included a massive breakwater wall with various entrances for ships. He named it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus, the new leader of Rome.
This is where Peter met Cornelius in Acts 10. Cornelius, the centurion, was expecting Peter and had called together his relatives and close friends. As the spoke, Peter realized the meaning of his vision: “God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”
As Peter shares the good news of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came on everyone, Jew and Gentile alike. God’s revelation to Peter came to life as Cornelius and his guests were the first Romans to be baptized and the first Gentiles that Peter baptized.
Caesarea Maritima is also the location of Paul’s 2-year imprisonment thet is chronicled in Acts 23:23-26:32.
Paul was arrested in Jerusalem after the crowd got angry with him for this statement: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”
They were so angry that they shouted for his death. He was imprisoned in Jerusalem. The next day, a death threat was made and Paul was transferred to Caesarea.
This Roman amphitheater has been reconditioned, but is very much the original theater. These ancient theaters are built in hillsides to “rake” or slope the audience so that the performer or speaker could be seen by everyone. They are also expertly designed for maximum acoustic advantage. While we were here, a man from another tour group sang “Surely the Presence” at the center of the stage. We heard him clearly from the top of the searing area. This theater is still used for concerts, especially during the summer.
The hippodrome was another entertainment venue. This oval-shaped arena was the home of chariot racing. Later in the city’s history, regiments of the Roman army would replace racing with gladiator fights.
Paul’s imprisonment there lasted through 2 governors, (Felix and Festus). Ultimately, King Agrippa allowed him to transfer to Rome.
An interesting connection between Peter and Paul, Jaffa and Caesarea, and a thread for our day: the message that the Gospel is for the Jew and the Gentile alike. The message which brought the gospel to us. The message which encourages us to continue to reach out with the courage of Paul and to allow ourselves to be surprised by God’s grace.
We ended our trip to Caesarea with a visit to a Roman aquaduct and a close up experience in the Mediterranean Sea.