Our first day in the Holy Land was connected by the narrative of Acts 10 and the cities of Jaffa and Cesarea Martima.
As we traveled north along the coast from Tel Aviv, we stopped in the Mediterranean town of Jaffa.
The city sits up on an elevation with gorgeous stone walkways and steps that lead down the the sea shore.
Our first stop was the Roman Catholic Church of St. Peter.
In Acts 10, Cornelius, a soldier of the Italian regimen stationed in Cesarea (Cesarea Martima), had a vision. An angel told him to send for Peter who was in Jaffa (spelled Joppa in the scriptures). The scene shifts to Peter, who had recently arrived in Jaffa in his travels about the country.
In Jaffa, he prayed over the dead body of Tabitha (also known as Dorcas), a disciple of Jesus who had recently died. With the words, “Tabitha, get up,” she “opened her eyes and …sat up.” This spread all over town. Peter stayed in town for a while in the house of Simon the tanner.
Peter received a vision while in Jaffa. (Acts 10 is connected by this theme of visions which lead to a remarkable conclusion…).
The Church of St. Peter remembers Peter’s vision. We entered through large, ornate doors which opened to a gorgeous sanctuary with a few chapels on either side. The pulpit sits on the right side, elevated and ornate with a sculpture of an olive tree rising from the top.
Overlooking the gorgeous altar is a large painting of Peter’s vision. He kneels with an angel in front of him. Above him, we see the sheet containing the unclean animals that Peter was commanded to kill and eat. (Acts 10:13).
As we enter into prayer we can remember the voice of Jesus tell Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made unclean.” And we can hear Jesus speak that into our lives as well, remembering that he has made us clean. We remember that this vision has opened the way for the gospel to be proclaimed to all people, even us.
The traditional home of Simon the tanner is a short walk from the church. While this may not be the place where he lived, it was likely in close proximity. Regardless, this place gives us an opportunity to remember the place where Peter received his vision, where he met the couriers from Cornelius, and where he decided to go to Cesarea. It also reminds us of the great grace of hospitality and its role for good in the Kingdom of God.
Jaffa is also a place that connects the Old and New Testaments.
Jaffa is a harbor town. Especially early on, before other major ports opened such as in the city of Haifa, it was a major entry point into the country. Today, it looks more like a marina that you would see in Coastal Georgia.
In Jonah 1:3, when Jonah is fleeing the call of God to go to Nineveh, he Chatters a boat out of the harbor in Jaffa. Standing on that place reminded me of all of the decision points in my life where I’ve had to choose whether or not to follow the Lord. I am grateful for when I have and especially thankful for God’s grace to correct and redirect me when I don’t.
King Solomon utilized the port of Jaffa to receive the cedar timbers that were used to build the temple in Jerusalem.
From Jaffa, we headed off to Caesarea Martima, to follow the Apostle Peter on his way to visit Cornelius.