Good morning from Israel!
I am leading a tour of 315 people from our church and our A New Beginning radio audience in the Holy Land. We have been having a great time together, and I wish you all could be here! Perhaps someday in the future.
We visited a number of sites yesterday, including Joppa, where Jonah (the original “Chicken of the Sea”) attempted to run from God. You have to be pretty old to get that joke!
Joppa is also the place where the Lord first showed Simon Peter that the gospel message was to not only to the Jews, but also the Gentiles. That’s good news for most of us. I speak, of course, as a Gentile who has been “grafted into the promises of God.”
We then went to Caesarea. It was here that Peter went after hearing from the Lord about bringing the gospel to Gentiles and he shared the good news with a godly Roman centurion named Cornelius. I stood in the amphitheater and preached a short message from Acts 26, where the apostle Paul boldly proclaimed Jesus to the gathered crowd (including Herod Agrippa II) in this very city!
Agrippa came from a wicked family of Herods going back to “Herod the Great.” That Herod is the king most responsible for building many of the ancient sites visited in Israel today, including Caesarea, Masada, and the second Temple. He is also the wicked king who tried to kill the infant Jesus when the mysterious wise men from the east came looking for the one who had been born “the King of the Jews.”
Then there was Herod’s son, Antipas, who had John the Baptist beheaded and sent Jesus back to Pontius Pilate. His descendents included Agrippa I, who killed the apostle James and had Peter imprisoned. Finally, there was Herod Agrippa II, who heard the great apostle Paul preach the gospel in Caesarea.
Agrippa II arrived with a lot of pomp and circumstance to hear the controversial preacher. He was accompanied by Bernice, with whom he was having an incestuous relationship. Paul hit him and the others with the penetrating truth of the gospel.
As he was talking about the death and resurrection of Jesus, his message was coming to an end, Paul looked directly at Herod and said,
And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak frankly,
for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not
done in a corner!
King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do–”
Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can make me a Christian so quickly?”
Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and
everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except
for these chains.”
Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left.
(Acts 26:26-30 NLT)
Paul was bold, that’s for sure. He could have been executed on the spot for saying that to a man like Herod. What a great example to all of us.
Let’s all recommit ourselves to the proclamation of the gospel today. We all have “Herods” in our lives that frighten or intimidate us. It is our job to proclaim the gospel message and leave the results in the hands of God.
Here is a photo of my granddaughter Stella and I at the “Pontius Pilate stone.” People often challenge the inspiration and truth of Scripture. For many years, critics noted there was no archaeological evidence for Pontius Pilate, yet he played such a key role in the gospels. During digs from 1959-1963, they found a reference to him here in Caesarea. This is a reproduction of that stone.
More to come tomorrow. Until then, Shalom from the Holy Land!