Israel, Day Two: The Gates of Hell

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Caesarea Philippi

In Matthew 16, Jesus of Nazareth led His disciples on a 3 day journey (on foot) to the far northern border of Israel.

Caesarea Philippi was a Roman center of Pagan worship. Imagine Daytona Beach Spring Break in college mashed with New Year’s Eve in Times Square and throw in sex acts with goats and infant burnings. That’s Caesarea Philippi in the days of Jesus.

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When you read the Scriptures, geography matters. Jewish rabbis liked to point to things as object lessons in their teachings. That is what Jesus was doing in Matthew 16.

When He brought His followers to this cave (which has remained virtually untouched over the past 2,000 years), He pointed out this very spot that was nicknamed by the locals: the Gates of Hell.

 “Upon THIS rock I will build My church…” - Jesus in Matthew 16, at this very spot

“Upon THIS rock I will build My church…” - Jesus in Matthew 16, at this very spot

Now when you read Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18, you can see how it all takes on a deeper meaning: If Jesus starts something, He WILL complete it (Philippians 1:6)!

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 This is view Jesus and the disciples saw as they looked out from the Gates of Hell.

This is view Jesus and the disciples saw as they looked out from the Gates of Hell.

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Why did Jesus begin this movement called the Church here?

Why not in Jerusalem?

Because in Matthew 16, Jesus is essentially telling us: “I’m not building Church for Church People; I’m doing it for THEM — the Romans engaged in wicked pagan worship. The local church is the PERFECT place for IMPERFECT people!”

Later in Matthew 17, Jesus journeys further north to Mount Hermon where Jesus is transfigured. The high place of Mount Hermon is capped in snow, which Hebrews understand to represent the holiness of God. God says, “I’ll come DOWN to YOU.”

Jesus then journeys DOWN Mount Hermon to Capernaum, which in Hebrew means, “Comforter.” Jesus took the path south that eventually leads down to the Dead Sea.

In everything Jesus said and did, the Son of God humbled Himself. The rest of the gospels show Christ saying, “Now that I have declared the Church, I will go and DIE for her.”

 Israelis planted these trees in Galilee over the spot where Jesus fed the 5,000.

Israelis planted these trees in Galilee over the spot where Jesus fed the 5,000.

 This is the spot where Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant in   Matthew 8:5-13  .

This is the spot where Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:5-13.

The Town of Jesus

The headquarters for Jesus during His earthly ministry was this tiny sea-side town, where Jesus preached in the local synagogue and stayed in the home of Peter. It is remarkable and powerful to walk along the very streets where Jesus Christ walked.

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 The ancient Synagogue where Jesus of Nazareth preached.

The ancient Synagogue where Jesus of Nazareth preached.

 Capernaum rests at the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee.

Capernaum rests at the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee.

These are the very shores where Jesus walked and called Peter, James, and John to leave EVERYTHING and follow Him.

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 This is where Jesus stood in Matthew 4:18-22.

This is where Jesus stood in Matthew 4:18-22.

Peter’s House

Jesus spent a lot of time in these ruins — the ancient remains of Peter’s house.

A futuristic Catholic Church that looks like something out of The Jetsons rest above Peter’s house, with a glass floor that rests directly above where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.

 Peter’s House

Peter’s House

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 This is where   Matthew 8:14-15   happened in world history.

This is where Matthew 8:14-15 happened in world history.

Capernaum’s Synagogue

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38)

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Sea of Galilee

Day Two of our journey through the Holy Land ended with a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee.

It gave me goosebumps as I saw what Jesus saw while He was walking on these very waters.

 This is where Jesus walked on water in   Matthew 14:22-33  .

This is where Jesus walked on water in Matthew 14:22-33.

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Jonathan Herron