The other day, I visited Casaerea with my daughter. It was a seaport built by Herod the Great.
Why did Herod build it? Israel already had an important port, the ancient city of Joppa (Yafo) to the south. (This was the same Joppa from which Jonah fled, hoping to avoid his prophetic assignment to the Gentiles at Nineveh.)
Well, Herod wanted a piece of the monetary action (not to mention renown), so he built a new port 60 kilometers to the north. To attract the sailors to his port, Herod built all sorts of amusements for them, such as a horse racing track (hippodrome), amphitheater, and more. Many sailors were happy to spend their winters in Caesaerea, when the Mediterranean was too blustery to navigate safely.
Herod named the port after Caesar. It was a thoroughly Roman city.
Enter Acts 10...
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment,
a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.
About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”
And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.
“Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.
As the account continues, we see Peter having a vision while in Joppa, of a proverbial ham sandwich in a bed sheet. The Lord was demonstrating to him that the gospel would also be preached to the Gentiles.
The men sent by Cornelius arrived immediately following Peter's vision. Peter went with them to Cesaerea, and Cornelius and his household then became the first Gentile believers.
Scripture gives us yet another glimpse of God's ordained order, "To the Jew first."
How appropriate it was that Peter had his vision in a very ancient Jewish port, but was called to a very Roman port to give the gospel to the gentiles. What a picture of the Word going forth to the rest of the world, from a symbolic Roman port!
Back to Jonah... how symbolic is it that Jonah, wanting to avoid his assignment to preach to Gentiles, fled from the Jewish port of Joppa?
(PS. I had planned to share photos on this post, but the app won't let me do it)