Caesarea: When Man Builds to His Glory
The ancient sea port city of Caesarea was built by Herod the Great. It was one of his massive building projects, along with Temple Mount, Masada, and the Herodian. He was not only a gifted (albeit cruel) leader but an aggressive visionary for architecture. Two words sum up King Herod: builder and butcher. He was a cross between Adolph Hitler and Donald Trump.
Caesarea was an incredible city, much of it built out of marble. This is all the more amazing because marble is not native to Israel, which means it had to be imported from Turkey and other nearby countries. Caesarea was a first-class Roman city in all respects. It included a large Roman theatre, hippodrome (for chariot races), public baths, a massive aqueduct to bring in fresh water from Mt. Carmel (ten miles away), and a large artificial harbor with the latest invention—concrete!
The population in the first century was around 50,000. This is the city where Pilate lived and where Paul was imprisoned for several years. (A stone with Pilate’s name was unearthed in 1961 by an Italian team. It stands as proof that Pontius Pilate was a real person in history.) It is also where Cornelius lived, to whom Peter brought the gospel. This is a powerful moment in church history; it’s when the gospel jumped to the Gentiles. This is all part of the story of the Bible: God’s promise to become famous among all peoples.
King Herod’s grandson (Agrippa I) was struck dead in Caesarea (Acts 12), and Paul made his defense before Agrippa II here (Acts 26). The early bishop, Eusebius, lived here. He wrote the first major history of the early church; this is how we know what happened to the Apostles. The theologian, Origen, also lived here and started an academy.
The lesson of Caesarea is that when man builds to his glory, it will eventually fall apart. King Herod built Caesarea to be a first-class Roman city. He built it to his own glory to stand into the ages. But it did not. Today, Caesarea is simply an ancient city in ruins. What a powerful reminder that only when we build on the Lord do we have an eternal inheritance. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). What are you building on? And whom are you building for?
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor