Yesterday we were in Philippi where Paul and Silas were in prison. After these men baptized the prison guard and his family, they were released from prison. Acts 16 closes with these words …
When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town. (Acts 16:40)
Since we’re trying to be faithful to Paul’s itinerary, we left town too. We actually headed for Berea, but before I tell you about that, I’m going to back track. On Sunday we flew into (biblical Thessalonica). I was so tired, I could hardly put one foot in front of the other, but that didn’t stop us from a quick tour of the city. my exhaustion did stop me from blogging about it that day, so let me just go down a short rabbit trail …
Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by the king of Macedonia, Cassander, who was once a general in the army of Alexander the Great. Second only to Athens, Thessaloniki was (and is) a hot spot. During the Roman period, Thessalonica was made the capital of Macedonia and the Romans connected the Via Egnatia to Thessalonica. The Via Egnatia is a historic road linking east and west to Thessalonica. (We saw the remains of this road yesterday.)
Some famous links to Thessalonica include:
- Cicero – the Roman orator who was exiled here (58-57 B.C.).
- Caesar Augustus – made this a famous military center
- Pompey – had his headquarters here for himself and his armies in 49 B.C. when he was avoiding Julius Caesar.
The Emperor Galerius ruled the eastern half of the Roman Empire and made Thessalonica his home. He instigated heavy persecution against the Christians in this community. One of the Christian martyrs was Demetrius. This morning we drove along the waterfront to the massive White Tower which has served as a symbol of Greek sovereignty over Macedonia since 1912. It is now a Byzantine museum.
We also visited the Triumphant Arch of Gallerius, built around 303 AD to commemorate the emperor’s victories over the Persians in 297 A.D. and St. Demetrios Church which has spectacular and valuable mosaics and frescoes. We didn’t get to see them, but we HEAR they are spectacular.
Most importantly, we tracked Paul’s footsteps …
Paul and Silas then traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women.
But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.”
The people of the city, as well as the city council, were thrown into turmoil by these reports. So the officials forced Jason and the other believers to post bond, and then they released them. Acts 17:1-9
Did I mention that we are officially Greek Orthodox Baptism and Wedding crashers?! Oh, yes we did! Check it …
MM-hmm … we went right to the front. (SMH – Shaking My Head) A wedding was following immediately after the baptism, so we hung out in the middle of the frantic “scene change” as a harried wedding coordinator transformed the front of the sanctuary. (We even made off with a “gift” bag of sugared almonds from the baptism. Oh, my!)
Though we don’t know for certain how long Paul stayed here, we might conclude that it was for a good chunk of time – probably longer than the “3 sabbaths” that might indicate. That’s because in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians he wrote, “Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you” (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
We also know that the church at Philippi supported his stay in Thessalonica, “Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once” (Philippians 4:16).
Where in the world is Meteora, Greece? For that matter, where are Philippi, Thessaloniki, and Berea? I thought you might ask …
View Larger Map
[BTW, let me tell you how hard it was to find a map that I could legally share with you. This one is less than ideal, but I read lots of Google Map stuff and I think I’m in the clear on this one.]
The ruins of Philippi are about 8 miles NW of Kavala (which is in the far upper right corner of the map). You should be able to see Thessaloniki and Veroia/Veria (Berea) in the NE arm of Greece. The Monasteries of Meteora are in the center of the country (20 minutes northwest of Trikala).
Our day today actually began in biblical Berea (Today called Veria or Veroia) …
That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.
But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him. Acts 17:10-15
This was a special stop because Mike and I were married in the Berean Church and our fellow traveling friends attend the Berean Church today. We visited the “Bema,” which is an impressive monument to Paul. It’s believed to incorporate the steps from the original synagogue from which Paul delivered his sermons. [*Time out for a reality check: Trekking with Paul is like trekking with Jesus in Israel … we often hear “Jesus/Paul stood right here and taught/healed/ate … Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. We do know this is the city where Paul stayed. We will never know if this is the spot where he taught.] The Bema itself was built in 1961. The 3 steps in the picture are said to be original.
We had the most incredible conversation with Marina, our guide here. Remind me to tell you about it another time. It sort of blew our minds, but will take too long to share here.
As we said goodbye to Berea, I was again convicted with the truth that we must all emulate these people and be enthusiastic students of God’s Word if we are to know and do His will and fulfill His purpose in our lives.
Before heading to Meteora, we visited Vergina where we saw the Royal Tombs of Macedonia, including King Phillip’s (Alexander’s father) tomb, and the ruins of the Royal Palace of the Macedonians. The palace was one of the largest buildings of ancient times. This place was a huge surprise to me. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! We couldn’t take pictures inside, but you can see what I’m talking about here.
In Meteora there are seven spectacular monasteries that are perched precariously atop 1,300 feet high grey sandstone pinnacles. BTW, Meteora means “suspended in the air” or “between earth and sky.” Ummm … I should say so!
Their history goes back to the 14th century when hermit monks (and later nuns) sought refuge in the cliffside caves, then fled higher to build the original wooden shelter, later transformed into monasteries. Access to each monastery was insane – a leap of faith, climbing rocks and ladders tied together, or pulled vertically up the side of the stone column in large nets until the ropes would break.
These are truly magnificent! The frescoes that are painted on the walls of these monasteries are masterpieces that draw people to them, teach the Gospel, and inspire belief and prayer.
What does that for you? What draws you to the church? How are you discipled? What inspires you to pray and affirms your belief in Jesus Christ? I’m reminded that there are different strokes for different folks (I now … not very poetic or profound, but it’s me writing this.) It doesn’t matter what it is that draws you, teaches you, and inspires you, it simply matters that it’s done.
We are staying at the Amelia Kalambaka tonight. As we pulled into town, this is the gift God sent us …
It doesn’t get much better than that.
If you missed yesterday’s post, you can find it here: Footsteps of Paul in Greece with Vicki ~ Day 1 ~ Philippi and Neopolis