Father, we are thankful for today. I do ask that you’ll be with us in Sunday School as we try to have a better understanding of the geography of Israel where so much of biblical history has happened. And even beyond that where so much of biblical history is yet to happen. So I pray You’ll be with us during this study. I pray that Your word will be alive and active, it won’t be just a boring lesson on secular type things, that You would be at work showing us things you’d have us learn in Your Word today. I pray You’ll be with our church service that follows as we continue on in the Book of Revelation, and all the things You want to accomplish today at Sugar Land Bible Church, I ask that You would have Your will, and I ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
Let’s open our Bibles to the Book of Galatians, chapter 4 and verse 4. We don’t have a handout for you in this series because the things that we’re showing here are mostly pictures and I’m not sure how that would work with a handout. But all the PowerPoints are posted online and if you have an interest in those.
Last week we started a study on sort of the nation of Israel based on some trips that we took there recently, my family and myself. We looked at… and I’m kind of giving you these sites in the order that we saw them in. We looked at Tel Aviv, where Independence Hall is in Israel; Joppa where Jonah boarded a ship and fled from the presence of the Lord. Caesarea Maritma where you have the first Gentile conversion, a man named Cornelius. Then you have Mt. Caramel where there a famous prophet had a confrontation with the prophets of Baal, and what was that famous prophet’s name? Elijah. And then we have Megiddo and we talked about how the historical and prophetic significance of Megiddo, which is a mountain overlooking the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel where apparently the final battle will be fought, Revelation 16, Revelation 14, etc.
So today we’re moving on and we’ve got some more sites to see before us, Upper Galilee, which would consist of Caesarea Philippi and the Tel Dan, the Sea of Galilee, the Mt. of Beatitudes, where a pretty good sermon happened, Capernaum, and then a place called Tabgha, it’s an Arabic name. And we’ll see how far we get today on this and what we don’t do we’ll just pick it up next week.
But as you kind of move up north in the nation there’s a place near Nazareth called Sepphoris and you say well I’m looking at my Bible dictionary and I’m looking at my Bible index and I don’t see Sepphoris in here. And the reason it’s not in there is because it’s not in there! [Laughter] So why even talk about it. Well, I thought it was very interesting because I have never been on a trip to Israel that takes you to this place called Sepphoris. And what is the significance of it? It’s based on tradition that’s been handed down; it’s generally believed that this was a traditional birthplace of Mary, Jesus’ mother. And according to Alfred Edersheim, who wrote some very influential volumes in a prior generation about the cultural makeup of Israel at the time of Christ. It was the location of an advanced Rabbinical school. And Judaism sort of had developed to the point where there were mandatory schooling that the young people had to go through. And according to Alfred Edersheim Sepphoris was the location of one of those very important schools.
You say well why are you bringing this up? Well, the school or the city is located three miles from Nazareth. What is the significance of Nazareth? Well, according to Luke 2:51 which says, “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and he continued in subjection to them;” that’s His parents, “and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” So Nazareth is basically acknowledged in the Scripture as a historical place where Jesus grew up. In fact Luke 2:52 says of Jesus’ life in Nazareth this is going from age 12 to age 30 roughly. It says, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom” that’s intellectual growth, “and stature,” that’s bodily growth, “and in favor with God” that’s spiritual growth, “and men, “that’s social growth. So Jesus, as not just fully God but fully man had to go through the full growing, maturing process that all human beings go through. And Nazareth from age 12 (roughly) perhaps ever before, to age 30 is where Jesus experienced these things.
And so it’s very interesting that three miles from Nazareth is the place that many people believed (based on tradition) that Mary (His mother) where she was born. There was this well-known rabbinical school and rabbinical system. And so Jesus probably, based on the geography, could have very easily worked there as an artisan. And this is where He was educated; He had access at this point to Talmud and to Torah studies. And over in Luke 2:40 this is what is meant when it says, “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” I mean it’s sort of unthinkable that given this growth that He went through and the knowledge that He had He wouldn’t have accessed, or His parents wouldn’t have had him accessed to this well-known rabbinical school in Sepphoris.
And that’s the meaning, part of the meaning of Galatians 4:4. It says, (Paul writes) “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.” In other words, the sovereignty of God is in play determining not just when Jesus would be born, He couldn’t have been born at just any time because we know from the Book of Daniel that He had to present His Messianic credentials to the nation of Israel at a specific point in the calendar. So if He had to present His Messianic credentials at a specific point in the calendar on the exact day, Luke 2:42, 44 talks about that. [Luke 2:42, 44, “And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast;  and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it,  but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances.”
If you need proof on that go back to our Daniel series when we were in the Seventy Weeks of Daniel and the reason that I took seventy weeks to go through the Seventy Weeks of Daniel, roughly, is I wanted people to understand this chronology and this precision. So if He had to present His credentials at a specific day that means He had to be born at a particular time and the Lord determined all of that and the Holy Spirit revealed it here in the Scriptures, Galatians 4:4, the “fullness of the time.” [Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.”]
And God’s providence in the whole thing was so overpowering that He even determined the place where Jesus would grow up, only three miles from this very well educated rabbinical system. And is this something to start a new church over? Is this something to be dogmatic on? Not necessarily but it’s highly likely, it’s highly probable that Jesus received a tremendous education, that was available to Him just three miles from Nazareth in this place called Sepphoris. And I think this is interesting because a lot of people will portray Jesus as sort of a toothless hillbilly, you know, poor, uneducated, and easy to command kind of thing. We have a tendency to portray Jesus like ourselves a lot times. And the reality of the situation is, if what I’m saying here is true, Jesus was highly educated and his family placed a great deal of emphasis on education at a very early age.
And I think there’s a reason why He went into that temple at age twelve, Luke tells us, and confounded the religious leaders with His knowledge. I mean, it was certainly because he was God in human flesh but it was also because His parents took advantage of this tremendous educational system that was available to Him just three miles away from Nazareth, his boyhood home. And so that’s why I think Sepphoris is very interesting and there’s hardly any tours that will take you to that area or even know its significance. I was fortunate to be part of the tour group led by Dr. David Hocking, that wanted to take us there and explain these things to us. These are things I really didn’t know and so I found that to be very interesting.
From the, you might want to slip over to Matthew 16 for a moment, Matthew 16:13-23, we went to a place called Upper Galilee, that would be north of the Sea of Galilee, to a region called Upper Galilee, and there it’s significant because you’ve two things, number one, a place called Caesarea Philippi, not to be confused with a Caesarea that we saw last week on the coastline of Israel where Cornelius was converted. This is a different Caesarea and these cities get named Caesarea because they’re trying to sort of “kiss up” so to speak to who? The Caesars, and this one is called Caesarea Philippi, and it’s north of the Sea of Galilee. And if you look at Matthew 16:13 it’s very clear, the geographical location where this interaction between Jesus and Peter took place.
It says in verse 13, “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”” And one of the things that’s interesting to note about Caesarea Philippi is it is an area known for the Temple of Pan, which was basically a pagan religious system. And when you understand that that was sort of the headquarters or the beachhead or the dominance of the Temple of Pan, all of a sudden the things that Jesus says to Peter in Caesarea Philippi starts to jump off the page. It starts to make sense why Jesus is making some of the points that He is making. So it’s here that Jesus asked the disciples “Who do people say that I am?” And you know how that story unfolds, Peter finally coughed up the right answer, and the Lord basically tells Peter that this was disclosed to him from heaven, because Peter has identified Jesus properly as the Son of God, Son of man, being the Messiah of the world, the Messiah of the nation of Israel, etc.
And in that interaction Jesus starts to make certain promises to Peter concerning the church, which is on the horizon, yet to be birthed in which chapter of the Bible? When was the church born? Acts 2, so the church didn’t exist yet, the nation of Israel is sort of going to be put in time out for two thousand years at least because the leadership rejected their own Messiah. The church, Matthew 12, the church is on the horizon and here is where we find the first reference to the church that’s coming in Acts 2.
So Jesus says to Peter, [Matthew 16:18] “I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades” or hell itself “will not overpower it.” What a statement to make in the part of the Israel where the temple of Pan has the most influence. I mean it’s almost like Jesus is going right into the home court of the devil and articulating a promise that hell itself is not going to be able to destroy this church that I’m going to begin to build from heaven, as Jesus is at the right hand of the Father starting on the Day of Pentecost. So I don’t know, some of this background information that you pick up really helps a lot of the statements in the Bible come into a sharper focus.
It’s also here that Jesus says to Peter, in the same verse, “I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church;” and the verb oikodomēsō is in the future tense, so obviously when Jesus made that statement the church did not exist yet. Right? He didn’t say I’m building My church or I have built My church or I’ve been in the process of building My church in days gone by. He said “I will build My church.” And this is what makes us very different than Reformed theology which basically tries to argue the church has always been in existence. They have this one people of God theology and they basically believe the church started with Abraham or some even push it back as far as Adam, when Adam got outside the Garden and put his clothes on, that’s when the church started according to them. And that just makes a mockery of Christ’s statement here. If the church was already in existence why in the world would Jesus put the verb “build” in the future tense?
So we need at Sugar Land Bible Church to not embrace the “one people of God” theology that many people artificially impose on the Bible. We believe that God has separate programs, ONE plan of salvation but separate programs for Israel and the church and we believe that because God is a God of diversity. Isn’t God a God of diversity? I mean, don’t you have male and female, isn’t that diverse? Don’t you have good angels and fallen angels, and God has a separate plan for the good angels, another plan for the fallen angels. And so many people are threatened by this two peoples of God idea and yet to me I don’t see what the big deal is given the fact that God is a God of diversity.
And in this same statement Jesus also says this, and it doesn’t show up in English, you have to study this in Greek to really understand what He’s saying, “I say to you that you are Peter,” now when He says Peter there the word is Petros, and it’s a masculine noun and it means little stone. “I say to you that you are ‘little stone’ (Petros) and upon this rock” and the moment that he says “this rock” the noun switches from Petros to Petra, the gender changes, it’s no longer a masculine noun, it’s now a feminine noun, and Petra, unlike Petros does not mean little stone but large stone. So, “I say to you that you are little stone and upon large stone I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” And this was all happening at Caesarea Philippi.
And you say well what’s the big deal? Well this is a huge deal because Roman Catholicism, based on this passage, as they’re not telling people what the original Greek actually says, has convinced I don’t know how many countless people, that Peter is the first Pope, and they argue this from Matthew 16:18, after all, Jesus built the church on Peter. [Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”] And I hope that’s not the case because the very next thing out of Peter’s mouth is that Jesus needs to stay away from the cross, in the same conversation, and Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me” what? “Satan.” [Matthew 16:23, “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”]
So Peter is the first Pope, his first papal utterance [laughter] which by the way can’t be erased because they believe in what’s called ex cathedra, which means from the chair, meaning the Pope speaks for God. The Pope is the vicar of God on the earth; “vicar” means in the place of. And so if Peter is the first Pope then the very first thing that came out of his mouth, which was ex cathedra which can never be withdrawn, because you run into Catholics and you say you teach this, and they oh, we don’t believe that anymore. Well not so fast, you guys have been telling us this ex cathedra doctrine for a long time so whatever some Pope said in the past can’t be withdrawn because your Roman Catholic friends look at the statement of the Pope as actually on par with the Scripture itself. And this was Luther’s whole point in the Protestant Reformation when he kept emphasizing sola by itself, sola Scriptura. You get your authority from the Scripture, not from papal statements.
So if Peter is the first Pope than his first utterance is a satanic statement. So you start to see very fast that the doctrine of Peter being the first Pope disintegrating. And it also disintegrates when you understand that Jesus never said, looking at the original Greek, that He was going to build His church on Peter. If He was going to build His church on Peter, the noun Petros, when it’s translated “this rock” a little bit latter would stay the same, wouldn’t it? I mean it should say, “I say that you are Petros and upon Petros I will build my church.” But He switches the noun, He doesn’t say Petros any more, He says Petra. So it’s very clear that the church was never built on Peter.
So what was it built on? It was not built on Petros, little stone, it was built on Petra, big stone and there’s sort of a debate as to what the big stone is. I think the big stone is the statement that Peter correctly made concerning the identity of Christ in this conversation. He identified Christ accurately; he identified Him as to who He was. Jesus said, ‘who do men say that I am. [Mark 8:27, “And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and on the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Who do men say that I am? …] Elijah, one of the prophets, verse 16, “But Peter answered ‘You are the Christ’” that means the Messiah, “the Son of the living God.” Peter got the question right. Why? Because of verse 17, ““Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
So God the Father put the thought into Peter’s mind and Peter articulated it and Jesus says upon that statement, not upon you Peter, I mean, you wouldn’t even had the statement if God hadn’t put the idea in your mind. Upon that statement that just came out of your mouth, Petra, big stone, the proper identification of Christ, “I will build My church and the gates of Hades” here we are on the home court of the temple of Pan, the gates of Hades itself is not going to be able to prevail against this church that I’m going to start constructing on the Day of Pentecost.
So you kind of look at the state of the church today and we see different apostasies going on and it’s easy to sort of get discouraged about the state of the church. But we have to go back to this statement that the church is not a manmade project, it’s God’s project and hell itself, whether it be the temple of Pan or any other thing is not going to prevail against it.
So he goes from little stone to big stone and if you look at some of these pictures, particularly the picture in the upper right, and the picture in the lower left, it would have been a perfect place for Jesus to make that point because as you look at the lower left you see the Y there and sort of inward from the water over to my right is a little area that you can sit as tourists, and I was actually privileged to do the teaching at this particular location and what was scattered all over that area was these little tiny rocks. And then what you see in the background is this giant cliff and so I don’t know, maybe I’m being a little imaginative here, maybe not, but I think when Jesus was talking about Petros He pointed to one of these little tiny stones, that’s who you are Peter. But then when He said Petra He turned and pointed backwards to that giant immovable cliff. And I don’t know, I found all of that very, very interesting, and these are things that just start occurring to you as you’re standing in the very location where Jesus uttered these statements.
If you drop down to verse 19 of Matthew 16, He says, ““I will give you the keys of the kingdom” now what do you do with keys? You open things. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” And it’s interesting to me that Peter was given those keys and he is the one that led the first Jews to Christ on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2, and he is also the one that led the first Gentile to Christ, in the church age I’m talking about, Acts 10. And it’s almost like Jesus is saying this temple of Pan and all this paganism is not going to hold men’s mind hostage. You’re going to have the keys to open the truth of the gospel to people.
And as you look at verse 21, now this is where Peter kind of gets the bighead and he starts to second guess Jesus. I mean, it would be easy to get the bighead, wouldn’t it, at this point. I mean, you’ve got the keys. So verse 21 says, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and Scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.  Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him” can you imagine doing that to God, I mean you obviously think He’s God because you’ve got His identity right come here God, I want to show you a few thing. “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Concerning His crucifixion.  “But He” that’s Jesus, “turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me,” what? “Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s interest.”
So it’s interesting that one moment Peter makes a statement… and we’re very much like this, and this is why the Book of James, chapter 3, verses 9-12 tells us to be careful about being double-tongued. [James 3:9-12, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;  from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.  Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?  Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.”]
It’s sort of frightening that you can make a statement in one breath that God can use to edify or build and then the next breath as we appeal to pride or the sin nature something else can come out of our mouth that the devil could use. And that’s just who we are with two natures. I can make statements from the new nature or make statements from the old nature at will. Now the old nature doesn’t have the power over me as s slave owner as it once did but I can still go back to it. And so this is what happened to Peter and now Jesus says Peter, the devil is using you now, in this location where the temple of Pan was you’re no longer yielded to the purposes of God the Father, you’re now yielded to the purposes of the temple of Pan.
And it’s also very interesting in verse 21, and a lot of commentators will miss this, it says, “From that time” or some of your versions say “From that time on,” now that expression, “From that time on” to my knowledge only occurs two times in Matthew’s Gospel. The first time it occurs is in Matthew 4:17, which says, “From that time on Jesus went and He preached” what? “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is” what? “at hand.” That’s the national offer of the kingdom to the nation of Israel which we know they rejected in Matthew 12. The very next time that that identical expression shows up is in Matthew 16:21 and what’s happened in between Matthew 4 and Matthew 16? Matthew 12 which is the rejection of the offer of the kingdom. So now that the offer of the kingdom is off the table, withdrawn, at lease from that generation, Jesus articulates another purpose for which He came into the world, to die on the cross, to rise from the dead for the sins of humanity.
So those two expressions from that time on, whether it be the offer of the kingdom in early Matthew or “from that time on” and as He begins to speak of the crucifixion and the resurrection in latter Matthew, those two expressions reveal the two great purposes for which Jesus came to the earth. Early on His first purpose was to offer the kingdom to Israel. Now I think He always knew that the offer would be turned down which would lead to His second great purpose, which is to be betrayed by the nation of Israel and handed over (the leadership anyway) handed over to the Romans for execution. And consequently pay for the sins of the entire world through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
And so the expression “from that time on” will give you those two purposes and the whole thing is this latter purpose, the second purpose is revealed for the first time here in Upper Galilee, up north, in Caesarea Philippi. Peter liked the first purpose, he liked the kingdom stuff but he really didn’t like this idea of now that the offer has been rejected, Matthew 12, and withdrawn, he really didn’t like this idea of his second purpose, of a Messiah that’s suffering and dying. But anyway, it’s very interesting to look at this and to see that this whole interesting exchange took place there in Caesarea Philippi.
Continuing on, we’ll go to a place called Tel Dan, and there’s a common expression in the Bible from Dan to Beersheba. You’ll see that in 1 Kings 4:25. [1 Kings 4:25, “So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.”] Dan is all the way up north, Beersheba is down south, so when someone says “from Dan to Beersheba” they’re basically talking about the totality of the nation of Israel, not so much in the Abrahamic Covenant, we know that Israel’s land in the millennial kingdom is really going to go from the Nile all the way to the Euphrates. But from Dan to Beersheba is talking about the totality of Israel as it existed at the time.
So in the upper north there, upper Galilee, is a place called Tel Dan, and Tel Dan is interesting because when you go further north of Tel Dan you’ll run into something called Mount Herman, where Israeli’s today, I asked my tour guide about this, can actually go skiing there. So it has snow certain parts of the year and the snow melts and as the snow from Mount Herman melts it flows into a river called the Jordan River, (which sounds familiar) which runs through Dan and ultimately continues to move down south and spills out into the Sea of Galilee. So there in Dan you have this kind of rushing water from Mount Herman into the Jordan down to the Sea of Galilee. And so consequently Dan, Tel Dan is an area that is lush and it’s sort of out of place up there given its sort of arid conditions of the rest of the nation.
And it’s actually a very significant place because according to 2 Kings 10:29 and 2 Chronicles 13:8, I would just jot those verses down, I don’t know if we have time to read every single verse. [2 Kings 10:29, “However, as for the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin, from these Jehu did not depart, even the golden calves that were at Bethel and that were at Dan. 2 Chronicles 13:8, “So now you intend to resist the kingdom of the LORD through the sons of David, being a great multitude and having with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made for gods for you.”]
But 2 Kings 10:29, 2 Chronicles 13:8, this was for a northern king named Jeroboam. Now let me back up for a minute. Solomon left the throne in about 931 B.C. Solomon was the last king of the United Kingdom. After he left the throne the kingdom divided between Israel and Judah, north and south. So the very first king of the United Kingdom was a man named Saul, and he reigned for forty years. His reign was followed by David and he reigned for forty years and David’s reign was followed by Saul, and he reigned for forty years. So the three first kings of the United Kingdom each reigned for forty years. Saul reigned, we think, from about 1051 to 1011 and then David reigned from 1011 to about 971, and then Solomon reigned from about 971 to 931.
And Solomon brought divine discipline via the Mosaic Covenant because it’s almost like Solomon got up one day and did the exact opposite of what God said, late in his life. The king is not to intermarry with foreign women, so what did Solomon do? He intermarried with foreign women. He is not to amass unto himself gold and silver. What did Solomon do? He amassed unto himself gold and silver. And he made the mistake that all bad kings make, they put themselves not under the Mosaic Law but over the Mosaic Law. And that’s a no-no, because the King, unlike these ancient Middle Eastern deities surrounding the nation of Israel is not a deity himself. Kings are not gods, gods are not kings, the king was supposed to be under the Law, Deuteronomy 17:14-17.
[Deuteronomy 17:14-17, “When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’  you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.  “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’  “He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.”]
And so at the end of the Solomonic reign God brought discipline and the nation of Israel is divided between the ten northern tribes called Israel, headquartered in Samaria, and then the two southern tribes, who were the two southern tribes, Benjamin and Judah, those two tribes taking on the designation Judah, headquartered in Jerusalem. So Jeroboam was the first basically king of the northern kingdom, and what did Jeroboam do according to 2 Kings 10:29 and 2 Chronicles 13:8? Jeroboam, up north, erected two golden calves as gods in two place, Bethel and Dan. So he got tired of everybody going to Jerusalem, which was in the south to worship so he said let’s just set up a rival system via paganism in the north. And he did that at Tel Dan and what’s interesting is when you go to Tel Dan there’s some excavated remains of altars and things like that. You can find all kinds of pictures of this on the internet where it’s generally believed that he, at least in Dan, erected these two golden calves.
And one of the other very interesting things about Tel Dan is what’s called the Tel Dan Stela, and what is it? It’s a broken and inscribed stone discovered around 1993 to 1994 through excavations at Tel Dan. And what it reveals is Hazael, of Aram-Damascus boasting of his victories over the King of Israel. And the King of Israel’s ally, the King of the house of David. Aha, so David, as we study in the Bible, is not just a fictitious character, as many have led us to believe, but now through this Tel Dan Stela you have a record of a man named David and a “House of David.” All of this discovered at Tel Dan. It’s sort of interesting isn’t it? Didn’t last week at Caesarea Philippi we saw an inscription there giving record of Pontius Pilate’s existence. Remember in Caesarea on the Mediterranean coastline this is found, “Pontius Pilatus, the prefect of Judaea, (erected) a (building dedicated) to (the emperor) Tiberius.”
So we have evidence of Pontius Pilate existing, like the Bible says, we start to see evidence that David himself existed, just like the Bible says. Now can the Mormons find anything like this related to Jesus supposed entrance into North America in what was it, the 1800’s or earlier? It’s kind of interesting, Mormonism, their key school is BYU, Brigham Young University, they boast one of the greatest archeological departments in the world, and they can’t find a shred of evidence of their religion. And isn’t it interesting that we keep finding these things in the land of Israel, not contradicting but vindicating and validating what the Bible says.
Now I don’t know if archeology can prove the Bible, I don’t even know if God is going to allow us to find so many things that completely prove the Bible because God wants us to deal with Him on the basis of faith, “for without faith it’s impossible to please God.” [Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”]
But is interesting to me that God is allowing more and more discoveries to be made, whether it’s Pontius Pilate or David or whoever, kind of showing us that the biblical narrative, the biblical story is a credible story. I mean, when I have to believe other things I have to kind of set aside my intellect and accept something that’s true just because someone tells me it’s true, like The Book of Mormon. Not so with the Bible, God over and over again gives us evidence, if you will, concerning the fact that the Biblical story is in fact a very credible story to believe. You don’t have to throw your brain away to become a Christian. Christianity, contrary to the way people portray it, is not anti-intellectual. God has given us an intellect and many times He appeals to our intellect by reminding us that the faith that we have is a reasonable faith. We still have to walk by faith but it’s very, very reasonable.
From there we moved to the Sea of Galilee, and Angela, you might start seeing yorself in some of these pictures, because she was there with us, there is a picture of myself at the very bottom with Sarah and Anne, and Angela and you know about the Sea of Galilee, right? One of the things I like about the Sea of Galilee is no one can go there and build a church over it. All these other sites, someone gets ahead of us, usually the Catholics, and they build some giant church there and it blocks the view and all this stuff. I kind of like things in a natural state and I don’t think anybody has figured out how to build a church over the Sea of Galilee.
And by the way, there’s not a lot of debate concerning whether this was the Sea of Galilee or not, there’s only one Sea of Galilee in the nation. The Sea of Galilee is the location of the largest freshwater lake in Israel. You’re saying well can you swim across that? I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re in very good shape. The Sea of Galilee is 33 miles in circumference,13 miles long, 8 miles wide and its maximum depth would be about 141 feet. And depending on what location you are on the Sea of Galilee it’s about 705 to 686 feet below sea level. It’s the lowest fresh water supply on planet earth, the largest fresh water lake on planet earth.
Now whatis the largest body of water below sea level on planet earth? The Dead Sea, which we haven’t talked about yet. So the Sea of Galilee would be the second lowest lake on planet earth (to my knowledge) only to be rivaled by the Dead Sea. And what’s the source of water that flows into the Sea of Galilee? The Jordan River, which we just talked about. Josephus, now who was Josephus? A first century Jewish historian, who a lot of people within Israel kind of look at him as sort of a turncoat; he got captured by the Romans and he really didn’t put up much of a resistance and so he kind of had a career working for Rome recording history and that’s why with Josephus you’ll see him often dscribed with the first name Flavius Josephus, if I remember right, Flavius would be his Roman name. And he wrote several books of the time period just a tad after the life of Christ there at the conclusion of the first century. And if it wasn’t for his writings we wouldn’t have a lot of independent verification of the things that we read in the Bible, about the destruction of Israel that Jesus predicted in A.D. 70, etc.
So Josephus is a pretty important soruce and he speaks of thriving fishing area of the first century with 230 boats regularly working the lake. And so this starts to make sense, doesn’t it, about Jesus and the fishing business and how He went to the Sea of Galilee to recruit disciples. In fact, this is where Jesus called Peter into fulltime discipleship, Matthew 4:18-23. [Matthew 4:18, “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.  Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.  Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.”]
In fact, when you go over to Matthew 4 verses 18-23, this is the famous story where Jesus tells Peter to leave his nets because Jsus would make hiim “fishers of men.” And it says in verse 18, before this story happened it says ““Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee,” so the way Jesus describes it as a thriving fishing business industry with 230 boats in the time of Christ it makes a lot of sense based on what the biblical record reveals concerning this is where Jesus recruited His initial disciples. And this was the part of geography where Jesus did so many, many important miracles. Like what? Walking on the water, ever tried to do that? It was a miracle. Calming the storm, the miraculous catch of the fish, and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee He fed the five thousand. And not far from the Sea of Galilee is a place called Gedera Mark 5, where Jesus cast the demons out of a man and they went into a herd of pigs and rushed over the cliff.
[Mark 5:10, “And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.  Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain.  The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.”  Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.”]
I mean, all of these things are happening at this location called the Sea of Galilee. AND one of the things that’s very, very interesting is it’s the place where a very important discovery was made called the Jesus boat. Or if you’re a Hebrew and you like to use the Hebrew name for Christ we’ll call this the Yeshua Boat. And what is this exactly? It’s a boat that has been discovered from the first century. It’s an ancient fishing boat, it was discovered in 1986 in a drought and receding waters and it was discovered in the southwestern section of the Sea of Galilee. If you want the dimensions of the boat that was discovered it’s 27 feet long, 8 feet wide and has a maximum height of about four feet, and it’s now being housed in a place called Gennesaret, and you see there in the upper left where Gennesaret is there on the Sea of Galilee. And it’s basically been acknowledged by everyone that this is a fishing boat from the first century. In fact, when they pulled this thing up it’s an interesting story, they have there in Gennesaret sort of a museum that you can go to and sort of a little movie that they show you, the chemicals and all of the things they had to put into place to preserve this thing from the first century because it began to disintegrate the moment that they found it.
Now can you look in the boat and say [can’t understand word] because Jesus was here and Peter was here. I mean, is this the boat that Jesus was on or was His disciples? Well, we don’t know that, but there really is no evidence besides the date of connecting the boat to Jesus or His disciples. I just want to make the very simple point that your Bible talks about Jesus in a boat with His disciples, it talks about a thriving fishing business, and this whole scenario on the Sea of Galilee is confirmed, not only by the writings of Josephus but by the discovery of this Yeshua or Jesus boat.
And if you go over to Mark 4, I was privileged to give a sermon actually on the Sea of Galilee, I wasn’t walking, I was on a boat, and when I figured out how much they charged us to get on the boat I could understand why Jesus decided to walk. [Laughter] But there we were on the Sea of Galilee and I had a chance to teach out of Mark 4:35-41 which is a story you all know, it’s about Jesus calming the waters on the Sea of Galilee.
And it’s very interesting here, it says in verse 37, “And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.” Look at Matthew 8:24, you have the same kind of thing happening as Matthew which accounts either the same event or a similar event. It says, “And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.” And we can draw all kinds of spiritual applications out of that, can’t we? But one of the things that’s very interesting to discover about the Sea of Galilee is based on how it’s situated storms have and can arise lickety-split, just like the Bible says.
I found this on the internet, it says, “The seas location makes it subject to sudden and violent storms as the wind comes over the eastern mountains and drops suddenly onto the sea. Storms are especially likely when an east wind blows cool air over the warm air that covers the sea, the cold air being heavier drops as the warm air arises. This sudden change can produce surprisingly furious storms in a short time as it did in Jesus’ day. Matthew 8:24, Mark 4, etc.”
So whether we’re talking about evidence of the existence of Pontius Pilate, evidence of the existence of David, evidence of the existence of a fishing industry, and fishing boats from the first century or even sudden storms on the Sea of Galilee you see very fast that oh my goodness, this Bible that we’re reading is very credible. This is not Jack and the Beanstalk stuff. I mean, these things historically actually transpired, just like your Bible says. But I hope what this is doing is it’s growing your faith or your confidence in the Word of God. That’s my goal in sharing this with you.
And then one other thing very fast, how am I going to do this fast? It’s the Sermon on the Mount for crying out loud. We went to a place called the Mount of Beatitudes where it’s generally believed in a location like… either it was this one or like this one on the Sea of Galilee, that the Sermon on the Mount transpired. You may know or may not know that Matthew’s Gospel has five sermons in it. Remember, Matthew’s Gospel is the most Jewish Gospel that we have. It is the first gospel written, it was written to Hebrew Christians answering the [can’t understand word] because the whole early church was what? Gentile or Jew? Jewish. So it stands to reason that Matthew’s Gospel is the most Jewish one and will be the first one. …answering the question if Jesus is the King then where is His kingdom, because in the Jewish mind king and kingdom are like horse and carriage. And it was a stumbling block to the early Hebrew Christians that we believe in Yeshua as our Messiah but where’s His kingdom. How come Isaiah 9:6-7 isn’t being fulfilled right now, where He’ll beat their swords into plowshares and all that stuff.?
[Isaiah 9:6-7, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”]
Matthew’s point is the kingdom has not been cancelled but it’s been postponed. Amen. Isn’t that great that I can say this in church and everybody gets the right answer? If I go to a church down the street and I say that they wouldn’t know what I was talking about. But not so at Sugar Land Bible Church. Praise the Lord for you guys.
So Matthew’s explanation is if Christ is the King then where is His kingdom, and Matthew’s Gospel has in it five sermons that he draws our attention to. How do we know that these are the five? Because every sermon ends with a literary device, “and when Jesus had finished saying these things.” At the end of every sermon you’ll see that expression, “when Jesus had finished saying these things.” That’s how you know you’re concluding each sermon.
And how many sermons are there? There are five. You say what’s the big deal about five? To the Jewish mind five is a big deal. How many initial Books of the Bible do we have called the Torah? Five. The Book of Psalms is divided into how many books? Five. David went and slew Goliath with how many stones? Five. You guys can high-five me later on this. So it stands to reason that he would… Matthew, the most Jewish Gospel that we have, would highlight these five sermons.
And one of the biggies is the Sermon on the Mount which I believe is an explanation as to why the nation of Israel rejected the kingdom. I mean, why would they turn the whole thing down? Read Matthew 5-7 and you’ll see it. They actually, according to John 6:15 and verse 26, after Jesus fed the masses with a few fish and a few loaves they were going to take Jesus, these Jews, by force and make Him the king. You’re going to be our king whether you like it or not. You know why? Because they loved the parts of His ministry dealing with their physical needs. [John 6:15, “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.”  Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”]
After all they had been under Roman subjection and they couldn’t wait for a Messiah to get there and overthrow Rome and set up His kingdom. So what was the delay? Well, Jesus begins to articulate that you can’t get into the kingdom without the transferred righteousness that God gives. That was unpopular. That’s why He makes statements that unless your righteousness, Matthew 5:20, what is it? “exceeds,” exceeds who? “the Scribes and the Pharisees” you can’t get in. [Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”]
Well how in the world do that with when the Scribes and the Pharisees are the holy men of Israel? Well, what he’s teaching there is you can’t get in through works righteousness, which always appeals to pride, you get in through transferred righteousness, what the Protestant Reformers called alien righteousness.
And how badly do I need this transferred righteousness? I need it pretty bad because the Law of God does not just sit in judgment on what I do; it sits in judgment on what I think. Did you know that? When you look at an ancient Near East list, look at the first thing mentioned in the list or the last thing mentioned and that typically will unlock the meaning of the list. What is the last commandment, number 10. “Thou shalt not covet.” Do you know the rabbis wrote extensively on almost everything on that list except that one? That was a stumbling block to them. Why was it a stumbling block to them? Because coveting is something that I can to in my heart without physically doing anything. Do you see that?
The Law of God… here’s the deal, my heart has committed sins that my hands haven’t gotten around to yet. I mean, it that’s the standard who’s going to make it? No one! Unless you have what? The alien righteousness of Christ. And this is why Jesus said if you’re angry with your brother then you are a murderer. Well, I didn’t physically do anything, Lord. It doesn’t matter, the Law of God sits in judgment not just on what you do but what you think. The inward motivations of the heart, commandment ten, should make that obvious. If I am looking at someone sexually that I’m not married to, that makes me a what? An adulterer… but I haven’t done anything. Well, the Law of God sits in judgment, not just on what you do but what you think, Matthew 5:21-22, Matthew 5:27-28.
[Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ‘ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.”  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’;  but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”]
That’s why He says your righteousness has to surpass the Scribes and the Pharisees or you can’t enter the kingdom of God, Matthew 5:20. [Matthew 5:20, ““For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Well, what hope is there for any of us? How does the Sermon on the Mount end? “Ask, and it will be” what? “given to you; seek and you will” what? “find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” You can’t get this righteousness through self, contrary to what the Scribes and the Pharisees were teaching, you get it only by asking God.
And that’s why when you get to the end of the Sermon on the Mount it says, [Matthew 7:28-29] “When Jesus had finished saying these words, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,  for He was teaching them as one having authority, not as their scribe.” He was going back the original intent of the Law of Moses, that the Law of God sits in judgment on what I think, which has been lost through the self-righteousness mindset of the Pharisees. And that’s why they didn’t want the kingdom anymore, because the kingdom is not just about getting fed physically, and it’s not just about overthrowing Rome, there’s moral requirement to get in which has to be supplied by God. And this is where Jesus gave this sermon. As you look on this map it’s generally believed that He was sort of seated more down on the hill and the crowd was up on the hill.
And one other quick thing before we close here, something has been built here by Roman Catholicism called The Church of the Beatitudes, and it is an octagonal floorplan, having eight sides. Why would they build a church with eight sides to it? Anybody know? How many beatitudes are there? Anybody want to guess? Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who mourn, Matthew 5:3-10.
[Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”]
There’s eight of these, that’s why they build this church there with eight sides. Anyway, that’s the significance of the Mount of Beatitudes.
Father, we’re grateful for this class and the things that we’re learning. I pray that you will continue to grow us deeper in Your Word as we study the very important life and geography of Israel. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name and God’s people said…. Amen!