Episode #09 Impact of Place

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Episode #09 – The Land Between with guest, Jeff Manion
Brian: Our Daily Bread Ministries Bible geography expert Dr. Jack Beck is back with the
Discover the Word group on the Discover the Word podcast to continue to explore the
impact of place.
Jack: Several years ago I came to ODB with a vision and said, you know, there’s something
going on here that the church hasn’t wrapped its arms around very tightly. I’m going to try
to get the church to think more carefully about the geography they have in their Bible and
trying to be intentional about having people think about how stories really do have homes
in these places. You can’t take one of these stories and shift its location and end up with
the same outcome. That’s a fairly easy door to open and a very long hallway to walk down
for the rest of your life, you know, in terms of understanding what that relationship is.
Brian: Yeah. The relationship between an event and where that event happens. The impact
of place. So join us as Dr. Jack Beck takes us to some passages in the Bible and shows us
where it took place, helps us better understand what happened and why it happened.
Another fascinating set of conversations happens next on Discover the Word.
And welcome to Discover the Word, the small-group Bible study from Our Daily Bread
Ministries. On this Discover the Word podcast, our resident Bible geography expert here at
Our Daily Bread Ministries, Dr. Jack Beck, returns and continues to explore with us the
importance of where, “The Impact of Place.” Jack is convinced that location is always a
factor and always shapes our understanding of an event. And so, for that reason when God
speaks in the pages of Scripture, geography is a factor that we need to consider. And the
Bible has geography on virtually every page. So, we hope our time with Jack is opening
your eyes to something that you need to pay attention to when you read your Bible. Now
at the table with him, or actually on the Zoom call, are our regular Discover the Word group
members Elisa Morgan, Bill Crowder, and Daniel Ryan Day. And this week we’ll be in the
New Testament. In our previous podcast we focused mainly on some Old Testament
stories. But we’re going to begin this time with the location of where, basically, the New
Testament begins: the birth of Jesus. Where this happens is something the biblical writers
stress multiple times.
Jack: We say important things more than once. You know what I mean by that?
Daniel: I don’t. What do you mean by that?
Jack: Well, I tell my wife I love her every day. I think that’s important . . .
Daniel: Okay.
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Jack: . . . to say more than once.
Daniel: Yeah.
Elisa: I think as a parent I have certainly said important things more than once. And I’m
thinking about one phrase that was drilled into me is that people are more important than
things. And I would say it actually to myself every time something that I kind of liked got
broken, you know, in our home or something. So, people are more important than things,
Bill: Yeah. I think for me, like yours, Elisa, it’s more of a self-talk then stuff to other people
because I’m constantly having to remind myself to depend on the Lord because it’s not
that I think I’m all that and a bag of chips. It’s just I tend to be a fixer and I . . . so I try to fix
things. And I just go ahead and start without sitting and thinking, Lord, I need Your help
with this. And so, I have to remind myself to intentionally do that because it is important.
Daniel: Yeah. And I like what you just said there, Bill. Because you also just repeated to
yourself something I’m also guessing you repeat to yourself often: Alright, I’m a fixer so I
try to fix things. And for me, like, you know—whether it’s the Enneagram or a strengths
finder or something like that—another important thing that I repeat to myself is I know
how I’m wired. And as a result of how I’m wired, I sometimes try to do things that I’m not
supposed to do or not called to do or stress myself out trying to do things that I should let
someone else handle. So, this is one of the important things that I remind myself of as
well, which is: Whether it’s depending on the Lord or depending on others, these are my
defaults and they’re not always a good thing.
Jack: As a Bible geographer, I pay a lot of attention to place. And I’m particularly struck
when the name of a place gets repeated frequently. And today I’d like to talk about one of
those place names that shows up again and again and again in a story where we may not
have noticed it: the Christmas story as it’s told by Matthew and by Luke. If we look at those
two accounts, we see that the label Bethlehem or its equivalent, town of David, is
mentioned nine times when they tell the story of Jesus’ birth. That’s amazing to me
because it doesn’t necessarily jump off the page when I am reading it. And I, for sure, am
not going to know that of the ten times that that place is mentioned in the New
Testament, nine of them occur in the context of the Christmas story. So, I’d like to explore
that with you and see if we can answer the question, Why is Bethlehem so important to the
Christmas story?
Daniel: Let’s do it.
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Jack: Let’s start with Luke 2:1–2. Daniel, would you be so kind as to read that for us? I
think there’s our first answer.
Daniel: I’m looking at these words. These are words I think I had to memorize as a kid.
Jack: Isn’t it true? Isn’t it true? You just say these words so often and they just become
almost slogan-esque rather than something that’s meaningful. So, let’s slow down and see
what it has to say about where the story’s going to happen.
Daniel: Alright. So, Luke 2:1, “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that
all the world should be registered. This was the first registration that was taken while
Quirinius was the governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph
also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called
Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.” So, there we
have city of David and Bethlehem both.
Jack: And we have the reason, right, why Joseph went.
Bill: It was a legal requirement, right? There was a government mandate like in the days of
COVID when there were government mandates of the places you couldn’t go. This was a
government mandate of a place they had to go.
Jack: Yeah. So, Joseph’s family, his extended family, still lived there. He must have had
property there. And the census requirement required him to go to Bethlehem. But it
doesn’t seem like that’s an adequate explanation for why the biblical authors repeat
Bethlehem so often in this story. So, let’s keep going. And Elisa, would you read for us
Micah 5:2 and see if we can discover another reason why this story had to move from
Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Elisa: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out
of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
Jack: Yeah. It’s another one of those passages I memorized in connection with Christmas
programs as a kid. But how does it help us with the question, why is this story a Bethlehem
Elisa: Well there’s a prophecy. So, it’s something that has been foretold. Micah is a prophet
and that’s where we’re reading from. And so way back, hundreds of years prior, it was
prophesied that out of Bethlehem will come one who will be the ruler over Israel.
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Bill: Yeah. It seems like in the Old Testament, Jack, that there’s a kind of prophecy where
it’s warning of judgment for the departure of Israel from walking with their God. And there
are other kinds of prophecies which are promises of better days ahead. And I think Micah 5
is more in that later category of, yeah, this is a rough time but there’s a better time coming.
Is that about right?
Jack: Oh yeah. So well said, Bill. And what it does is to essentially give us a
latitude/longitude plot for where to look for those better times to get underway, yeah?
Elisa: Meaning a geographic place.
Jack: A geographic place.
Elisa: Okay.
Jack: Right.
Daniel: And so that’s where the prophecy that this Messianic king, this Messiah and ruler,
would be born and that He would be born where David also came from, right? So it was
like the line of David, but it was also that there was a king coming who also would be the
Messiah. So, it was like all of those pieces wound up together.
Jack: When you put those first two pieces of evidence together, that’s a pretty good reason
for mentioning where this story is occurring. But I’m still pausing at, really, nine times? I
got it after the first one or two. So why are Matthew and Luke continuing to harp away on
this idea that Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the town of David? And one of the ways as a
Bible geographer and interpreter that I like to think about geography is that places
contribute feeling to stories. And one of the ways they do that is by recalling things that
happened in a place before. So, when I look back in the Old Testament at the big
Bethlehem stories, there are really only two. And they have something in common. At the
time of Ruth and Naomi, we’re looking at a family in great distress. And the Lord used
Bethlehem to provide a solution for that family in need. Fast forward not terribly far to the
time of David and again we see not a family but a nation in crisis. We spoke of it last week
when King Saul was stumbling and struggling to be an appropriate leader for God’s people,
and the Lord sent Samuel to Bethlehem to provide a solution in leadership. This time he’s
anointing David as the next king of Israel. And so, as an Old Testament reader, whenever I
meet Bethlehem I’m sort of trained to think of it as a place that provides solutions. You see
where I’m going with this?
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Elisa: Good.
Bill: Yeah, I really like that, Jack, because I think one of the things that we’ve talked about
on Discover the Word as a team many times is to try to understand not how to read it
through a twenty-first century filter, but how to read the text with the idea of how the first
hearers would have heard it. And I suspect that the first hearers of this story would have
reacted very emotionally because of the very things you’re mentioning. And for us, we
don’t go there, and we should.
Daniel: Yeah.
Elisa: And, you know, this may be off base, and you can tell me if it is if you want to for
sure, but, you know, I think I learned that Bethlehem means house of bread. And I’m
thinking about where you’re pointing us to in terms of the layers of Bethlehem in Scripture,
and I’m thinking about the story of Ruth and how she was gleaning in a field of wheat for
Boaz, and then I’m thinking about Jesus who became the Bread of Life . . .
Jack: Yeah.
Elisa: . . . for us. There’s something interesting in that maybe?
Jack: Yeah. I think so, Elisa.
Daniel: Yeah, so there’re all these different layers to the story. So you have theological
reasons for why the Messiah would need to be born there prophetically, then you have this
kingship line that He continues in (being born of the house of David in the city of David),
and then you have the emotional story that’s happening, which is, this is a place where
God provides help for His people. And then, Elisa, like you’re talking about, there’s this
other metaphorical lens to Bethlehem as well that kind of reinforces God’s provision for
His people when they’re in crisis or in need of help.
Bill: Yeah, it’s like we saw in a couple of the locations we visited last week with you, Jack,
something about those places make us look backward and make us look forward, and I
think, Daniel, that’s exactly what you’re getting at. We look backward and we see Ruth and
we see David, but we look forward and, to Elisa’s point, we see Bread of Life and
Bethlehem becomes the hinge pin for all of that.
Jack: A foundation piece for me in reading any Bible story is the realization that that story
can be told in more than one way. And what I love and what’s so powerful for me is that
the Spirit leads these writers to compose these stories in specific fashion. And so when I
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see a point of emphasis like Bethlehem, I’m going, yeah, that story didn’t have to be told in
that way, so what did that story do for me because it’s being told in that way? And I think
it’s a story not only about a political necessity of going to Bethlehem for a tax census; it’s
not only a theological necessity of seeing that this prophecy in Micah is fulfilled, but it
also imbues this story with this connotation of the solution we’ve been waiting for. And
I’ve got to tell you, there’s a powerful moment that I had on my last visit—one of my last
visits to Bethlehem—because I went with one of my dear Bethlehem friends to a place in
the Church of the Nativity that I had never had the chance to be before. You know, there
are sort of public places and there are places that you aren’t allowed to go. And the Church
of the Nativity is a very popular place because it remembers the location where the Christ
child was born. Well, my friend took me up into the bell tower of that building, and what I
was able to see from there is not something that’s so easily seen from the ground; and that
is that the church that commemorates the birth of Jesus is constructed in the shape of a
cross. And so, it has Jesus’ crucifixion in view as it celebrates the moment of His birth, and I
tell you, that’s the solution, that is the solution that Bethlehem really delivers in my life.
Brian: Yeah. An intriguing look at why Bethlehem is important not only to the Christmas
story, but to the whole of Scripture. As Jack said, in all the stories set in Bethlehem, it is a
place that provides solutions culminating, of course, in the ultimate solution of Jesus.
This is the Discover the Word podcast with Elisa Morgan, Bill Crowder, Daniel Ryan Day, and
special guest Jack Beck. And, you know what, Jack is such a deep well when it comes to the
geography and history of the land of the Bible. He has led numerous tours of Israel and is
also on the faculty and teaches field study classes in Israel at Jerusalem University College.
And after we had that last conversation about Bethlehem, we got a bonus bucket of info
out of that deep well about the Church of the Nativity there in Bethlehem. Listen to this:
Jack: It, the church, has such a fascinating history, right? It’s the oldest surviving church in
the Holy Land. It’s a neat piece of architecture. And I don’t know when the last time was
that you were in there, those of you who’ve had a chance to be in Bethlehem, but they
have restored the beautiful artwork on the walls and done restoration on the floor as well.
And it’s just . . . wow.
Elisa: When was it built?
Jack: Remarkable.
Elisa: What year?
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Jack: The church itself? So, it was built in the fourth century. I think it was dedicated about
334 by Queen Helena, the wife of Constantine. That church was destroyed in about 539 in
the Samaritan uprising. And then the church itself was rebuilt late in the sixth century by
Justinian. And do you know the story of the façade and the wise men? It’s such a
fascinating . . . it’s actually retold in one of the church counsels. That’s how we know the
story. But when the Persians invaded (AD 614), they destroyed most of the Christian
churches in the Holy Land. That’s when the Byzantine churches were destroyed. But when
they came to Bethlehem, on the façade of the church was a mosaic depicting the wise
men. And the Persian attackers saw that mosaic, saw themselves in the art, and said, “Pass.
We’re going to let this building alone.” And so, as a consequence of the art, . . .
Elisa: Wow!
Jack: . . . the building was preserved. And actually, that story was preserved because there
was this discussion about whether or not art was appropriate in a church building in one of
the early church counsels and this story was quoted in support of the art.
Elisa: Wow, that’s powerful.
Jack: Isn’t that an interesting . . .
Daniel: That’s so cool.
Jack: . . . an interesting story? Yeah. So, in the church itself you have evidence of the floor,
the mosaic floors of the fourth century church, the mosaics. The floor level was raised for
the sixth- century church. So, we are walking above that earlier floor, but most of the
primary architectural components in the building are sixth century. So, it’s an amazing
piece of history to walk through.
Brian: And that’s what you get when you’re with Jack Beck. Pretty amazing. His passion for
making Bible geography meaningful is pretty hard to resist. Well, in this next part of our
conversation with Jack, he’s going to take us to one of his favorite places to explore. But in
Bible times, was it a place where you went to have fun and relax and enjoy yourself? Well
let’s find out.
Jack: You know, I absolutely love the wilderness. If I have a choice, I’m not sitting at my
desk but I’ve got a backpack on and I’m wandering in the backcountry exploring the
natural world. I’m wondering if you guys share that passion with me or find that to be
absolutely crazy.
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Daniel: I do share that passion, Jack. I love sitting in the woods. I love hiking. I love fishing
and hunting and being in the wilderness as well. So, I’m right there with you.
Bill: I love the outdoors as well, but not so much the wilderness as much as I do golf
courses. So, if I’m outdoors, I don’t have a knapsack or a backpack, but I do have a golf bag.
Elisa: Yeah, and I love that, Bill. And then I was thinking there was a difference between
the outdoors and wilderness; and honestly, you know, I live in Colorado and so our
wilderness is really beautiful, but I spent quite a bit of time in the desert in California, or I
have spent a lot of time there, and it has its own beauty. But you can experience the
danger of the wilderness uniquely. I guess kind of like you can in the winter in Colorado,
you know, the summer in California desert, I mean, I think I was there one time and it was
124 . . .
Jack: Whoa!
Elisa: . . . degrees. You know it’s just—it’s oppressive. So, outdoors versus wilderness,
maybe there’s a difference between the two of those for me.
Bill: Oh, I think so.
Daniel: Yeah.
Bill: I think you’re on to something, Elisa.
Jack: It’s one of the places where I’m challenged as a lover of wilderness when I read Bible
stories about wilderness, because the people who were living in Bible times thought about
wilderness in the polar opposite way that I do. Wilderness was not something to be
engaged and enjoyed, but something you would avoid at all costs. And it’s interesting
when you look at ancient travel narratives. People would go miles and miles out of their
way to avoid these wilderness areas. And it’s because a biblical wilderness is a place that
has an extreme shortage of all the things that human beings need to survive. And that
brings us to the story that I’d like to look at with you. It’s in Matthew 4:1–4, Jesus’
temptation in the wilderness. Bill, would you be willing to read that for us?
Bill: Sure. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the
devil, and after he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he then became hungry, and the
tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones
become bread.’ But Jesus answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live on bread
alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”’”
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Jack: So, you know I’m a Bible geographer—and so the question I always ask when I can
land a story in a place is, what is that place contributing to that story that I may not have
noticed before? So, let me take the question to you, as you heard those verses read, what is
there about wilderness that you see contributing towards this story?
Bill: Well one of the things you’ve been teaching us to do is to look for other times that
that kind of thing appears; and it seems to me, Jack, that there are a number of times in the
Scriptures when God wants to do some training with an individual that that training takes
place in the wilderness—whether it was Moses or Elijah or Paul in the New Testament,
and, of course, John the Baptist. All of those guys spent time in the wilderness getting
ready for the task that God was going to call them to.
Elisa: And is there a specific place that would be the wilderness or was it just anywhere in
different places for all of the examples we see in the Bible?
Jack: Yeah, the word wilderness really defines an ecosystem, and then you’ve got some
proper names that are used to describe different specific locations where we’d find that
ecosystem—the wilderness of Sinai, the wilderness of Zin. This particular story, a little
farther north than those that are all in the Sinai Peninsula, this I would put in the Judean
wilderness, which runs for about sixty miles north and south, just to the west of the Dead
Sea. Now this story’s occurring right after Jesus’ baptism. It’s what precedes this, and so I
think putting Him in that area, the northern part of that Judean wilderness, is where I’d
land this story. And it’s a rough place to live.
Daniel: Yeah.
Jack: I mean, it’s a place where I take people for hikes because I love being out in this
place, but it isn’t a place we stay overnight. I have stayed overnight. I shouldn’t say that. I
have camped out overnight in that wilderness. But I would never think of taking a group
and doing that. There’s just not enough food. There’s not enough water. There’re still
Iranian wolves that spook around that area, so there’s nighttime danger in that place. And
if you look at this story told in four verses, there’s a lot packed into that. And here’s what
you and the listeners may not have noticed. This story is told in such a way as to
demonstrate that Jesus put Himself in exactly the same position that ancient Israel was in
when they were out in the wilderness. Yeah, and there’s a number of details like that. Like,
Jesus and Israel were both led by God into this ecosystem. They both arrived in the same
type of landscape, even though the proper name was different for where Israel was and
where Jesus was. It was the same ecosystem. Each spent a period of forty there: for Israel,
forty years; Jesus, forty days. Each was overwhelmed by hunger in this place. Not enough
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water, poor soil quality, you can’t grow grain out there. They were hungry, and they were
consequently faced by the same question. The Father turns to Israel in the past and to
Jesus in His moment and says, “Will you trust Me? Will you trust Me when the
fundamentals for your survival are not in view?” How’d Israel do?
Elisa: Wow! Not so great.
Daniel: Yeah.
Elisa: Although forty years is a lot different than forty days, but still.
Bill: Yeah, they did a lousy job of it. I wouldn’t have done any better.
Elisa: Me neither.
Bill: I mean I might not have lasted forty minutes, let alone forty years.
Jack: Yeah. I absolutely agree with you, and yet the story is there. We see that God
provided for them with the water, the manna that they required on a daily, weekly,
monthly basis, and yet they really struggled to own the sort of trust that the Lord looked
for in them. I don’t know that you can come to any other conclusion then the one that
Moses came to. And that was, Yeah, we just didn’t get this right. We failed out here. And so
the question is who can get this right? And I love what Romans 5:19 says, “For just as
through the disobedience of the one man that many were made sinners,” get ready, here it
comes, “so also through the obedience of the one man that many will be made righteous.”
Now that’s sort of ethereal and nontangible. But what I see in this story is an illustration of
exactly what Paul is talking about in Romans. What did Jesus come to this earth to do? He
came to put Himself in exactly the same circumstances we find ourselves in, whether
ancient Israel in the past or me in the present. And then when He was tempted in every
way just like we are, He succeeded where we fail. And it’s this powerful story then not only
about what to do when faced by temptation, because even though Jesus gives me this
wonderful example of what I can do to succeed, I still fail. He comes alongside me and
says, “I got this. I’m going to do this for you.” And my salvation is built on nothing less than
Jesus’ experience in the wilderness where He succeeds, where I fail.
Bill: Jack, as you talk about that, when you look at the wilderness experience of Israel and
the context of that as this new national entity, and then Jesus comes in and succeeds
where they fail, a lot of theologians seem to think that this kind of pictures Jesus as the
new Israel or the complete Israel or the representative Israel or something like that. Is that
how you’re seeing it as well?
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Jack: I think I would broaden that out, Bill. I think I would see Him as a representative for
all humanity.
Bill: Okay.
Jack: And so, I see Jesus using this as an exemplar of what He came to do. “I have come to
put myself in a scenario, in a situation, where people of the past were not successful, and
look what I’m able to do. I’m able to succeed where they fail.” And it becomes then a
trajectory into my life that says, yeah, where you fail and where you feel that stumble,
right, I feel that powerful solution. I mean, if I only look to Jesus as an example of how to
live, I think I’m to be terribly pitied. Certainly, He is that, but if all He is to me is, here’s an
example of how to live well, I’m not going to go to sleep well at night because I never live
up to the standard. I’m always coming up short. And the wonderful news of the gospel
captured in Romans 5:19 and illustrated in Matthew 4 is that Jesus can put Himself in
exactly the same scenario and succeed where I failed.
Brian: Yeah, where we fail, Jesus succeeds. “The Impact of Place,” the impact of the
wilderness, you’re studying on the Discover the Word podcast with Elisa Morgan, Bill
Crowder, Daniel Ryan Day, and our special guest for this series, author and scholar Dr. Jack
Beck. Back with more after this message.
Now if you’re enjoying this series of conversations with Bible geography expert Dr. Jack
Beck, then I think you’ll also be interested in a series of videos on our Our Daily Bread
Ministries YouTube channel in which Jack connects the land and what God is saying in the
stories of the Bible.
Jack: Some of what God has had to say to us, He’s chosen to say with geography. And
whether or not we engage it, that makes a huge difference sometimes in the stories that
we read. And I hope the stories that we look at shine a new spotlight on the way God uses
place to speak to us.
Brian: Yeah. You’ll find a link to where you can watch these videos on our
discovertheword.org website or just type Our Daily Bread YouTube channel into the search
box on your web browser and you’ll have access to these intriguing videos with Dr. Jack
And now, back to our conversations about “The Impact of Place” on the Discover the Word
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Episode #09 – The Land Between with guest, Jeff Manion
Jack: Some time ago, I had one of those experiences that you just wish you didn’t have to
have in life. One of my friends and colleagues at Jerusalem University College, where I
have taught for so many years, passed away due to complications from COVID. And it really
hit me hard, cause he’s a young guy, you know? I think death is hard anyway, and death in
young people is even harder for me.
Elisa: Oh, I so agree.
Daniel: Yeah, for sure.
Elisa: Yeah. I’ve shared before that we lost our grandson Malachi. He came from his
mother’s womb straight into heaven and, you know, almost ready to grow and be a running
child in this happy world. But being in the presence of life and death together is sacred,
holy, and very sobering, very powerful. So, I hear it. I’m sorry for your grief, Jack. I hear that.
Daniel: In many ways the year 2020 was a year of death ever being before us in some
ways. And there’s an ancient church practice, actually, of keeping death ever before us, of
being reminded that we’re dust and to dust we will return because of how much it changes
our perspective on life.
Bill: Yeah, Ernest Hemmingway, I think it was, said, “Every true story ends in death.” And all
of us are living true stories, which means we have the same appointment that everybody
else does. And when it really hit home for me was when my father died. I was only twentyeight years old. He was only fifty-eight when he . . .
Jack: Wow.
Bill: . . . passed and . . .
Jack: Wow.
Bill: You know, I look back and I think, you know, he only saw one of his grandsons.
Elisa: Yeah. Yeah.
Jack: Well, I think it’s why the story that we want to look at today is looked at so
affectionately by the readers of the Bible, because it shows Jesus not only confronting
death, but having the power over death. It’s the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11.
There’s a pretty long lead in backstory to this. Jesus was not with the family when Lazarus
died. He was some distance away. And so, He arrives on the fourth day after Lazarus’
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passing. Martha, who is the sister of Lazarus, who had passed away, was at home, receiving
the support of family and friends. When she heard Jesus was on the way in, she didn’t wait
for Him to come. She dashed out to meet Him on the road into Bethany. And that’s where
I’d like to begin, because Jesus says something to her that echoes throughout time and into
our lives about what He can do when confronted by death. Let’s take a look at it together.
I’d like you to listen carefully both to what Jesus said—and Daniel, if you would be so kind
as to read that—.
Daniel: Okay.
Jack: But most importantly, I’d like to look at what we don’t always pause at, and that is
Martha’s response in the twenty-seventh verse. So, Daniel, if you could start with 25 and
maybe, Elisa, pick up with 27 for us. That’d be great.
Daniel: Sure. Yeah, so this is right after Martha almost accuses Jesus, “If you had been here,
my brother wouldn’t have died.”
Jack: And just a word on that: I think what she’s doing there is echoing what she’s been
hearing in the house. Because it shows up later in the chapter as well. It’s like, “This is
really bothering me, Lord, you know? The people who came to comfort me were actually
stirring this notion in me.” So, she is not one to sit back anyway.
Bill: Yeah.
Jack: And this apparently has her pretty animated.
Bill: Apparently, she and Mary have been saying it back and forth to each other as well.
Jack: Yeah.
Bill: So, it’s really a pain-filled kind of statement.
Jack: Yeah.
Daniel: Yeah, and Jesus responds to her in verse 25, “I am the resurrection and the life.
Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and
believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Elisa: And then in verse 27, “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the
Son of God, who is come into the world.”
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Jack: There’re two really powerful theological points packed into those three verses. First
of all, Jesus says, I have the power over death. And then Martha says, in response to the
question, “Do you believe that?” She says, “I believe I’ll have met the Messiah when I
believe that person who has power over death.” In other words, “Yeah, I believe you have
the power over death because you are the Messiah.”
Bill: Okay, Jack, let me interrupt you . . .
Jack: Yeah.
Bill: . . . just a second. You’re kind of throwing me a curveball, because when I read verse
27, it just sounds like she’s agreeing with Him. It doesn’t sound like she’s setting a
condition for agreeing with Him. So how do you get that out of that? Is there something in
the . . . ?
Elisa: Let me piggyback too. I’m wondering if she’s going, “Yeah, that’s why I said, ‘If You’d
been here, he wouldn’t have died.’ You would have kept him from dying.” Is that what she
Jack: So, first of all to Bill’s point, I didn’t intend it to be conditional. I simply was trying to
reflect, how did people . . . ? And Martha certainly represents the ordinary folk.
Bill: Okay.
Jack: She is not the theologian of Jerusalem. She is the ordinary folk. And how does she
think? She is anticipating that when the Messiah comes, she will see something like this.
So, it’s interesting to me that her response is not, “Yes, I believe that you can raise the
dead.” It’s, “Yes, I believe you’re the Messiah.” And that’s a pretty powerful theological
declaration. So, I didn’t intend it to be . . .
Bill: Okay.
Jack: . . . to be conditional.
Bill: I probably just misunderstood.
Jack: Yeah, I may have said it in a way . . . And to Elisa’s point, is He responding to the
question? I think He is. At least in part. But He’s saying to her, your scope is too narrow.
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Right? You’re thinking my timing is bad because I’m too late. And I’m going to show you
that the timing doesn’t matter. I’m here.
Elisa: Yeah. Yeah, that’s good.
Bill: Yeah.
Daniel: What I’m caught up on, though, is in all of these conversations you’ve been
pointing us to a place. And we’re talking about these theological ideas in these verses, but
does the place have something to do with the story? Is that why you’re drawing it to us? Or
. . . like, what’s the geography have to do with this story?
Jack: Yeah, thanks for making sure that we get there, Daniel, because this is isn’t the first
time Jesus has raised the dead. Let me use that as a way we get there, alright?
Bill: Right. Sure.
Jack: So, do you know the other two times?
Elisa: Well, He raised the widow’s son.
Bill: And Jairus’ daughter.
Jack: And Jairus’ daughter. So, we’ve got two events like this before to which people would
have reacted in a way that was similar to the way Martha is. So, my question is, what’s
different about this? John gives this an entire long chapter. So, we think we have to ask,
What is there that’s different about this? And I think there are two things that we can point
to here. One of them is the timing of the resurrection miracle. And the other, Daniel, is the
Daniel: Okay.
Jack: So, let’s handle the timing first. Within the Jewish world of the first century, there was
no embalming. There was no mummification as there was in Egypt. So, the day of your
death was the day of your burial. And so that leads us to realize that in every other event
that we’ve talked about so far, Jesus brought someone back to life on the same day they
Daniel: Okay.
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Jack: And there’s an interesting Jewish folk tradition that informs the timing of this miracle,
because it’s emphasized it happened four days after his death. Within the Jewish folk
tradition, it was believed that the life force remained around the corpse for three days. And
there were some examples of people who were restored to life (perhaps because they
were in a deep coma), came back to life, and so there was a lot of caution in making sure
on day three that that person hadn’t revived in the tomb. But by day four, hope is
Bill: Yeah.
Jack: So that timing is different than the other miracles.
Bill: Is there also a timing factor, Jack, in the fact that the other two took place rather early
in Jesus’ public ministry and this takes place right before His Passion Week?
Jack: I think absolutely that’s true, Bill, because that’s really the lead in. We are walking
right into Passion Week with this, aren’t we?
Bill: Okay. Okay.
Jack: Now Daniel’s going to be mad if I don’t say something about the . . .
Daniel: That’s right.
Jack: . . . place, right?
Well, here’s what I love about this story, is that place is mentioned twice within the
context. So clearly this is important to John as he tells this story as well. And it also
marked one of the other significant differences between this story and the earlier stories of
resurrection in the life of Jesus. You have this occurring in Bethany. The other two stories
are Galilee stories. They’re far to the north, well out of range of any eyewitness reporting
that could easily be done in Jerusalem. Bethany is just 1.75 miles from downtown
Jerusalem of the first century. And that means that this event not only is going to travel
quickly into the heart of Jerusalem, but it’ll be investigable by anybody who hears it.
They’re going to be able to take the short walk over to Bethany and interview the
principles. So, this story is different than the other stories, both because of the timing and
because of the place.
Elisa: And that’s why we see in the end of chapter 11 of John there’s a plot to kill Jesus.
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Jack: Yeah, we’re going to have two reactions to this story. And they’re both Jerusalem
reactions. And that’s the geography that I wouldn’t want folks to miss. We have moved
Jesus’ ministry closer to Jerusalem. A miracle closer to Jerusalem like this is going to not
only gain a large audience, it’s going to gain a powerful response. And the one that isn’t
reported on in so much detail is the people who come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah,
as the Savior. Remember Martha’s words, right? “When I meet that person who raises the
dead, I’ll know I’m in the presence of the Messiah.” This is now a Jerusalem story. And
many came to know Jesus as their Savior, and they become the anchor of the early
Christian church in Jerusalem. This is that moment, I think, where we see an expansion of
that community. But there’s another response, right? And that’s the one you referred to,
Elisa. How did the Jewish leadership feel about this?
Elisa: Yeah, this is in verse 46 of chapter 11, “But some of them went to the Pharisees and
told them what Jesus had done.” And then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a
meeting and on we go.
Daniel: Yeah, this was the moment where they realize, like, we can’t let Him hang around
anymore. We’re going to have to actually kill Him to get rid of Him.
Jack: And, Daniel, do you see the geography? When Jesus did this in Galilee, the response
in Jerusalem was huh.
Elisa: Yeah.
Jack: As soon as you put it in the environs of Jerusalem, now we’ve got to do something. So,
the geography isn’t just incidental to the story; it’s integral to this story because it creates
the local reaction.
Bill: And sets the stage for the Passion of Christ.
Jack: And it’s such a good example of what I really have as a mantra of my work as a
biblical geographer. If we treat stories as sort of spatial things that can be moved around
on the map without consequence, we miss the point. Stories have homes.
Bill: Yeah.
Jack: This story is a Bethany story that consequently becomes a Jerusalem story that
animates the story as it goes forward, both in the Christian community in Jerusalem and in
the response to Jesus that will end in His death. It’s not a location incidental to the story,
but integral to its telling.
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You know, I go to Israel to study its stories, but the story that I end up experiencing most
often is a story about a meeting place. And that meeting place is a coffee house. I have
Israeli friends. And if there’s one thing you learn very quickly about Israeli culture, it’s that
you can never have a meeting unless you’re in a coffee house.
Daniel: See, Jack, I feel like that’s why you and I just relate so well, because that’s
millennial culture in the US too, right? Like, when we meet friends, we meet them at
coffee shops. I mean that’s one of the most common places. That’s the same kind of thing.

Elisa: Lots of times when we’re in virtual work, we’ll go to a coffee shop in order to meet
with other people, just for people. But I’m actually thinking about an annual gathering that
I have with four other friends. And we go to . . . it’s kind of like a ranch, but there’re no
animals on it. I don’t know what you call it. It’s in Texas. And we always go. And the place
pulls us to it. We have a certain place we pull our chairs up around a fire and we talk; and
we always go back to that place every morning with our coffee. We’re there every lunch.
We’re there every dinner. That place holds us. And every year we return to it.
Bill: One of the things that I did a lot in doing one-on-one mentoring or discipleship with
guys in the church, was . . . the only way you could get any time alone with them was to
play golf. And there’s one particular golf course where this one guy and I met every
Tuesday morning for about five years. And we would play golf and spend four hours
talking about the Bible. And it was just one of the most enriching times for me. I mean I
don’t know if it was any good for him or not, but it was really good for me. And every time
I think about Big Bend Golf Course, I think of Rodney and those times that we spent there
Jack: I love it. You know, as a geographer, I know that geography is capable of either
creating meetings between people or isolating people from one another. And . . .
Bill: That’s good.
Jack: . . . what I find interesting is that in the land of Israel there’s a meeting place that’s
sort of predetermined by the geography. It’s called the Shephelah, the humble hills, the
foothills, to the central mountains. Let me give you a little bit more help with that. Israel
itself changes in its appearance frequently over the miles. It’s one of the things that
surprises people most often when they travel there. Right down the center of the country
you’ve got a set of mountains that runs north and south. In the western part of the country
you’ve got a coastal plain that runs north and south. And by their very nature, they tend to
isolate people from one another. The mountains have their own culture and lifestyle. The
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coastal plain has its own culture and lifestyle. And in Bible times it looked like this: God’s
people of the past, to whom He revealed Himself, those were the Israelites, who lived up in
the mountains in Jerusalem. And the world, those who were not privy to these insights,
were out on the coastal plain. And those two tended to orbit in separate environments
from one another. When there was a meeting, it occurred through the foothills. That’s
where the topography turned east/west and so the Shephelah, or these foothills between
the mountains and the coastal plain, becomes a meeting place. And so, whenever I
encounter a story that is occurring in this part of Israel, I ask the question, “All right. How’d
the meeting go?” And when I read the Old Testament, I often come to the answer: well,
that meeting didn’t go very well. We talked about one of those last week. Right? The story
of David and Goliath. How’d that meeting go?
Bill: Well, it didn’t go so well for Goliath, that’s for sure.
Daniel: Yeah. And I bet Saul honestly felt like it didn’t go very well, because from that
point forward he . . .
Bill: Yeah.
Daniel: . . . loses a lot of his influence.
Elisa: That’s true.
Jack: Yeah. It an invasion story. Right? And so, it’s really not a story where the people in
the mountains are revealing the insights God has given them to the people on the coastal
plain. It’s a battle story. So, you know, in terms of the divine intention for this meeting
place, it didn’t go well. There’s another story that I think comes to mind pretty quickly. And
that’s the story of Samson. That was a Shephelah story too. How did that meeting go?
Bill: Yeah. Yeah, that one didn’t go so well for Samson, but you’re right. I mean, he was
supposed to be a judge of Israel, and yet he continually was getting into inappropriate
relationships with Philistine women, who were from the coastal plains, and it was not
working out.
Jack: Yeah.
Daniel: Yeah. And, Jack, there’re so many aspects of Samson’s story. Is there a particular
part of his story where that was the meeting place? Or did most of the story happen in the
Shephelah? Like, how . . . ?
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Jack: Yeah.
Daniel: What part of this story happens there?
Jack: If you read that story, Daniel, you’re going to see yourself running up and down the
Sorek Valley, which is one of the . . .
Daniel: Okay.
Jack: . . . valleys of the Shephelah. The story just moves back and forth and back and forth
in that story.
Daniel: Got it.
Jack: So maybe somebody will prove me wrong in this, but every time I read a story in this
meeting place in the Old Testament, it turns out to be just a horrible meeting, a meeting
gone awry in some fashion. And so, I leave the Old Testament, and I don’t really come into
the New Testament thinking it’s a place where good stories are going to occur. And that’s
what’s so striking to me about the story we’re going to look at today. It’s a story told in the
later part of Acts 8, a story in which Philip meets the Ethiopian eunuch in the Elah Valley.
Now, you may be quick to point out, wait a minute! I don’t see the label Elah Valley
anywhere in there. So, let’s get the geography right first, and then let’s talk about how the
meeting went. Shall we?
Elisa: Okay.
Jack: Acts 8:26. Bill, would you be so kind as to read that? That’ll give us the geography for
this story.
Bill: Sure. Acts 8:26: “But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Arise; go south to the
road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a desert road.)”
Jack: Yeah. So, there it is. Right? And it’s plain as day.
Elisa: Right. Okay.
Jack: Except it’s not.
Elisa: Yeah, yeah, right. Yeah.
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Jack: Except it’s totally not.
Bill: I think it’ll be plain as day as soon as you explain it.
Elisa: There you go.
Daniel: Yeah.
Jack: Yeah. You know, sometimes geographers have an easier job because the label
Bethlehem is right there, or the label Bethany is right there in the story. And we go, yeah,
we can zero right in on it. This one makes us work a little harder, because we have to
understand the transportation corridors of the ancient world. So, we’ve got a couple of
places mentioned. We have Jerusalem mentioned. And then we have Gaza mentioned,
which is out on the coastal plain just before you get into to the Sinai Wilderness area. So,
what we need to do is use what we know about ancient road systems to connect those two
places. And what we find is the most likely road that would have been used is the one that
runs south on the ridge down through the Elah Valley, the same valley where David and
Goliath had their exchange, then out on the coastal plain to Gaza, and then into the desert.
And I think that’s why this is called the Desert Road. So often in the Bible roads are given
names based on where they’re going. And so even though the road is not traveling through
the desert when we entered this story, that’s the direction that the road is going. So again,
it’s just . . .
Elisa: Okay.
Bill: Like the Jericho Road.
Jack: Like the Jericho Road and, if you’re in modern Jerusalem, the Jaffa Gate, right? It’s the
gate you go out to get to a place. Or the Damascus Gate. It’s the gate you go out to get to
that place. So again, it requires just a little bit more limberness in us Western readers to
understand how somebody from the Middle East would engage the story. So, what that
geography does is it tells us this is going to be a Shephelah story. And almost immediately
I recoil from it and I go, oh no, because . . .
Elisa: Something bad’s going to happen.
Jack: Every time I’ve read one of these Shephelah stories, it just goes off the rails. So let’s
explore a little bit together how the meeting went this particular time, starting with the
Ethiopian. What do you know about this gentleman?
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Elisa: Well, he’s from Africa, northern Africa. And he was well educated, because in this
story he’s reading, and that . . .
Jack: Good.
Elisa: . . . means he’s had a hand in education.
Bill: And he’s probably reading in Greek. He’s probably reading the Septuagint, so that
means he’s multilingual.
Jack: Yeah.
Elisa: Okay. Oh, that’s good, Bill.
Daniel: And honestly if up to this point all I’ve known him as is the Ethiopian eunuch . . .
Bill: He wasn’t a eunuch. Sometimes it was a physical eunuch, but sometimes it was just a
title for an official position.
Jack: Yeah.
Bill: Which may be more the case here.
Daniel: Yeah.
Jack: And where’s he coming from?
Bill: Well he’s coming from Jerusalem, going back home to Africa.
Jack: Yeah. So, it suggests, and given what he’s going to be reading in a moment here, this
is someone who’s a God fearer, someone who is not Jewish but who has come to embrace
the Jewish faith and hope. And he had been in Jerusalem worshiping, likely the best place
for him to get answers to the questions he had about the Old Testament text that he was
reading. And so, as he’s bouncing along, right, down this road towards home, he’s reading a
portion of the Old Testament, the book of Isaiah. And it’s a beautiful portion of Isaiah. I
think we should read it to appreciate where he was. Daniel, would you be so kind as to
pick that up for us? Acts 8:32 would be great.
Daniel: “Now the passage of Scripture that he was reading was this: ‘Like a sheep he was
led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his
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mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his
life is taken away from the earth.’”
Jack: Now sitting on this side of the cross, we very quickly see, well, this has got to be
talking about Jesus, because it’s giving this beautiful Old Testament picture of who Jesus
would become when He arrived here on earth. But for this poor man, that language . . .
Daniel: Yeah.
Jack: . . . was not ringing clear at all.
Daniel: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean if we’re honest, like, when we first came to faith, this
was not clear either. We’ve just heard language like “a sheep that was led to the slaughter”
enough times that we think of it as Jesus. But I’m guessing even people at this point in
history were looking at these words, just like we do sometimes, going, “Ooh, is that really
what it’s talking about?”
Jack: Yeah. And there’s something else about the frustration we’re going to feel in just a
moment in his question that I think comes right out of his life’s experience. What job does
he have?
Elisa: Well, he’s some kind of a financial guy. It says that he worked in the . . . a treasury.
Let’s see, that’s in verse 27: in charge of all the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians.
Jack: Yeah. I don’t know what your experience has been with people in the financial world.
I have family members who are accountants. And what I know is one and one always adds
up to two. And they get very frustrated when they look at something and it puzzles them.
And that’s where he is. And so, Philip comes alongside and says, “I hear you’re reading.”
Must have been reading out loud, right?
Bill: Yeah.
Jack: And he says, “So, do you understand what you’re reading there?” And you can almost
feel the emotion in the language, “How in the world could you expect me to understand
this unless someone explains it to me?” And what happens next is the powerful Shephelah
moment that we’ve been waiting for throughout the whole Old Testament. Come to verse
35. Would you please read that for us, Bill?
Bill: Sure. Acts 8:35, “And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he
preached Jesus to him.”
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Jack: I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a geographer thing, but I feel this big sigh of relief.
Because, you know, when I’m in Israel, I don’t have the luxury of telling the story of the
Bible chronologically. I have to tell the story of the Bible geographically, because if I told
the story of the Bible chronologically, I’d be constantly returning to places I had been
before. So I go to a place, and I pour out all the stories, right, that are in that region. This is
one of those places where I go: I just don’t have a really good story until right now about
this region. And it’s such a redeeming moment for me as a Bible geographer to see a place
finally live up to the divine designed plan. God intended the Shephelah to be the place
where the world, traveling the coastal plain, would meet the revelation He gave in the
mountains. And every Old Testament story falls short of that. This story gets it right. We
have a Shephelah story, where the Lord’s truth not only extends to somebody, but
somebody from a very faraway place, from Africa. And the Christian church becomes
planted in Africa in this story. And, wow, you talk about a Shephelah story that’s a success
story. Here’s a meeting that went really well.
Brian: Yeah. It really is encouraging to see how God redeemed this place. A place that until
then never fully realized what God intended for it. But now through Philip God uses the
Shephelah to plant the church in Africa. Finally, it’s a place where the message of God’s
love and rescue is shared.
Well, you’re listening to the Discover the Word podcast and we will wrap up our time with
Jack Beck in just a moment. And in that last conversation, Jack gets a little more aggressive
with us.
Jack: It’s the last in this series so I thought we’d take on the challenge of not just looking
at one place but seeing how a story actually goes on the move between three locations.
Bill: So, this is the impact of places, not the impact of place.
Elisa: There you go.
Brian: Yeah—that after this word about our next podcast.
On the next Discover the Word podcast, Bill Crowder will take the group to Psalm 34 for
some conversations about when crisis strikes.
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Bill: Times of crisis are really challenging to us because they impact us in almost every
part of our lives: emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. And so, I guess it’s important
to ask, “Are you in a time of crisis right now?” It may be a crisis in your marriage or with a
child or at work or with your health. Are you going through a time of crisis now? If you are,
I think Psalm 34 has something to say to you. And if you aren’t, Psalm 34 really has
something to say for you because you will be in a crisis. And some wisdom from the
Scriptures might be just what will help you when that time of crisis hits.
Brian: And so, be part of the group with Bill Crowder, Mart DeHaan, Elisa Morgan, and
Daniel Ryan Day as they find help in Psalm 34 for when crisis strikes.
And now the conclusion of this podcast about “The Impact of Place” with the group and Dr.
Jack Beck.
Jack: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a member of a Christian church. So, for 65
years I’ve been part of a Christian community. But the Christian community that I’m a
member of today is very different than the church I was a member of, let’s say, three, four
decades ago.
Daniel: It’s the same for me. But I don’t have quite the same runway that you have, Jack.
But the church I grew up in, I’m in a very different setting now than I was then as well.
Bill: I think about it a little bit differently, Jack. I think not just that I’m in a different place
than I was then, but the places that I was in then are now different places than they were
then. They’ve changed a lot over the ensuing years, to where . . . I mean, I remember as a
young pastor, three days a week it was coat and tie . . .
Jack: Yeah, yeah.
Bill: . . . and what a blessed day it was when I was told, “Hey, you know, you don’t have to
wear that tie anymore, man.” I was pretty excited about that.
Elisa: Yeah. Yeah. You know, I think there are some ways in which the church has remained
absolutely a constant—you know, its beliefs, its sacraments, the Lord’s Supper, baptism.
You know, those things just continue. But there are other ways in which the church really
has to be nimble and respond to cultural need and cultural norms in order to continue to
be relevant. And that doesn’t change our core commitment to Christ. Like, some have
moved from hymns to worship choruses or some have moved from being in-person to
virtual meetings, you know? So, there’s an amazing wave, you know, from the New
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Testament forward of how the church just continues to be the church, but maybe
expresses itself differently.
Jack: Well, you know, the idea of a changing church is one that’s really strongly embedded
right in the heart of the New Testament. The story of the early church is a story of
struggles and changes that had to occur. And the story that I’d like to look at today is a
story about change in the early church. I would argue it’s probably one of the most
dramatic changes that had to occur within the early church. So dramatic that I call it the
Pentecost II story. It’s found in two chapters of the book of Acts, Acts 10 and 11. And it’s a
story that’s on the move geographically. I know, I’m saying that early, because Daniel will
yell at me otherwise if I don’t say geography early.
Elisa: Yeah.
Jack: It’s a story that we’re going to see on the move between the seaport of Joppa, the
seaport of Caesarea Maritima on the coast, and a city that returns to Jerusalem. So, it’s the
last in this series, so I thought we’d take on the challenge of not just looking at one place,
but seeing how a story actually goes on the move between three locations.
Bill: So, this is the impact of places, not the impact of place.
Elisa: There you go.
Jack: Well, let’s get started. It’s a story that starts in the seaport of Joppa. And, you know,
every place sort of has qualities and characteristics about it. So, when we hear that Peter
has gone there, we would do well to ask, what kind of place has he gone to? And I would
suggest to you that Peter felt pretty at home in Joppa. It was a city that retained a lot of its
Old Testament character. Largely a Jewish population, with whom Peter would share, kind
of, a way of thinking about and doing life. It was a seaport. And remember, Peter was a
fisherman, so there’s some things about Joppa that are very attractive to him. And it’s hard
to imagine that he was at all interested in leaving, because there was work to be done
there. Remember? He is out there telling people that Jesus is the One that the Old
Testament prophets told them to expect. And there was an audience in Joppa who needed
to hear that. Well, do you remember what happened to him as he got hungry up on that
Bill: It’s one of my favorite stories in the Bible, because I love bacon and shrimp. And
bacon and shrimp came on the table in Acts 10. Peter has a vision, and he has it three
times, of a sheet coming down with all the ceremonially unclean or the non-kosher foods.
And he’s told to eat, and he refuses; and God says, “Don’t call common or unclean what I
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Episode #09 – The Land Between with guest, Jeff Manion
have cleansed.” And he has that vision just as some messengers are arriving at the house
to find him.
Jack: Yeah, so there’s our Joppa part of the story. Peter feels no need to leave Joppa, but
you’ve got three messengers who show up, and they’re not Jewish, and they’re not from
Joppa. They’re from Caesarea, about thirty-two miles to the north. And this story is about to
go on the road. It’s about to leave the seaport of Joppa for the seaport of Caesarea. And
that means we have to again ask the question, so, what’s this place like? Well, there were
some Jewish folks there, but by and large it was a gentile community. Herod the Great had
built the place, and he had constructed it in a way that for all the world it looked and felt
and even smelled like Europe. Herod loved Europe. And it was a place that had pagan
temples. It was a place where you had the Roman military establishment in place. So, it
isn’t a place to which Peter was attracted because there was a rather modest Jewish
audience there and that was Peter’s mindset: I’m going to take the news of forgiveness
found in Jesus to a Jewish audience. So up in the seaport of Caesarea a gentleman by the
name of Cornelius, who happened to be involved in the Roman military, not only a gentile,
but part of the occupying force of Europe . . .
Daniel: Yeah.
Jack: . . . in the land, had a vision. And Cornelius apparently was a God fearer, someone
who had come partway in understanding who God was and how he thought about Him.
And so, the Lord gave him a vision and said, “Send down to Joppa and bring Peter up.”
Now, as resistant as Peter might have been to the idea of going to Caesarea, I can only
imagine that Cornelius was pretty resistant to the idea of having someone from Joppa
come up to Caesarea to tell him more of the truth about who God was. Both of these men
yielded to the visions that we have. And suddenly we’ve got Jewish Joppa Peter meeting
gentile Cornelius from Caesarea. And when Peter gets there, now he walks into the large
gathering that had assembled in the home of Cornelius, and he says, “I am not at all
comfortable about being here.” And then Cornelius explains that he has sent the invitation
as a result of a vision. And it’s where we begin to see Peter changing. Peter then shares the
gospel with them. He then sees the Spirit of God come on them in unique fashion, as he
had seen in Jerusalem at Pentecost. And he baptizes them. And even though the language
he uses to describe the event precedes slightly some of these other things, I think it’s so
powerful—Daniel, would you be so kind as to read it? It’s in Acts 10:34 and 35—because it
really allows us to hear Peter tell us how he changed as a consequence of . . .
Daniel: Yeah.
Jack: . . . this experience.
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Daniel: It says, “Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no
partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to
Elisa: Wow!
Jack: What do you see in that language of Peter?
Daniel: Just the way it starts, “I truly understand . . .” it’s like this ah-ha moment, this, yeah,
moment of new understanding.
Bill: Yeah, the whole center of gravity for the New Testament story has shifted.
Jack: Yeah. And it’s happened in Peter, right? So, Peter gets it. Now the story takes one
more move, and that’s in chapter 11. It goes back to Jerusalem. And when the news of this
gets to Jerusalem it lands with this sort of audible thud in the story. Do you hear it in the
early verses of 11? They’re like, “Peter, we need to talk about this.” Because it just made
sense to the Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem that the church was a Jewish Christian
enterprise . . .
Daniel: Yeah.
Jack: . . . with a few Gentiles sprinkled in. But it wasn’t seen as corporately reaching out to
a place like Caesarea, so they call Peter on the carpet and say, “Hey, we heard that you
were eating with gentiles.” And immediately that’s like a trigger . . .
Daniel: Right.
Jack: . . . for the Jerusalem believers, because they go, “Whoa, that’s not what we do, Peter.
That’s not what we do. Explain yourself.” And so, we have Peter retelling the whole story
that we’ve just lived . . .
Bill: Yeah.
Jack: . . . in 10, retelling the whole story. But here’s where it lands. And where it lands, oh
my. Every time I read this story I just feel a tremble go through me. I hope you have that
experience too. Shall we share it together? It’s in chapter 11. Peter essentially says to
them, “Look, I had exactly the same experience in Caesarea that we had in Jerusalem. I
spoke the gospel. The Holy Spirit came. I baptized people.” And so, when they heard this
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Episode #09 – The Land Between with guest, Jeff Manion
(this is verse 18 of chapter 11), when they heard this (this is the church in Jerusalem), they
had no further objections and praised God saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has
granted repentance that leads to life.” I take it for granted.
Bill: Yeah.
Elisa: Yeah. You know what strikes me, Jack? Is in these two chapters in Acts, Peter’s shift
within himself, by the Holy Spirit’s leading, then leads to the church’s shift that you see in
verse 18. But in verse 17 Peter says, “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who
believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who am I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” And
I’ve had that experience myself. I’ve been at this table with everybody going, “Boy, I used
to believe this way,” and the Lord begins to show me through His Word, “Hey, you know
what? Tweak it. Elisa, that’s not what I’m saying. Move it over here.” And we move. And
when we move, the church moves according to God’s desires.
Bill: And I’m sitting here listening to you and to Jack and thinking, what a different story it
would have been if Peter would have sat there on the roof in Joppa and said nope . . .
Jack: Pass.
Bill: . . . I’m just not going there.
Bill: I mean what . . . where . . .
Elisa: Yeah.
Bill: . . . are we if he’d done that?
Daniel: Yeah, and if we feel that it’s difficult as we’re processing things that God’s
challenging with us, I mean the fact that the story that Peter tells is repeated in detail
instead of the author of Acts just going, “You know what? I’ll just say, ‘He retold them the
story.’” Like, it was very difficult for . . .
Elisa: Oh, that’s good, Daniel.
Daniel: . . . Peter and for this early church to get their mind around what God was doing
with Cornelius and his family. So, in the same way, when we end up with those spots
where maybe a blind spot’s being revealed or something we’re struggling with or
something that we’re learning or maybe even feel like we’re hearing for the first time,
when it feels difficult within us to accept it, that doesn’t mean that it’s not from God.
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Sometimes, even within that difficulty, that’s how God is changing our perspective and the
perspective of others as well.
Jack: And so good. I mean it’s so easy to become the church that is the chosen frozen. And
we just sit in that same spot.
Elisa: Yeah.
Jack: And look at what this story does. By its very nature, it’s a story on the move. It starts
in Jerusalem. It moves to the seaport of Joppa. It moves to Caesarea. And then it moves
back to Jerusalem. It’s a story on the move geographically, and it means that we have to be
a church on the move, ready to change and become better than we were before.
Brian: Yeah. Some things about the church will never change like our faith in Jesus Christ.
But other things can and should change. It helped the early church to grow and it will help
us grow today too.
Well, you’re listening to the Discover the Word podcast with Elisa Morgan, Bill Crowder,
Daniel Ryan Day, and our special guest Dr. Jack Beck. Jack, thanks for spending these two
podcasts with us walking us through the material in the series “The Impact of Place.”
Location, location, location. Yeah, we’re convinced. And thanks for making the Bible’s
geography meaningful.
Discover the Word is a small-group Bible study from Our Daily Bread Ministries in Grand
Rapids, Michigan, in which we invite you to walk with us through topics and passages that
inform the way we read the Scriptures, challenge us as we live our lives as followers of
Christ, and always point us to discover Jesus in the pages of the Bible. We encourage you
to explore other studies with the group on our discovertheword.org website.
Well these Bible studies on the Discover the Word podcast and all the resources Our Daily
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And so, if you’d like to partner with us financially, go online to discovertheword.org and
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Alright, I’m Brian Hettinga. Thanks for studying with us. Discover the Word is provided by
Our Daily Bread Ministries.