Cross Points 12.4.20

Discipleship Afoot:  Walking in Gerasa & Gedara

While in the modern country of Jordan in 2018, Rexanne and I had the opportunity to travel not only to Moab (central part) and Petra (southern part of the country), but north of Amman to the ancient cities of Gerasa and Gadara.  Amman was very interesting in itself.  The oldest part of the city is on a hilltop in the eastern part of modern Amman.  It was known by various names, but during the time of Israel kings it was called Rabbath Ammon, the scene of David sending Uriah the Hittite into battle to be killed, trying to hide his sin with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba.  While walking its streets you could see why it took so long for Joab, David’s general, to conquer it, with steep inclines and a wall around the citadel.  You could easily imagine Uriah on the hill, Joab’s army pulling back, exposing Uriah to the enemy.

From Amman, we traveled and spent one day at modern Jerash, which was known in biblical times as Gerasa, part of the Decapolis.  An amazing place with so many ruins you can walk among, getting a good feel for how the ancient city would have looked 2,000 years ago.  There were two Roman theaters that still exist today, one on either end of the site.  There was a temple to Zeus and Artemis, and ruins of ancient churches with mosaics in the floor that you could see by brushing the dust away.  The raw nature of this site is unique.  In the middle of Gerasa was a crossroads, going north toward Damascus, south toward Amman, east toward Baghdad, and west toward Jerusalem.  It is thought the wise men may have traveled through this junction as they headed toward Bethlehem to see the Christ-child, as did the Apostle Paul in his famous journey to Damascus (avoiding Samaria, as most good Jews did).

On our last full day in Jordan we traveled north across the Jabbok River to modern day Umm Qays, which was ancient Gadara, another city of the Decapolis.  You may remember the story of Jesus and the disciples traveling by boat across the Sea of Galilee and being confronted by a wild demon possessed man from the nearby tombs.  This was “Gentile” country at the time.  The demons request to be sent into a herd of pigs, and Jesus does so, with the pigs rushing into the lake and drowning.  The herdsmen run into the nearby city (Gadara) and tell the city fathers, who come and ask Jesus to leave the area.  He does but asks the man who is now in his right mind to stay and tell others what Jesus has done for him.  Jesus will return later, and throngs of people come to meet him, wanting to hear his good news, the former demon possessed man has become an evangelist in the region!

We walked among the ruins of Gadara on a high point that looks out over the south end of the Sea of Galilee.  The ruins have barely been touched by archeologists, making it another unique site to wander through.  There was a Roman city here at one time, much like Amman, much like Gerasa, with the amphitheater and Roman road lined with stone columns that we could explore.  You could imagine Jesus and his disciples as small figures in the distance, the herdsmen running the long distance up this hill to inform the Roman leaders of what happened.   Their initial concern is simply material, economic, trying to protect the rights of a local pig farmer.  But the event sparks interest that is spiritual as the former demon possessed man travels about, giving his testimony, which is unique and compelling to all those who know about him from his past time living among the tombs, unrestrained.  Jesus heals him, and the people want to know about this man.  Do you have a testimony to share also?  Don’t be timid.
Cross Point: Jesus told the demon possessed man who he had set free, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). Shouldn’t we do as much?
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