Tale of Ten Cities
Little did Carol and I know we were on the trail of a massively demon-possessed man. He was a real poster-child of what some might call “multiple-personalities” in the modern psychology world. From a reliable documented source of a Roman “legion”, we can conclude that perhaps as many as 6,000 demons inhabited his body.
BORDER OF ISRAEL
Carol and I wound our way around the rolling hills and valleys of northern Jordan searching for the ancient church sites.
Our first stop was the border of Jordan and Israel which is high up the mountain overlooking the south part of the Sea of Galilee. There we prayed over the entire region. It was from here, no doubt, the demoniac would have gone down the mountains to meet Yeshua and His disciples as their boat crossed the Sea of Galilee to the “other side.”
We wound our way down the mountain to locate a very small village called “Pella” with ancient churches. This journey proved to be quite challenging with a limited map and no GPS but we loved the adventure – and the gorgeous terrain.
We finally hired a taxi to lead us to the the area which now is a Palestinian refugee camp/city. Finding the ancient church site on the highest part of the city we prayed and proclaimed over the land that was once Christian – calling back the inheritance of the region.
As we left Pella we returned north and realized that the region we had been in that day was called Gedara. It was then that Carol and I both realized at the same time, “This is the place region where “Legion” was from!”
After the deliverance of Legion, Jesus helped him put on clothes and they sat together quietly. What would they have talked about? Perhaps Jesus renamed him at that time by giving him his true name — the name the Father in Heaven knew him by. No doubt it would have displaced the name he was known by up to that point: “Legion”— one demonized by thousands.
His new name would have included His God-given purpose on Earth: one who bears the testimony of Jesus.
“Let me follow you where you are going, Yeshua!” Legion implored as he walked alongside of Him holding tightly onto His robe.
“No, Legion. I have a much more important task for you to do,” Yeshua responded tenderly. Taking ahold of both of his shoulders and looking him deep into his eyes Yeshua instructed him, “Return home to your people and tell them all the good things God has done for you.” With that, Yeshua threw back His head and laughed a deep belly laugh. Legion laughed too— as did everyone with him. You could feel the joy explode into the atmosphere. Satan’s kingdom had just been plundered inside the Decapolis. Legion had been personally commissioned by Yeshua to return home and establish God’s Kingdom throughout the region.With this commission, Legion was now Spirit-empowered to bring the mandate of Jesus back to his hometown with the Good News of Isaiah 61.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed” (Isaiah 61:1, NLT).
The Decapolis was completely evangelized by this one man’s testimony, and we were seeing the tangible evidence of it.
RIHAB: OLDEST CHURCHES EVER FOUND
The next day we were searching for a small village called Rihab where an underground cave had just been deemed the “oldest church” found in the world. We ran across the London Telegraph article with its photo as we planned our itinerary of our upcoming visit to Jordan. Our interest was peaked as we had planned to visit and pray at the ancient churches of Jordan, and Rihab was added to our “must see” list. The cave “church” had discovered under the ruins of Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates back to 230 AD.
When all the evidence is in, it may mean the earliest known place of worship outside Jerusalem has been discovered. Abdul Qader al-Husan, head of Jordan’s Rihab Center for Archaeological Studies said,
“We have evidence to believe this church sheltered the 70 disciples of Christ.”
A mosaic found in the church describes these believers as “the 70 beloved by God…” The archaeologist believes they fled persecution in Jerusalem. It seems the Jewish believers fled to this region across the Jordan River. We would be visiting one of the oldest places of worship for Jewish believers! We printed off the Google Earth maps of these ancient sites that we hoped would give us clues as we made our way with our rented car through Jordan.
Our little map of Jordan was not adequate to fully navigate to these off the road archeological sites on our itinerary. We got lost several times but it became a fun part of our adventure to inquire of villagers along the way. After several dead ends and traveling in obvious circles this particular morning, many questions for directions of the villagers, and ogling bedouins harvesting olives just as they would have 2,000 years ago in villages, we finally arrived in a little town with a round-about.
I almost shouted, “Carol, this is it! Look!!!” as I handed her the satellite photo/map. “Here’s the roundabout — just like on the map!” Sure enough, we had found the ancient city of Rihab.
We pulled up to a coffee kiosk and parked our car. It appeared that the elders of the village had gathered outside of this kiosk/coffee shop to catch up on village news and socialize. They were sipping cups of steaming Turkish coffee.
“Buy us some Turkish coffee!” Carol suggested.
With that, I walked up to the kiosk window and ordered our coffee “to go.” Seeing the elders and others gathered at the outside “cafe” I asked them in Arabic about the ancient churches of Rihab. With much gesticulation and a few Arabic phrases we were able to communicate what we needed. They communicated that the site was closed–and locked. We were a bit disappointed at this news but this was a God-adventure and He had only good things in store for us. I was determined to find the site, however, and at least look at it. The man making our Turkish could have won the world prize for S-L-O-W. I was chomping at the bit as I waited for the coffee. We had much to accomplish that day but we definitely were not leaving without seeing the most ancient churches of Rihab!
Finally, after waiting more than 15 minutes I was handed two Turkish coffees, and simultaneously a young man who spoke English arrived. He held up the key to the ancient archeological site. Success!! We were thrilled. We bid the elders and kiosk owners goodbye with lots of laughter and hand shaking, and off we went with Ahmad, our young tour guide, piled into our rental car.
When we arrived at the ancient church site, we met up with two muslim women who worked for the Ministry of Antiquities. They were very happy to finally have tourists and were excited to show us all around the church and church grounds. They brushed away the protective sand on the floors which revealed the beautiful mosaic floor.
Next we were taken to the newly discovered cave dated from around 40 A.D — shortly after Jesus’ resurrection. They told us that those from Jerusalem had fled to these villages to escape persecution. It was then that we realized the Jewish believers in Jerusalem would have been safe from the Jewish leaders seeking to jail or kill believers in Yeshua. Imagining those believers in Yeshua who lived and worshiped in this place, and the cost of giving up life as they knew it to do so, was overwhelming.
Our Muslim tour guides were glowing at our excitement. Then they shared something more, “In this area alone, there are 70 other churches like this one.” We were stunned. It was then that we realized that the “demonaic of the Gerasenes from the Decapolis” had been here too. This area too was also a part of the Decapolis in ancient times.
The final day we visited the center of eastern part of Jordan.
The famed city of Jerash in the center of northern Jordan is one of Jordan’s key tourist sites as well as the site of a nation-wide Jordanian festival. Jerash, according to Jordan’s tourist bureau, comes from another name “Gerashe” and is also considered another town of the demonaic delivered by Jesus.
Carol and I noted before entering the archaeological site of Jerash that most likely there would be a church there even though the main attractions are the temples of Zeus and Artemis. Why did we think this? Because everywhere we had gone throughout the country of Jordan, scores of churches had been uncovered from ancient times! With its close proximity to Israel across the river, it was clear that present-day Jordan was a thoroughfare of Israeli’s, and many other nations, along the King’s Highway.
Not only did we find one church at Jerash, but eleven churches ringed the temples of Zeus and Artemis right on the archaeological site. The Cathedral, the Church of Theodorus, the Church of Cosmos, Damian, John, George, Marian, Peter and Paul, Bishop Genesuis, Bishop Isaiah, and the Church of Propylaea…just to name of few (these are not just names, but actual churches).
It was a joy to discover on our trip that Jesus was worshiped throughout the land of Jordan. Though it is now veiled in a cloak of Islam, the cloak is not theirs. Our mandate is to call back their heritage in Jesus.
DELIVERED TO DELIVER OTHERS
We marveled that although we do not even know the real name of Legion, it appears his testimony helped to plant more churches than any others who were commissioned by Yeshua. We traveled through northern and central Jordan in awe of a shadowy figure from the pages of the Gospel who was not allowed to follow after his Beloved Deliverer and Savior, but instead, was commissioned to deliver thousands of others into freedom drawing on the power of his own deliverance.
The presence of the testimony of Jesus is alive and well in Jordan even today.