One of the most fascinating components of the ancient Roman Empire was their unbelievably extensive road system. The Roman Empire built over 57,000 miles of paved roads throughout their conquered lands. These roads connected the Far East and Mesopotamia with Asia Minor, Egypt, Israel and ultimately Rome, itself. Names such as the “Royal Road” and the “Via Maris”which meant the “Way of the Sea”, were given to these ancient super highways.
These roads were as wide as our two lane highways of today and were paved with huge limestone rocks that were quarried, then shaped to fit like bricks on the road bed. As the roads came close to each city, they would get wider and they would place columns on each side of the roadway. Shops would be set up among the columns to trade and sell to the travelers coming and going on the road. The Roman engineers even laid sewer channels for the cities by placing them underneath the roadbed and then straddling the channel with large stones to conceal it and make it sturdy. Way stations were placed one days travel apart, along the main roads. These road side inns were called “caravanserai” and catered to the estimated 3 million travelers that traversed these highways on a yearly basis. All the labor was performed by Roman slaves. It has been estimated that almost half the population of the Roman Empire were slaves they had conquered and used to accomplish their building projects.
These roads were in place and being built during the time of the New Testament. You can actually walk on some of the same road beds that the apostles walked on as they went to spread the gospel in Asia Minor and other parts of the world. Cities such as Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis, Collosae and Laodicea were on these roads and they steadily increased in size and commerce because of the traffic on the road. These cities became stopping places for the apostles as they went and spread the good news about Jesus Christ.
What is the faith lesson here? When Jesus commanded his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20 and in Acts 1:8 to ”go and make disciples out of all the nations and that he would be with them to the ends of the earth (age)”, He already had the roads in place! One hundred and seventy years before Paul, God began building a road system that would allow the disciples to reach all the known world for Christ. And, they went on those roads literally to the ends of the earth, as far as they could travel! On those main roads, God had set up a ready and accessible congregation in the bigger towns and cities that were intersected by the roads.
The apostles must have been convinced by what they saw at the resurrection and ascencion of Christ, because they fearlessly went to these pagan nations to spread the story about the Jewish Messiah. It is over 1,300 miles on foot, which is a 60 -80 day journey, to Ephesus from the Galilee. This was a huge commitment from the disciples to leave their homes and family to go to these far away places. They must have really believed their message and had a passion that is hard for us to grasp. Because of their faithful witness, we have the blessing of Christianity in America today.
What is the moral of the story? If God is sending you to Asia Minor, He will already have the roads in place! All you have to do is be willing to walk the path that He has called you to! “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” Ephesian 3:20.