Pilgrimage to Israel #3
I continue my series on my pilgrimage to Israel with the next step on the journey at Capernaum. Just to let you know, I will intersperse this series on Israel with posts on other subjects to break things up a little! But do hope you’re enjoying this series about the Holy Land.￼
Capernaum is an ancient town on the north western shores of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. It is biblically significant and Jesus spent a lot of time there.
The town of Capernaum is mentioned a number of times in the Gospels.
You, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, you will go down to Hades. For if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in you, it would have remained until today.
Matthew 11:23 (WEB)
When he came into Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking him for help,
Matthew 8:5 (WEB)
For some background, you will no doubt be aware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem – something we celebrate in this advent season. After his birth, Mary and Joseph took him to Egypt to avoid the wrath of Herod (Matthew 2:13).
After being warned in a dream that it was safe to return, Mary and Joseph returned with Jesus to the town of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. We know very little about his time in Nazareth and His childhood in general, the Gospel narratives refer to only one instance found in the book of Luke (ch. 2, v41-52).
As Jesus began His ministry, he spent much time in and around the Sea of Galilee as I mentioned in a previous post. When he attempted to minister in His home town of Nazareth, the local people rejected Him refusing to accept that he could be anything more than a simple carpenter’s son. After that point Jesus moved his ministry to Capernaum.
He went out from there. He came into his own country, and his disciples followed him. 2 When the Sabbath had come, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many hearing him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things?” and, “What is the wisdom that is given to this man, that such mighty works come about by his hands? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judah, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” So they were offended at him.
Mark 6:1-3 (WEB)
Leaving Nazareth, he came and lived in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
Matthew 4:13 (WEB)
Capernaum essentially becomes Jesus’ base of operations for His ministry in the northern part of Israel. It’s an important site and one well worth a visit.
Aside from more great views of the Sea of Galilee, there were two main things we stopped to see.
Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient house supposedly belonging to Peter and his family. Above its ruins is built a chapel with more wonderful acoustics. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to sing, we held a short service there and took advantage of the great sound of the place.
In the centre of the chapel is a viewing platform where you can look down over the ruins of the house. While some suggest this is really Peters house, I don’t suppose there is any real way to know for sure. Did Peter live here? Is this where Jesus healed Peters mother in law? Or did he live three doors down on the right? We can’t know.
The second point of interest is the uncovered ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum.
Unlike Peters house, this really is the spot of the synagogue and we are confident that Jesus would have spent time there. When Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah announcing His ministry and who He was, He was at Nazereth – but He would have been in a synagogue much like this one at Capernaum.
You can see from the image what looks like large steps going around the outside. These are in fact seating benches, much like you would see in ancient stadia. The congregation would sit along here and the rabbi would speak and read from the scrolls. We sat in the seats, and we listened to the Scripture that Jesus would have read out loud 2,000 years ago.
We visited Capernaum at the end of our day, and after having looked around the ruins and conducted our service in the chapel, we headed down to the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee once again. As the sun was setting over the hills, it shone brightly and was unusually striking. I’m not suggesting there was anything supernatural about it, but it was great to see such a powerful sunset in such an amazing place.
It was a peaceful place, like so many others we would visit that week, and I was extremely grateful for a few minutes that afternoon to reflect on what I’d seen that first day. I wondered if Jesus Himself would have sat somewhere near where we were sitting, praying or reflecting on His ministry.
This place, like many others we would soon visit, would force us to reflect on who Jesus was, and is. I invite you today to consider who Jesus is and the place He holds in your life.￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼