Visiting Jesus' Home: Capernaum
By Eva Marie Everson
We often think of the adult Jesus – the one who embarked in ministry as Rabbi Yeshua – as homeless. While he was as itinerate a preacher (or, in his case, rabbi) as there could ever be, with “no place to lay his head,” he did have a home.
Some of you may say, “Well, yeah. Nazareth, right?”
Um … no.
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Be It Ever So Humble
After Jesus went to find John in the desert for baptism, he spent forty days and nights wandering around the Judean desert, eventually being tempted by the devil (see Matthew 4). Shortly after he returned to Nazareth, he took a route that led him past the Arbel Cliff to the Sea of Galilee, along its western side, and to a shipping village called Capernaum. There, the Bible tells us, he made his “home.”
This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, who said, “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:1).
The name “Capernaum” translates to “House of Nahum” and means “field of repentance” and “city of comfort.” Both are easy to understand. Even though Jesus condemned the fishing village (Matthew 11: 23) due to the lack of faith of those living there, Capernaum is still the location of so many of Jesus’ miracles and therefore of prime interest to pilgrims.
Today, walking toward Capernaum is like heading toward an amusement park. A large gated wall separates the site from the parking area. A big blue and white sign on the gate declares that tourists are entering the “Town of Jesus.” Inside the gate, you pay the Ticketmaster, pass by the gift shop area, and are then greeted with what looks like a space ship, which has landed on an octagonal ruin of rocks.
In spite of this, there is something “comforting” about being here. Something almost eerily spiritual – and in a good way. It is here, as we walk along carefully laid paths that weave around the floral beauty, statues of St. Francis of Assisi and Peter the Fisherman, displays of antiquity – Corinthian column fragments etched with history, old mill stones, the remarkable White Synagogue, and the remains of village homes and utensils – that we catch sight of the Sea of Galilee. It sparkles tranquilly under the late afternoon sun. A bird soars over it with familiarity; it glides past an ornate wrought iron cross.
Today, the Hometown of Jesus is thriving with tourism. A group sits under the shade of a cluster of trees and sing praises to the one who made his home here. Another group – not too far away – sits enraptured as a young man teaches more about the stories that took place here in Capernaum.
I break away from my small group and head to my favorite place in Capernaum; the White Synagogue, a perfect place to reflect upon the most difficult sermon Jesus ever preached.
The Story of John 6
We find it in John 6, a busy little chapter if there ever was one. Jesus fed the 5,000. He walked on water. And now the crowd has “found him” in Capernaum, on the west side of the lake. When the people came to him they asked when he had arrived. Jesus wisely told them that they sought him, not because of the miracles he’d performed, but because one of those miracles included feeding them with bread.
He was then asked, “What must we do to do the work of God?”
Jesus answers, “Believe in the one he has sent.”
Fifth Gospel Teaching
I like to walk between the walls and ruins of the synagogue. I like to look out over the water and listen for the gentle waves to whisper, “Believe.”
It seems so simple, and is yet so complex. Jesus was not just saying to believe him; he asked that the people believe in him. They’d waited so long for Messiah. Now, he was here. He walked among them. He performed the miracles they required.
He calls God his Father. The people are perplexed. Isn’t he Joseph’s son? Joseph and Mary’s?
And then Jesus says the unthinkable, even more far-fetched than calling himself ha’Mashiach. The Messiah. He reminds the people standing around here – perhaps near where the crowds gather now – about the manna sent from God to the Hebrews wandering in the desert so long ago. Then, he says, his flesh is the bread and his blood the wine. To be saved, one must eat and drink of it.
Remember that for the Jew, partaking of flesh with blood – life – was an absolute no-no. And, with this difficult teaching, the crowd walked away by the droves.
Fifth Gospel Teaching For You
Inside the White Synagogue, I slip through a doorway toward twin columns and a window that opens toward the “space ship,” which is actually a church built over the home of Peter. Beside me the sea laps at the shoreline. The sound of music wafts over ancient rock and stone. The multitude of pilgrim languages have a melody all their own. I rest my shoulder against the frame of the window. I am alone.
"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "LORD, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6: 67b-69).
And so, I too, believe. Here in the ruins of Capernaum, where even the stones cry out.
Photos ©Eva Marie Everson, 2009
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Eva Marie Everson is the co-author of the award-winning Reflections of God’s Holy Land: A Personal Journey Through Israel (Thomas Nelson). Eva Marie Everson is the coauthor of Reflections of God’s Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel. For more information about Eva Marie, the book, or to have her come speak to your group, go to: www.EvaMarieEverson.com. Eva Marie encourages everyone to go to Israel! You will never be the same!
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