Capernaum: Jesus' New Family
Our trip has moved north, to Lake Gennesaret, better known as the Seas of Galilee. When Jesus started ministry, he left Nazareth and came to Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is in this region he spent 80-90% of his ministry years. Most sites from the 1st Century were destroyed by the Romans in the Jewish uprising of 70 AD and 135. So, all that remains is foundations.
When Jesus came to Capernaum, he was teaching in the synagogue. I have come to realize that synagogues were the community center meeting room. Yes, they held worship there, but it wasn’t exactly how we do worship today. It was a combination of our worship and fellowship hour combined. It was during this time that Jesus, and others, would teach their understanding of God’s word.
On one Sabbath, Jesus healed a man possessed by a demon. Working on the Sabbath became one of the main contentions between Jesus and the religious leaders. From the synagogue, Jesus went to Peter’s house. As a new person in this small community, Jesus had already met Peter, so he was probably invited to his home. There, he healed Peter’s mother0in-law from a fever. As word spread, many were bringing the sick to Jesus for healing.
Peter invited Jesus to become part of his family unit. I have known that the homes were built with a central courtyard, and I often think of the space about 30 ft by 30 ft. This would allow two or three rooms on each side of the courtyard. In reality, the courtyard was the length of one room by about half a room. It was simply an open space where the family could do their work that needed to be done outside.
It was wonderful to see Capernaum. It was about 100 feet from the synagogue to Peter’s house and less than that to the shore line. Peter’s house was one of the wealthier homes in town. In the 4th century, a Byzantine Church was built over the site. Today, a modern church in the shape of an upside-down boat is over the house. They have a glass floor to look down on the house. It gives you the perspective of the paralytic lowered by the four friends. This is the place where Jesus spent his ministry years.
While I was thinking of the paralytic, I thought of what in me needed to be lowered and healed by Jesus. I also thought of others I know dealing with health or emotional issues. In prayer, I lowered them to the floor of Peter’s house and placed them at the feet of Jesus. May there be new healing today.
Following that, we went on a brief boat ride on the lake. Upon return, we saw a 1st century fishing boat that was found in the mud during the drought year of 1986. This is the same size of boat Jesus would have used in his teachings, or the disciples were in when Jesus and peter walked on the water. It isn’t as big as I thought. Fitting 12-15 people in it would be difficult.
I am continually amazed at places I have seen. Years ago, I saw the sites of the great reformers. Now, I am seeing the places where Jesus walked and did his ministry. These places remind me that we are called to do ministry in the places where God puts us. For Jesus, it was in an out of the way village of Capernaum. For us, it is often not places most people know. Yet, in those places, and in these places, God meets us and invites us to be part of His family.