Matthew 4:13: “And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim”.
After Jesus was shunned and nearly killed in his hometown of Nazareth, he left for Capernaum which is where he encountered Simon Peter and Andrew, his first disciples. Capernaum is on the north corner of the Sea of Galilee and it was basically the hub for Jesus’ activities during his ministry. The village goes back to the early bronze period but it was during the Hellenistic period that it began to grow and take on a Roman appearance. It grew even larger during the time of Jesus, and it was during this time that the synagogue was built in the center of the village. In the Byzantine period around the 4th century CE, the town reached its peak, and the big white synagogue was built over the earlier synagogue. In the 5th century, an octagon church was built over the house of Peter. Capernaum was partially destroyed in the Persian conquest in the 6th century CE, and the synagogue and church were destroyed in the Arab period during the 7th through 12th centuries, but the village continued to function during that time. After that, it was then totally ruined.
Capernaum was the fourth stop on our 3rd day tour – I believe. The third day was easily our most difficult as we were still trying to adjust to the time change and our tour that day was a whirlwind where we visited five different sites around the Sea of Galilee. I did not care for the whirlwind approach either as a photographer or as a pilgrim. These ruins where the first ruins that I had ever had a chance to visit and I had envisioned a time of quiet and contemplation. I wanted to reflect on these places where Jesus had walked and I had hoped to feel his presence there. During our first few days we really did not have many opportunities for reflection but as we settled into our trip more time became available.
I remember as our tour guide was speaking, gazing out on the Sea of Galilee. The sun was sparkling on the water and I thought to myself: ‘wow…Jesus gazed upon these very same waters.’ It is hard to describe the feelings that were going through me at that moment – even to myself. I am sure that millions of others before me have had the same experience. We are seeking a connection, some way of sharing the same space that Jesus occupied 2000 years before us. It was not lost on me that this was the space where the roots of my faith first began to take off. I think most people yearn to trace their roots back to the source and to feel a connection with their origin. I don’t know why we feel that need, but it seems to be a very basic one that is ingrained in our DNA.
Our faith has a very long, bitter and bloody past. But as I gazed upon the waters, I experienced for a moment that place in time when things were peaceful and people were beginning to recognize hope in the man Jesus. People were tired of the constant persecution of other empires and they wanted only to live their lives and raise their families in peace. Jesus attempted to show them how this might be accomplished, and for a while it seemed as though it might just be possible. This place was special because so many miracles took place here. People were healed and fed, and they were taught a new concept which was love of the enemy rather than seeking vengeance. I think that the fact that so many grasped this new concept is the greatest miracle of all and it is the reason that we are still seeking to follow the path that Jesus opened for us.
To see the photos click on the album cover: