In God’s Land: Capernaum, the town of Jesus

11 09 2019

We visited the Capernaum, the town of Jesus. All four gospels report that Jesus visited Capernaum and often attended the synagogue there: In Matthew 4:23, after Herod killed John the Baptist, Jesus left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum. Mark 1:21-28 describes Jesus teaching and healing in the synagogue at Capernaum

“Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles!

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned”.. Matthew 4:14–15

Jesus chose Capernaum because it was the largest city, the richest city, a port city, where everyone has to come. Syrians, Jews, Arabs all used to pass through Capernaum during their travels and the Lord wanted these nations to hear his teachings.

Capernaum had a customs-house and a detachment of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion, a particular centurion who Jesus praised: “I tell you nowhere in Israel have I seen such faith.”

 The praise came when the centurion whose servant was sick asked Jesus to heal his servant, and Jesus said, “I will come.” But the centurion, said, “Lord, I have many men under my authority, I say to one go, and he goes and to another, come and he comes. So just say the word and my servant will be healed.”

 Jesus was moved to praise his act of faith, which we repeat every time we go to Mass.

At the beginning of the Arab period, in the seventh century, the Capernaum, a Christian city went into decline. Two hundred years later it was completely deserted; the buildings collapsed, the area became a heap of ruins, and little by little these were buried. The same earth that hid the location of Capernaum preserved it intact until the nineteenth and twentieth century’s, when the Custody of the Holy Land acquired the property and set in motion the first archaeological excavations.

It’s a two hour drive from Jerusalem and Abu Ghosh, where the Saxum visitors’ center is located.

It was in Capernaum that Jesus performed the following:

1. Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54.

2. Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14.

3. Jesus walking on water in John 6:16-24.

4. Miraculous catch of fish.  Peter caught 153 fishes when he obeyed the Lord, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat”

5. The healing of the paralytic let down through the roof

6. Preached the Beatitudes

7. It was also here that Jesus came after his resurrection, and confirmed Peter as the prince of the Apostles. That day, standing by the shores of the sea of Galilee, but they did not recognize him, and when he asked them if they had caught anything, they said no, he told them to throw their nets on the right side, and they did, then John said, “It’s the Lord, and Peter jumped into the sea. When they came to shore, Jesus had prepared breakfast of fish. After breakfast, he asked Peter, do you love me three times and told him to feed my sheep.

8. The cure of the woman with the hemorrhage

9. The cure of the man with the withered hand

10.  The raising to life of Jairus’ daughter

11. The paying of the Temple tax with a coin found in a fish’s mouth

At Capernaum

1st Century Synagogue where Jesus prayed
Inside the St. Peter’s Church
Peter’s house under the Octagonal St Peter’s Church
A look at the room of Jesus inside St Peter’s house
Sea of Galilee can be seen from the home of St. peter
Peter was a fisher man who lived near the sea
Jesus used to get into Peter boat to preach to the crowd

The house of Peter in Capernaum

Peter welcomed Jesus into his home at Capernaum

While Jesus was at Capernaum, he stayed at the house of Peter his apostle. From there, he carried out his ministry: teaching in the synagogue, and healing the sick. The healing of the paralytic let down through the roof actually took place inside, in one room in Peter’s house. When Capernaum went into ruins, exact location of Peter’s house was also uncertain until 25 years ago, when Italian archeologist uncovered the remnants of a humble house buried beneath the remains of an octagonal Byzantine martyrium church. The remnant dated to the first century B.C.

But what was surprising and perhaps one of the strongest proofs of authenticity that this was Peter’s house was what happened to this house from the first century AD, (that is after the death of Christ). They discovered that the use of this particular house completely changed from a normal residence to a church.

The stone oil jars replaced cooking pots and in one room in particular, the walls were plastered ceiling to wall, quite unusual for a home in those days. Further surprise: as the years went by, the plastered room was renovated and converted into the central hall of a rudimentary church.

The room’s old stone walls were buttressed by a newly built two-story arch that, in turn, supported a new stone roof. The room was even re-plastered and painted over with floral and geometric designs of various colors and more than a hundred graffiti were scratched into the plastered walls. Most of the inscriptions saying things like “Lord Jesus Christ help thy servant” or “Christ have mercy.” They are written in Greek, Syriac or Hebrew and are sometimes accompanied by etchings of small crosses or, in one case, a boat.

This house was used like this for more than 300 years before it was finally replaced in the fifth century by a well-built octagonal martyrium church. Octagonal buildings were built to commemorate very important sites.

Still the inner sanctum of the octagonal building was built directly above the remains of the very room of the first-century house that had the plastered wall and graffiti’s. What modest home, could have a room venerated, turned into a church, with prayers inscription scratched in on the walls, and all subsequent churches built on its foundation if it not for the fact that this was the room of the Son of God.

Ist Century Synagogue at Capernaum close to Peter’s house, where Jesus went to pray
Ist Century Synagogue at Capernaum close to Peter’s house, where Jesus went to pray
Peter’s house

Jesus Preached the Beatitudes in Capahnaum

Next we visited the place where Jesus preached the nine Beatitudes.

On a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee, a sanctuary commemorates the place where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes.  

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy…” Matthew 5:3–12 

We saw that the slopes of the surrounding mountains rises up from the lakeside forming a natural amphitheatre, such that the wind coming from the sea of Galilee could carry the words of Christ to people sitting two or three football fields away. As they listened to Christ, it was the beginning of a new dawn for mankind.

The Beatitudes present a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus, a kind of portrait of his figure. He who has no place to lay his head is truly poor; he who can say, ‘Come to me for I am meek and lowly in heart’ is truly meek; he is the one who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God. He is the peacemaker; he is the one who suffers for God’s sake. The Beatitudes display the mystery of Christ himself, and they call us into communion with him.”

After the Beatitudes, Jesus compares believers to the salt of the earth and the light of the world. St. John Chrysostom brings out the connection between the two passages as follows: “Those who are meek, modest, and merciful and just, do not keep these virtues for their own profit alone, but pour them out like clear torrents for the benefit of others.

The Beatitudes are a portrait of Jesus.

On the road to the Church of the Beatitudes in Capernaum

Inside the Church of Beatitudes in Caphanaum

Mass at the Church of Beatitudes in Capernaum

We celebrated the Mass on a little canopy outside the gardens in front of the Church of Beatitudes.

Jesus multiplied 5 loaves to feed 5000 people in Capernaum

Tabgha is a zone three kilometers to the west of Capernaum

In Tabgha, we venerated the rock upon which the Lord placed five loaves and two fish, with which he fed the multitudes. Early Christians identified Tabgha as the place where this miracle had been worked and Archaeological work confirmed the accuracy of the tradition that had been handed down, by bringing to light the remains of the altar, the venerable rock which showed that numerous fragments had been removed from it, and a mosaic of a basket of loaves flanked by two fishes.

In the floor a large part of the original mosaic flooring is preserved, with a geometric design in the aisles and nave, and richly figured in the two halves of the transept, showing various kinds of birds and plants found around Lake Gennesaret.

Christ intended to use this Miracle as his opening to initiate his discussion about the True bread of life, pre-figuration of the Eucharist

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”

So begins the discourse about the Bread of Life, in which our Lord reveals the mystery of the Eucharist. It is so rich that it is considered “the sum and summary of our Faith.”

 “The sacrament of charity, the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman.”

In the Mass, the holy Sacrifice of the Altar, an offering of infinite value, which perpetuates the work of the redemption in us,  Jesus our Lord comes to meet us, becoming really, truly, substantially present: his Body, his Blood, his Soul and his Divinity.

Inside the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves at Capernaum

Church of the Primacy of Peter

Next we went to the spot where Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me?”

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” …John 21:15

Why did Jesus ask Peter three times “Do you love me?” Catholics believe that that was how he made Peter the prince of the Apostles at Capernaum. The spot where this happened is now a Church called the Church of the primacy of Peter. Behind the Church is the sea of Galilee

Outside the Church of the Primacy of Peter at Capernaum

Inside the Church of the Primacy of Peter at Capernaum

We venerated the rock on which Christian tradition say was the rock on which Jesus place the breakfast before his Apostles. The rock is known as “Mensa Christi” and it was right in front of the alter in the Church of the Primacy of peter

Jesus walked on the of the sea of Galilee Capernaum

Next we went for a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee. It was on this lake that Jesus walked on water.

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.  And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”… Matthew 14:22-33 Sea of Galilee is also called Lake of Genesaret or Lake Tiberias

Returning from the sea of Galilee in Capernaum


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