Capernaum, a Healing Place

Entering Capernaum
A group of Nigerian pilgrims in the Capernaum synagogue (Nigeria pays for its citizens’ pilgrimages.)

Well, so far I have managed to go in no sort of order in writing about our Holy Land trip.  I have not exactly followed Jesus’ life in order, and I have not exactly followed the sequence of our Holy Land trip either.  Capernaum is sort of like that too; it’s all over the Gospels, sixteen different references.  Jesus spends a lot of time in Capernaum.  The Gospel of Matthew states that Jesus even lived in Capernaum at the start of His ministry.  It is where He called his first two disciples: Peter and Andrew (brothers).  He healed a man when He was teaching in the synagogue.  He healed a centurion’s servant; He healed Peter’s mother-in-law; He healed an official’s son; He healed the paralytic who was let down into the house by his four friends.  “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”   Because of Jesus, Capernaum was a very healing place!

The ruins of Capernaum

Capernaum is in the Galilee region, right on the Sea of Galilee.  We went there the day after we arrived in Galilee; after we left Nain, we traveled to the Mount of Beatitudes, which we made our home base for the next few days.  Oh my goodness, not trying to make you jealous, but waking up to sunrise over the Sea of Galilee was one of the biggest thrills of my entire life.  Wouldn’t it be great to go camping right next to the Sea of Galilee someday?  Maybe next visit…

The synagogue of Capernaum where Jesus taught and healed a man with “an unclean spirit”
The Church at Capernaum
Church built over Peter’s house
A closer look at Peter’s house

I can see why Jesus wanted to spend so much time in Capernaum–it is beautiful.  It was a good-sized little town for its day.  Now they have a lot of it excavated, and the Catholics have a beautiful space ship-like church built over Peter’s house, or what they presume to be his house.  Why do they presume it?  Because it was obviously protected over the centuries. states:  Graffiti scratched on its plaster walls referred to Jesus as Lord and Christ (in Greek). It is suggested that this room was venerated for religious gatherings as a house church. If so, it would have been the first such example in the Christian world. In 5th century an octagonal church was built around this venerated room. The present church, dedicated in 1990, repeats the octagonal shape.  So there is a reason for the space ship, besides the Catholic church just going new-agey.  But this is great: inside the space ship church, you can look down through glass to see into Peter’s church.  I love it–that’s great architecture.

Looking down into Peter’s house
A statue of St. Peter
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. Matthew 16:18
Peter, a fisher of men

Sometimes I think Peter must have been a redhead, or maybe a redhead at heart.    He’s fiery, opinionated, passionate.  He says exactly what he’s thinking, even when it’s ill-advised.  (My husband will recognize some of these qualities.)  Jesus loves Peter, though.  He deals with him straight on:  on the one hand, He calls him “Satan,” during one of Peter’s less fortunate outbursts, and on the other, He gives Peter the keys to the Church:  “You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church.”  Peter is the quintessential Christian.  He tells Jesus, “No, I would never deny you, even if I had to die.”  Then without really thinking, out of fear, he denies Jesus three times, even as he’s watching Jesus’ trial go on at Caiaphas’ house.  All Jesus had to do is look at him.  It is a chilling moment in Scripture.  Yes, Peter is all over the place.  But unlike Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus, Peter doesn’t stop believing.   A pastor whose blog I read once wrote that Judas would have been saved had he only run to the cross (Gospel) instead of back to the priests (Law) to give back the money he sold Jesus for.  The Law could not save Judas, the Law said “what of it?,” and he died in despair and apart from our Lord.  But Peter did not despair, he still believed what he said during one of his more fortunate outbursts: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God!”  He was restored, forgiven.  And then he was given a job: “Feed my sheep.”  More about that soon.

woodcuts on the walls inside the church. “Take heart, my child, your sins are forgiven.”

Peter was a sinner.  Jesus healed him.  Peter was restored by Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, just as so many others were. “Take heart, child, your sins are forgiven.” I hope you get a chance to visit Capernaum someday!  What a beautiful place.

a view of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum
the altar of the Catholic church in Capernaum

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