Scripture reading: Matthew 5: 1-14 & 18: 1-6
Thursday, June 14
We journeyed to Capernaum where our first stop was the Church of Multiplication. It is believed Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 here. An exposed rock in the floor under the altar is where Jesus blessed the bread and the fishes and gave it to his disciples to give to the crowd.
In the courtyard of this church is a millstone used for pressing olives. This is the type of stone Jesus referred to when he spoke of anyone who leads a small child a stray would be better for him to have tied around his neck and thrown into the sea. (Matthew 18:6)
The olives are pressed four times. The first pressing is the virgin olive oil of which of the top 10% is given to the Lord in sacrifice and the rest used for human consumption. The second press is used for soaps and hand creams. The third press of oil results in fuel used for lighting lamps. The pit mash that is left over is also burned for fuel.
The peacock is a symbol of Christianity. When a peacock dies, it takes a long time for the body to decompose. The colors of the body continue to get brighter and brighter after death. This symbolizes our life in Christ and hope of heaven where our lives will be brighter than our lives here on earth.
Another symbol of the early Christian church is the fish or IXOYZ (ichthys). The Greek acronym translates to English as “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” Followers of Jesus used this symbol in secrecy out of fear of the Romans and the Jews and others who were persecuting them. The floor of the chapel has several areas where the mosaic had been scratched out. It is believed that these were the symbol of the fish and were destroyed by some enemy of Jesus followers.
Capernaum was a spot for travelers coming across the Jordan into Israel to stop and rest. It was a crossroads of major intersections and site of the customs office. Jesus used this geographic positioning to spread His teachings by word of mouth with travelers who came through the area.
There is a temple in Capernaum because many Jews could not afford to make the trip to Jerusalem. Builders brought stones from Jerusalem to build this temple for a place where the Jews could learn and worship.
Outside the temple is a stand of ficus trees where we sat and listened to our guide, Johnny. It was very much how the disciples probably sat listening to Jesus teach.
We learned two lessons in the shade of the trees. Many of us are familiar with Jesus teaching about the mustard seed which is a very small seed that grows into a large tree. Jesus told his disciples if they had faith like a mustard seed they could move mountains. (Matthew 17:20-21) The mustard seed is also a perfect seed–there is no crease or break in it at all. Jesus may have been saying if you believe in me 100 percent, you shall move mountains. Ninety-nine percent isn’t good enough. How much faith do we have?
The other thing we learned was in reference to the incident when Jesus sent Peter to the sea to get a coin from the mouth of a fish to pay the taxes. (Matthew 17:27). Like children still today, when they see water,they will make a wish and throw in a coin. The children of Capernaum did this along the Sea of Galilee. When fish sense danger, they take their young into their mouths. This is probably how the coin got there.
A new temple was built over the original but the old wall is still visible. Men sat in the main temple while women sat on the second floor because menstration makes them unclean. The “Sunday school” room was to the right of the main room on the main floor. In this room are etchings on the rock floors of games the children played. (They didn’t have iPads!) The gates of the temple face the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Paul mentions in his letters that it is better for women to remain silent in church and ask their husband later to teach them. This sounds chavenistic but understanding that the women were seated separatly, imagine if all the women of your church were sitting in the fellowship hall during the preaching. They may be talking amongst themselves and miss part of the teaching. Then, in trying to find out from their neighbor what they missed, the whole group misses all of the teaching. Paul was trying to cause the least amount of distraction.
The ruins of Peter’s mother-in-law’s house are across from the temple. This is where Jesus healed her from a fever and she rose to serve them.
Pastor Brian arranged for a special addition to our itinerary. When his wife, Jen was a senior at Wartburg College she participated in an archeological dig at Bethsaida, so we went to visit the site. Jen was here the second year after the discovery and found a silver coin and a widow’s mite at the site of Peter’s house. The coin is mentioned on bibleplaces.com. Both Pastor and Jen were excited to see Wartburg listed on a monument sharing the universities and colleges working on the excavation.
This is in no way meant to be disrespectful or sacreligous, but Jesus and his disciples had to have been buff! The terrain of this area is hilly and very rugged and rocky. They most likely saved their toenails by wearing sandals, otherwise they would have lost them going down hills all the time.
Our next stop was the Church of Beatitudes. Many churches and bascillas throughout the Holy Land were designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi, including this simple beautiful chapel which has eight sides–one for each Beatitude.
From here we went to the Sea of Galilee to board a boat like Jesus and his disciples would have used. The Sea of Galilee is actually a very large, deep lake which is 159 feet at its deepest and averaging 80 feet in depth. It is 624 feet below sea level and 13 miles from north to south and 7 miles from east to west. Sitting low and surrounded by mountains, it is understandable how storms could arise quickly. However, we were blessed with a beautiful day–the calmest Johnny had seen in a year or two.
After our leisurely cruise, we stopped for lunch. Our choices were beef kebobs or Peter’s fish which is cooked whole–head, tail and all. Pastor Brian and 13-year-old Alex were the only adventurous ones to try it and both decided there were bones than meat. They questioned if it was worth the effort.
After lunch we traveled to Cana where Jesus performed His first miracle at the wedding. Cana would have been about a half day’s journey from Nazareth for Jesus and his mother and disciples. Many Jewish weddings take place on Tuesday, the third day of the week. This relates to the story of creation when God gave a double blessing on the third day.
Three kinds of guests would be invited to the feast which lasted seven days–friends and family, poor people who could share in the food and drink, and people of importance. Guests would be expected to bring gifts, which today is almost always cash.
Hospitality is extremely important even today in the Jewish culture so to run out of wine would have been extremely embarrassing. Jesus’ mother Mary believed in and trusted Jesus to help. This should be true of our lives today, no mater how large the problem.
Throughout this area of Israel are pomegranate trees, olive trees, mango trees, eucalyptus and grape vineyards. It is well irrigated.
Lord Jesus–thank you for your teaching and miracles during your time on earth. Help us, Lord, to trust and have faith as small and as perfect as a mustard seed that we may trust you every moment of our lives until we are reunited with you in heaven. In your name we pray. Amen.