If you don’t know it, I understand.
Place names only stick when a place has found a sticking point in the heart.
So, to be honest, many places, no matter how often I have read of them and maybe even studied to get the context for a text, don’t mean that much to me. Biblical places may be significant, but they remain far and distant.
My trip had begun with a quick drive to Jerusalem after touching down at Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv, and a somewhat coastal drive up to Galilee. Then we drove westwards towards the beautiful bay area of Haifa to stay with some friends. Thereafter we headed back to the Galilee area and began driving back to Jerusalem hugging the Galilean shoreline and via the Judean wilderness, stopping at the world-famous Dead Sea (the next letter!).
Letter C goes to the place on the Galilean coast that is known variously as Capernaum in the English Bible, as well as Kfar Nahum, Talhum in Arabic and Capharnaum in Greek.
Kfar Nahum is a conjoining of two words for ‘village’ and ‘rest’, so it came to be known as a city of comfort or repentance. When Jesus lived and served many needs there, comfort must have been real. Yet, Jesus had fiery, angry words of judgment for her lack of repentance and receptivity.
In Greek though, Capharnaum refers to a disorderly collection of objects, perhaps an allusion to it being on a trade route. Well, this is what language can do to a place!
I have to admit that being here exposed how hastily I can sometimes read the Scriptures and how disinclined I was to geography — until now.
The area is now a national park (not very large at all) with a huge signage with these words: Capharnaum, City of Jesus. I went, “What?”. That’s right, my idea of Jesus being itinerant, while not completely wrong, wasn’t accurate. There were places Jesus spent a lot more time and Capernaum is it.
Let me share some of what Jesus did here, his first stop after his wilderness encounter where he was tempted by Satan in three essential aspects of humanity: our need for sustenance, belonging, and significance.
- He called five of his twelve apostles here
- He healed the poor guy let down on a stretcher in one of the homes.
- He preached and taught at the synagogue here, including the discombobulating sermon on being the Bread of…