The Holy Land – Part 11 – Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida

Posted: January 14, 2015 in can you hear him?, Christ, Disciple, Discipleship, god is calling, great commission, Holy Land, Israel, Jesus

On the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee lies a triangle of small towns of great significance in the life of Jesus. Capernaum is located right on the northern shore, while Chorazin sits between 2 and 3 miles northwest of Chorazin, and Bethsaida stands 3 miles east along the shoreline of Galilee.

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As recorded in the gospels, most of Jesus’ earthly ministry occurred on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  It was here where over half of Jesus’ parables were taught and most of the recorded miracles as well.  Capernaum became Jesus’ hometown throughout His ministry, possibly due to His own town of Nazareth rejecting Him and even trying to throw Him off a cliff (Read Matthew 13:53-58 and Luke 4:16-30).  Capernaum was a fishing town, making up most of the residents vocations.  It was on this northern shore where Jesus chose the disciples who would take His message of Grace to the world!

Capernaum was the home of Jesus’ chosen disciples James, John and Matthew.  Mathew, as you may remember, was the tax collector of the town of Capernaum:

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. – Mathew 9:9

Three of His disciples hailed from a nearby town called Bethsaida – Peter, Andrew and Philip:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” – John 1:43-45

Among the many miracles described in the gospels from this area, I will mention two of the most recognizable:

After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. – Luke 7:1-10

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The Synagogue Built by the Centurion Mentioned in Above Verse.

And:

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” – Mark 2:1-12

As we walked through Capernaum, we saw the synagogue where Jesus would have taught many days (same one the Centurion build from Luke 7 above).

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Closeup Showing the Size of the Columns in the Synagogue.

A little further down the the road we saw Peter’s mother-in-laws house where Jesus and His disciples stayed on many occasions while in Capernaum.  This site is covered by a Catholic Church, but at least it is still able to be seen underneath:

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The Metal at the Top is the Bottom of the Catholic Church.

I can see why this would have been a location Jesus spent much of His time as the beauty of this place on the Sea of Galilee is breathtaking – I can truly see why our guide, Mickey, has a strong desire to retire somewhere along these shores of the freshwater lake where the presence of Jesus can be felt in such a strong and serene way to this very day!

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View from Capernaum Overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

Statue of Peter - Peter was a prominent member of this community!

Statue of Peter – Peter was a prominent member of this community!  “Upon this rock I will build my Church” – Jesus

A couple miles northwest of Capernaum are the ruins of the ancient town of Chorazin.  The most prominent feature of this site is the ancient synagogue that is the center of the community.  Many artifacts and structures have been uncovered here.  Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida are mentioned in this famous passage spoken by Jesus where He condemns these cities for their unrepentant hearts in the full site of most of Jesus’ miracles while He walked the earth:

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you,Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” – Matthew 11:20-24

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The Seat for the Reader of the Scrolls in the Synagogue

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Ornate Archway

As seen in the following picture, the stone in which our guide is standing and teaching is called the Bema stone.  This would be where the reader of the scrolls, the teacher, would have stood while teaching in the synagogue:

Mickey Teaching us from the Bema Stone

Mickey Teaching us from the Bema Stone

Chorazin was a great place to see some incredible artifacts and also see how a small town would have functioned.  We then took a trip up the road to Bethsaida.  There is not much left at this location other that a small monument and an area to teach.  This place made a special connection for me because it is likely the place where Jesus fed the 5,000.  You can see in the picture below how this could be the place as the hill drops into the valley and at the time of Christ the Sea of Galilee would have come up into that valley and easily would have been a shoreline where Jesus could have stepped out of the boat (or back into the boat) for some teaching.

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In the Distance is the Sea of Galilee. Before Water was being Pumped out of the Sea, the Shoreline would have come up to the Treeline.

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Well Marked Bike Path

There was a great bike trail through this site, but you wouldn’t want to get off the path…there are still landmines that have not been detonated from the Syrian wartime all around this area – Syria is only a few short miles from this location.  We will discuss that more at our next stop, The Golan Heights and Dan.  Until then, Shalom!

 

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