11 DAYS UNTIL FILMING STORY OF REDEMPTION! - CAPERNAUM! - Lesson 5 in the Story of Redemption is on discipleship, and picks up after Jesus' successful triumph over Satan and the temptations that he faced in the desert. Matthew tells us that Jesus left Nazareth- (where he grew up and preached from the great Isaiah scroll - Luke 4:16f-and was rejected, and attempted to be thrown off of a cliff) and very purposefully lived in the city of Capernaum--"his city" (Mt. 9:1), which he made his home and performed more miracles than any place else recorded in the gospels.
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”[f]
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Capernaum--pronounced by Israelites as Ca-pher-na-hum--means "City of Nahum." It may perhaps have been the home town of the Old Testament prophet Nahum, or perhaps was a town named in his honor. Capernaum was a small but thriving fishing village on the Northern side of the Sea of Galilee.
So why did Jesus make Capernaum, this small city of probably a few hundred people, his home? Why not Caesarea or Jerusalem? Well, on the one hand it points to Jesus humility and identification with the common people. But there probably other reasons.
1. Moving to Capernaum Caused Jesus to Fulfill Prophecy.
Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would bring a light to a dark place by the "Way of the Sea"--the Galilee of the Gentiles, and Jesus moving to Capernaum allowed this prophecy to be fulfilled--something Jesus was very cognizant of. And indeed, Capernaum was a dark place, filled with sickness, death, disease, and demon possession. Capernaum has the remains of an ancient synagogue, most likely built upon the site of the 1st century synagogue which Jesus taught in and in which he cast out a demon.
Note the many miracles performed at Capernaum--miracles which gave light to this land: In Capernaum, Jesus:
2. Capernaum was a Strategic Location and a Crossroads of the World.
Note the following (from Padield.com). "The greatest roads of the ancient world passed through Galilee. The Via Maris led from Damascus through Galilee down to Egypt. The Road to the East led through Galilee away out to the frontiers. Jesus could not have picked a better city in all of Israel to symbolize the worldwide implications of His redeeming gospel. One writer said, 'Judaea is on the way to nowhere: Galilee is on the way to everywhere.'"
The Way of the Sea
"Observing how the Jewish leadership and Herod treated John the Baptist, Jesus strategically launched His own ministry in Galilee of the Gentiles, at Capernaum, which was 'by the sea' (Matt. 4:12-16; cf. Isa. 9:1-2). It was not without reason that the Lord had indicated to Abraham that he must settle on this narrow strip of land that joined three continents. For thousands of years travelers from Africa to Europe, from Asia to Africa passed along the via maris, the 'way of the sea.' Right by the locale of Capernaum they passed, and they continued to pass by throughout the days of Jesus. By inaugurating His public ministry in Galilee of the Gentiles along the major international trade route, Jesus was making a statement. This land would serve as a springboard to all nations. The kingdom of God encompassed a realm that extended well beyond the borders of ancient Israel. As Paul so pointedly indicates, Abraham's promise from a new covenant perspective meant that he would be heir of the cosmos (Rom. 4:13). All nations, lands, and peoples would experience the blessings of this benevolent rule." (O. Palmer Robertson,Understanding the Land of the Bible, p. 11).
3. Capernaum was the Hometown of 5 of the Original 12 Disciples.
Capernaum was where Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew lived. John's gospel tells us that Andrew heard John the Baptist say, "Behold, the Lamb of God" in reference to Jesus after his baptism, and he went and found Peter. Some time passes, then Jesus goes to Capernaum and calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John as they are fishing (Mt. 4:18-22).
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Jesus also called Matthew, a tax collector, at his tax booth at Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him (9:9).
Jesus knew people, and he may have been doing a bit of social networking by making Capernaum his base of operation--with Andrew his first disciple, who goes and tells Peter, who knew James and John, the sons of Zebedee--fishermen in the same town.
All of this shows that Jesus was cognizant of prophecy, was a master strategist and networker, and a compassionate bringer of light to the world. Unfortunately, Capernaum did not respond to his miracles as they ought to have. But we have the testimony of the light that he did show on this city--his city.
What did you learn new about Capernaum? How could this city not respond to these miracles? What does this show us about faith?