Our stops today were all focused on the Sea of Galilee, the freshwater lake around which much of Jesus’ ministry took place as recorded in the Gospels. Here are a few highlights:
Our first visit of the morning was to ancient Capernaum, the city to which Jesus moved from Nazareth early in his ministry (after John the Baptist was imprisoned, Mt 4:13). Moving to Capernaum was in one sense strategic; Capernaum was bigger than Nazareth and located on both the International Coastal Highway and the Sea of Galilee. Jesus, therefore, had much more freedom of movement based in Capernaum, and word of what he was doing would have traveled more widely. The move was also in fulfillment of prophecy. Isaiah 9:1 says that the coming of Messiah would make the lands of both Zebulun and Naphtali glorious; Nazareth is in Zebulun, while Capernaum is in Naphtali. At Capernaum, we looked at the remains of a building that is likely Peter’s house and where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt 8:5, 14-17). The building was a home in the first century, then used for Christian assembly in the second century, and than refashioned into an octagonal church building in the 5th-6th centuries. We also got to stand in what was Capernaum’s synagogue, where Jesus taught more than once and even performed miracles (Mk 1:21-28; Jn 6:16-17, 26-59). The remains of a 4th-5th century rebuild of the synagogue stands on top of the 1st century site (pictured). Despite Jesus’ extensive ministry in Capernaum, the people there did not repent and fell under Jesus’ condemnation (Luke 10:15).
In the middle of the day, we took a boat ride out into the Sea of Galilee. Many notable events involving Jesus and his disciples took place on this sea (e.g. Mt 8:23-27; 14:22-33; Jn 21:1-11). The sea is not as large as I imagined; if there is no mist, you can see the opposite shore from anywhere on the sea. The waters were extremely calm when we went out, though just last week a storm from the sea extensively damaged the city of Tiberius on the western shore. We rode out a ways into the sea and then had a devotional time of Bible teaching and singing. Our boat captain turned out to be a Messianic Jew, and he also taught us a worship song in Hebrew.
After our boat ride, we walked over to the nearby Yigal Allon Center to see their display of a first-century Galilee boat. The boat is an amazing archaeological discovery: during a period of particularly low water level for the Sea of Galilee in the 1980s, two Israeli fishermen stumbled upon the wooden hull of a boat in the mud. Wood almost never survives the passage of time, so conservators raced to uncover and transport the hull without causing the ancient wood to disintegrate. The team successfully extracted the boat but then needed eleven more years to treat the wood for preservation, study, and display. Now on exhibit, the largely intact hull is of a type of boat common to the sea of Galilee in the first century and is probably the same type of boat that Jesus and his disciples used as they fished or traveled around the sea. The exact owner or use of this particular boat is unknown, but the boat clearly was repaired several times; researchers discovered twelve different types of wood used on the boat!