[Note: This is the third in my “Holy Land” series, reflections on my visit there in October. If you click on the pictures, they will become larger if you want to look more closely.]
I shot this picture overlooking Nazareth early one evening. Though Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he grew up in Nazareth, which was then but a hamlet five miles south and east of a major metropolis named Sepphoris (now a national park). Following in Joseph’s footsteps, Jesus became “the carpenter” in Nazareth, but his deep ties to the village did not keep the jealous villagers from rejecting (and nearly killing) him at the beginning of his ministry. The view below is from the hill from which the residents of Nazareth tried to throw Jesus to his death (see Luke 4:28ff).
From that point on, Jesus moved to Capernaum, a much larger community on the shore of the Galilee. On one occasion, the Elders of Capernaum came to Jesus in behalf of a Roman centurion who had built a synagogue for the town. The officer’s much beloved servant was ill to the point of death and they requested Jesus heal him. Ruins of an ancient synagogue (shown here) exist but it’s not the one of Jesus’ day. This one was built some 300 years later. However, if you look at the foundation of the synagogue, or below, you can see different, black stones. These would have been part of the Synagogue in Jesus’ day.
Of great interest to me was the Church in Capernaum. What you see in this final picture to the left are ruins of an octagonal church building built in the fifth century. This building was built on top of a previous church building dating back to the first century, but that church building had originally been a home. The home was renovated to accommodate a place for people to assemble and the octagon church was built on top of that assembly room. Written on the walls of the assembly room was graffiti: “Christ have mercy” or “Lord Jesus Christ help your servant.” Some archeologists believe the name “Peter” also appears on the walls. It is believed this house was the home of Peter. In 1990, a new large church was built on top of all these ruins to protect and preserve them.
The coming of Jesus into the world turned things upside down. Who would have ever thought Nazareth would be such a large community – and that the metropolis of Sepphoris would be just an archeological site. But Christ’s coming didn’t just change the fate of cities. It mainly changed the fate of people who, by faith, would and do leave obscurity to become the very children of God.