Capernaum & Jordan River Baptisms
(Wednesday, February 19, 2014, continued)
After leaving the Tabgha region and the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, we drove the short distance to the remains of the village of Capernaum. I was really excited to see Capernaum, because while the other sites we had seen on this day were “probable locations”, there was no arguing with the fact that Jesus had lived and taught at this actual site, and it was here that he chose his disciples. (Matthew 4:13-22) As our tour guide Kenny would say, this was an “A+” location.
I found the photo below on BibleWalks.com, and thought that it was a great overview of the site. The octagonal shaped roof covers the remains of what is believed to be Peter’s mother-in-law’s house, and the white limestone building in the foreground is what remains of the synagogue that existed there after Jesus’ time. (The synagogue that Jesus would have taught in was on this same spot, the ruins of which are still visible.)
I am so in love with Galilee…the reality of Jesus hit me hard here.
We stopped and studied the remains of what archaeologists believe to be a house connected to the Apostle Peter. In the very early centuries of Christianity there were changes made to this particular structure indicating that it was somehow special. Evidence points to the fact that it became a very early church, rather than merely being someone’s residence. There are over 100 graffiti scratches in the walls of the structure, bearing messages such as “Lord Jesus help thy servant”, or “Christ have mercy”, written in both Hebrew and Greek.
The very noticeable white stone synagogue probably dates from around the 4th century AD (and was later destroyed in the 7th century AD by the Persian conquest). This building was erected over the ruins of the 1st century synagogue that would have existed in Jesus’ time. Our group paused for a few minutes, sitting on the stones of the synagogue, as our pastor delivered a brief message. We were sitting for a just a few minutes on a site where the Creator of the universe had lived, breathed and interacted with his creation, as a fellow human. Surreal, is probably a good word. The next couple of weeks would be filled with experiences like this, which stretched the boundaries of my mind and my heart.
Finally in the mid-afternoon it was time to stop for lunch. We’d done quite a bit already on this day, starting with our early morning boat ride and then the bus tour all around the northwestern rim of the Galilee. Kenny and Dudi drove us back to Tiberias, where we were treated to an amazing meal at a very unique restaurant called “Decks”, which was on the shoreline and actually extended out over the water. Our meal consisted of “St. Peter’s fish” (which is tilapia, grilled whole) and some great side dishes. (There was some singing involved by a woman whose name was “Vega”, if I remember correctly.)
After our late lunch we headed south of Tiberias down to the Jordan River, where quite a few people in our group were going to be baptised by our pastor. I’m not really sure what I was expecting; I think maybe it was a more remote setting, something like where the fiery-eyed Michael York (as John the Baptist) was baptising people in the movie “Jesus of Nazareth”. In actuality, Yardenit was much more domesticated. There were separate areas for different groups to hold their ceremonies simultaneously, with each area being sectioned off with stonework.
Having already been baptised as an adult, I decided against going through the experience here. But there were two main observations that I gathered from my vantage point above the river: 1) the water was really COLD (our pastor was wearing a wetsuit), and 2) there were some pretty huge fish in that river! (They looked like the Israeli equivalent of catfish.) Having said that, if I ever get the chance to make this trip with Glenn, I think it would be amazing for both of us to get baptised in the Jordan.
What a day. We’d seen some of the most holy sites for Christians to see, and this was only our second day in Israel. My takeaway for the day was that the Galilee region was far more beautiful than I ever could have imagined, and I loved it there.