We arrived at our hotel last night after a day full of experiences, not least being the renewal of our Baptism vows in the River Jordan, a very special occasion for all of us. Our hotel is on the outskirts of Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which was extremely rough when we arrived. Two swans clearly couldn't read the warning signs against swimming in these conditions. The waves were lashing against the concrete pier with some force. Some brave ones among us (or foolish?) planned to swim but we managed to dissuade them. Today we begin the second stage of our pilgrimage, in the footsteps of Jesus as he went about his Lakeside ministry around the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee.
|approaching the Capernaum ruins|
So soon after breakfast we are on our way, continuing northwards in our coach along the Western shore of the Sea. The water is as calm today as it was rough last night, and looking a distinctly more attractive colour. Those keen swimmers who forewent their pleasure last night were up early Some were even up early for a swim, but they said it was very cold! I was happy to snatch a last few moments of sleep!
Why did Jesus choose to settle here? Probably, it is said, because his first converts, Peter and Andrew, lived here. It was here where he called not only Peter and Andrew, but also James, John and Matthew to follow him. There are more gospel references to Capernaum than to any other place in the Holy Land. Capernaum means Place of Rest. The ancient city was built near to the Via Maris, the Way of the Sea, which was the main trading route of the time from this busy fishing port to Damascus.
The late twentieth century Roman Catholic Church of St Peter's House here is built over the ruins of the house where Peter almost certainly lived, and which would have been visited by Jesus. Peter came from Bethsaida to Capernaum, perhaps to be near to his mother in law who Jesus later cured (Matt. 8:14-15; Mark 1:29-31). There is a joke the guides love to tell that this is why Peter later denied Jesus three times! Peter's house dates from before the birth of Christ and in the late first century AD there is evidence that the courtyard was used as a house church (Domus Ecclesia) by the early Judeo Christians. Late in the fifth century an octagonal church was built over this area, with the centre exactly over the foundations of this courtyard. The modern church has been designed by the Italian architect Ildo Avetta both to protect the excavated remains of St Peter's house and the fifth century church as well as to offer a place for worship at what is such an important gospel site. Inside the church pilgrims can view the remains of these below a central glass window.
|inside the Church of St Peter's House|
|Sea of Galilee|