Today we began our exploration of the area where Jesus decided to establish a center for his Galilean ministry. We are staying at the beautifully restored Tabgha Pilgerhaus, a guesthouse for pilgrims situated on a secluded beach on the Sea of Galilee near the traditional location where Jesus fed the 5000.
After breakfast we headed to Capernaum, the nearby first-century fishing village where Jesus centered his ministry in Galilee. After visiting the large synagogue built on the foundations of the synagogue where Jesus taught and healed, we took a close look at the houses in Capernaum from Jesus' time. We can see that people did not live in single-family dwellings the way most of us do, nor did they function primarily as a nuclear family. Instead they understood family to be multiple generations of blood and non-blood relations comprising an extended family that shared life and work together. In the New Testament this is called an "oikos." Their houses were built to accommodate multiple nuclear families in rooms surrounding a common courtyard. We were amazed to discover that the actual extended family home of Simon and Andrew has been discovered here and the remains are preserved underneath the modern church. This is where Jesus made his home and built a new kind of spiritual family, a family on mission!
From Capernaum we took a boat trip on the lake to get a clearer picture of this beautiful setting and the various places around the lake where Jesus carried out his mission. We also got a demonstration of fishing with a casting net, much the way Jesus' disciples used to fish! With one cast he caught a small Tilapia!
Getting off the boat we then visited the museum built to house an amazing archaeological find: a 2,000 year-old fishing boat excavated from the mud at the bottom of the lake! It took decades to restore this one-of-a-kind discovery so that it can be displayed, but it was worth the wait. This 27 foot-long boat is from the time of Jesus and is exactly the kind of boat Jesus and the disciples used as they traveled around the lake.
As is our custom, we had a lovely picnic lunch on the veranda of our guesthouse overlooking the lake. Everyone pitches in to help lay out the feast. However, once we were enjoying our lunch we discovered the policy at this guesthouse is not to bring in outside food---ooops!
After lunch we headed back to Capernaum for a special time of worship and reflection in their outdoor chapel. As we sat literally on the very beach where Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John, we reflected on the nature of discipleship in the context of an extended family on mission together. We are experiencing that kind of lifestyle while on this trip and pray we can continue to grow in the Way of Jesus as we return home. At the end of our worship time we felt led to do what Jesus did in this place: minister to those in our midst who needed physical healing. We broke into groups, prayed for each other, and some in the group experienced some significant improvement! Faith grows as we exercise it ...