Many places in Israel appear nothing like my imagination wants them to. Towering apartment complexes, high-tech industry, and contemporary shopping malls dominate the landscape of cities like Nazareth, Joppa, and Jerusalem, and it is a stretch for my eyes to strip away the modernity and picture how it appeared two thousand years ago. It is difficult to see Jesus and His crowd of followers passing under a blinking billboard advertising “Crocs” or waiting at a busy intersection for a green light. In Galilee, however, the advance of innovation has been slower, and my mind’s eye sees Him. In Galilee, you can walk along the shoreline near Tabgha and visualize thousands crowding close to hear Him teach. In Magdala, you can kneel on a pebbled beach and imagine Him admiring His Father’s sunrise and the smell and smoke of His charcoal fire. In Capernaum, it is easy to envision Him loving, admonishing, and ministering to all in His presence.

Jesus spent much of His time and ministry in the Galilean city of Capernaum, “the village of Nahum” in Hebrew. “And leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum” (Matt 4:13), fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy.  The city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee housed a bustling community of fishermen, and with the fishing industry came accompanying trades such as net tying and mending, as well as boat building. The gentle hills and fertile soil surrounding Capernaum lent itself to the cultivation of olives, dates, and citrus fruits, and its location on the international trade route made Capernaum a center of commerce. As a result of the commerce and trade, a Roman military presence was necessary.

Today, Capernaum has been beautifully restored. Colorful limestone mosaics form walkways that lead visitors between collections of artistically carved capitals and huge basalt millstones. Tall, narrow Italian cypresses and leafy palms are scattered between the edifice of an imposing white limestone fourth-century synagogue and a jarringly modern building memorializing the supposed location of the apostle Peter’s home. In the springtime, refreshing lake breezes bring the subtle scent of fish, but in the summer, the motionless air shimmers with oppressive heat and humidity. Just outside a gate on the eastern side of Capernaum, a peaceful, sheltered peninsula gently curves out toward the water, with the wide, sheltering arms of stately Mount Tabor oaks providing places for quiet reflection.

The New Testament records many memorable events occurring in Capernaum. Peter, Andrew, James, and John immediately left their fishing nets to answer His call, and Matthew walked away from his tax booth to do likewise. A paralyzed man’s resolute, full-of-faith friends removed a section of the roof and used ropes and muscle to lower him into the room to bring him before Jesus for healing (Mark 2:1-12). In Capernaum, with the Sea behind Him, native millstones around them, and a child in His arms, Jesus taught His disciples the importance of humility and the gravity of causing others to sin (Matt. 18:1-6). The synagogue at Capernaum was a place of importance as well, and though what remains today dates to the fourth century, there is evidence that it was built atop the black basalt foundation of a synagogue from Jesus’ time. Here, Jewish elders credited a Roman centurion with its construction and interceded on his behalf when he begged for the healing of his servant, and Jesus granted his request and praised his faith (Luke 7:1-10).

Luke chapter 8 tells several accounts of people in the region near Capernaum struggling between fear and faith. On a boat sailing between the Galilee and the Gerasenes, Jesus’ disciples feared a frightening storm, yet when He calmed the storm, they feared His power and Jesus asked them, “Where is your faith?” A demon-tormented man burdened with broken shackles and living among tombs feared the power of the Lord. Still, when Jesus released the man by sending the demons into a herd of swine, the miracle had different effects on witnesses. The newly liberated man grew in faith and devotion to Jesus, but people in the nearby countryside only grew more fearful of Him.

The story of two other burdened individuals is intertwined within this context, and they were waiting among the crowd for Jesus when He returned from the Gerasenes. As Jesus stepped off the boat, Jairus, a synagogue ruler, fell at His feet, begging Him to come and heal his only daughter, who was twelve years old and near death. As Jesus followed him, the crowds pressed and thronged around them, and an unnamed, unhealthy, unclean woman was undeterred in her mission. For twelve long years, she had been suffering from menstrual bleeding that must have left her physically weak and ill, her Levitical uncleanness distancing her from other Jews. She had spent all that she had and suffered much under the hands of the physicians of the day, but instead of getting better, she grew worse. Yet her faith led her to know, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well” (Mark 5:28). Jairus and this unnamed woman believed that Jesus could relieve their burdens – and He did even more than they expected. He blessed them “far more abundantly beyond” (Eph. 3:20) what they asked, for He not only stopped her flow of blood, but it was immediate; she was made well, and she could leave in peace with His blessing. Jesus didn’t simply heal Jairus’ daughter and leave her to recuperate after her illness slowly: He brought her from death back to life, completely healthy, walking and eating.

A walk through Capernaum helps me to see Jesus. It helps me to remember that others’ fears were eventually conquered by their faith. Were Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew frightened to leave their trades to answer Jesus’ call to “Follow me”? Was the Roman centurion initially fearful of being seen asking for mercy from a Jewish healer? I wonder if the disciples were ashamed of their faithlessness after the storm on that long-ago day. I can only imagine the terror felt by Jairus as his daughter neared death and the shameful dread that must have crept into the bleeding woman’s heart when Jesus demanded to know who had touched Him. All of these people were touched—not only by His power—but also by His grace and mercy. My own heart has experienced great fear, but His mercy and grace and peace were, at the same time, freely poured into me. A genuine faith in God will always conquer our fears.

Carla Moore
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Carla Moore grew up in a family dedicated to ministry, then met her husband, John, in college at Texas State University. They married in 1986 and have since been involved in ministry at the Bible Chair on the campus of TSU, then with the Southwest School of Bible Studies in Austin, Texas. They then worked with the Dripping Springs church of Christ and are currently working with Bear Valley Bible Institute International. Carla serves as Dean of Women at BVBII. Carla and John are blessed to have three sons who are all married to wonderful women, and they have six precious grandchildren. Carla enjoys speaking to women of all ages in various places. She has founded and led a Bible writing ministry called "Write On My Heart Every Word". She and Kathy Pollard co-host a weekly podcast called "Looking Up! With Kathy and Carla". She especially enjoys helping John guide trips to Israel and blogging about those experiences.