When I returned in 2007, there were significantly more visitors. Tourism had returned to Israel, praise God!
But 2009 showed a completely different level of tourism altogether! People people everywhere! Not just one tour group, but many at most sites.
Capernaum -- the town of Jesus -- was no different.
Wait, I hear you say. Wasn't Nazareth the town of Jesus? Yes, it was ... until he began his ministry. Then, to fulfill Scripture's prophesy, he moved (See Matthew 4).
Capernaum of today is beautiful to behold. Tour groups have the option of sitting in shady gardens while hearing of Jesus' ministry and the miracles performed here. Or, they can stand along the border walls and stare out to the Sea of Galilee dancing in the day's sunlight. They can enter the church (I call it the giant spaceship that came to earth and managed to land on top of Peter's house) and worship quietly or partake of a service. Or, for a taste of what it would have been like to worship in a synagogue in Jesus' day, they can walk through the ancient White Synagogue, a fourth century structure built over the 1st century place of worship where Jesus drove out the demons plaguing a demoniac.
Okay, let me just tell it like it is. You could spend ALL DAY here. Few do, but you could. It is a worshiper's holiday. An archeologist's dream. A photographer's delight. A historian's mecca. Capernaum draws the person as a whole -- spiritually, emotionally, aesthetically. Flowers that grow in Capernaum are vivid in color, full of bloom.
If you read that line one more time, you'll get a sermon.
In 2002, after visiting Capernaum for the first time, I read in the Bible that here, when the demoniac approached him, the evil spirit cried out, "What do you want from us, Jesus of Nazareth?" (see Mark 1). I wrote in my journal, "Yes, Jesus. What do you want from me?"
The answer to the demonic was "Be quiet." (Although, according to Scripture, Jesus didn't say it very kindly ... to me, he whispered, "I want you to hush now ...")
I can be quiet in Capernaum.
But there's another story about Capernaum that ministered to me in 2007. Jesus and the disciples were in his town and he was asked, "What must we do to do this work of God?"
Jesus replied, "...believe ..."
I wrote in my journal. "I am asking you to believe."
In 2007, my husband and I were in a legal battle for the rights to raise a little girl. She is not a blood relative, but she'd been "ours" for a long time. We fought and fought hard -- against all odds, against what the legal eagles said was possible -- to make her "ours" legally and not just ours in our hearts. My battle in the States was near the forefront of my mind every moment of my time in Israel and so, in Capernaum, I asked, "What must we do to do the work we believe you have given us, Lord?"
Jesus whispered, "Believe."
In Capernaum, believing is easy.
In 2009 I was overwhelmed by the groups who'd made their way there. To worship. To hush. To believe.
So, Capernaum was his town. I keep trying to picture him visiting the local real estate office, shopping for just the right house ... and I wonder why we've identified the place under the Great Spaceship as Peter's house but no one has ever pointed to a cluster of stones and said, "Jesus' house." Then I remember. Jesus said if I should invite him into my heart, he would dwell there.
In Capernaum, finding Jesus' house is easy.
It stands right inside of me.