The more I read the Gospels the more I realise a heck of a lot of Jesus’ ministry happened in and around the town of Capernaum (which means village of comfort). This was Jesus’ adopted hometown of about 1,500 people (Matthew 4:13, 9:1, Mark 2:1). His family had been regular visitors to the town (John 2:12), so it was familiar territory and a logical place to base himself after being rejected in his hometown (Luke 4).
Now imagine if you actually lived in Capernaum at the time. It would have been mind-blowing! Stories of miracles circulating daily around the market stalls and from house to house, locals like fishermen and tax collectors dropping their livelihoods to follow this new bloke. Local religious leaders caught up in the thrill as well. Children raised from the dead and local lepers suddenly back to normal. Sometimes seeing these things with your own eyes!
The list goes on and on. And that’s just what was recorded for posterity. The miracles were probably multiples of that again, most unrecorded. I grew up in a small town of 1,000 people in New South Wales, so I know that these people all knew each other. They knew all the sick people who got better. There was no faking it. The gossip mill would have been running hot every day if anything was sus.
To highlight the spiritual and social earthquake that came to town in the form of the creator of the universe in human form, Jesus, I have pulled together below a list some of the amazing things that happened in and around Capernaum. As you read just imagine you are one of the locals that lived there, and you kept hearing this snowball of history-changing news over several years. How could anyone in that village not become a follower of Jesus?
The first recorded miracle in Capernaum was a man healed from a demon in the local Synagogue (Luke 4:33-37). That didn’t happen every day. He was known to all in town. The news spread rapidly. It was just the beginning.
Jesus then went all over Galilee preaching and healing the sick (Matthew 4:23). This drew a massive crowd from as far away as Syria and the mostly non-Jewish villages on the east side of the huge lake. So, he sat them down and did some extensive teaching which is now called the Sermon on the Mount. Where did it take place? We don’t know for sure but straight after the Sermon scripture says Jesus entered Capernaum (Matthew 8:5). Capernaum was on the highway from Jerusalem to Damascus. So, a large crowd could easily have converged on the town for the lecture.
After the extended teaching Jesus came down from the hillside, and before he could even enter town, he healed a leper (Matthew 8:1-4)
He then entered Capernaum and was confronted by a high-ranking Roman soldier who begged Jesus to heal his son/servant, which he did from a great distance because of the soldier’s great faith (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10).
Jesus then went to Peter’s house in nearby Bethsaida and healed his mother-in-law before healing everyone in the village (Matthew 8:14-18). Bethsaida was about six kilometers from Capernaum at the northern tip of the lake. News of this astounding feat would have reached Capernaum in about 3 nanoseconds.
Back at Capernaum sometime later Jesus healed a paraplegic but sadly incurred the ire of local religious leaders for not obeying standard religious rituals and practice (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12). This was a sign of things to come.
He then challenged the most hated man in town, the local Capernaum tax collector, to dump his bullying, seedy lifestyle and theft to dedicate his life to the Messiah, which Matthew did (Matthew 9:9-13, Mark 2:13-17). This alone would have got tongues wagging around town!
In contrast to the grumpy religious leaders, another Capernaum religious leader named Jairus approached Jesus sometime later and asked him to heal his daughter. Jairus may have lived in a nearby village because another miracle, the healing of the woman with the issue of blood occurred on the way to Jairus’ home. Jairus’ daughter died before Jesus got there but she was still raised from the dead. This in turn raised Jesus’ reputation to a whole new level (Matthew 9:18-26).
Finally, we see Jesus performing a few nature control miracles. He went for a stroll on water while the disciples travelled by back by boat to Capernaum (John 6:16-21), after which a flotilla of boats followed him to Capernaum when they noticed he had left the eastern shore of the lake where he was ministering. Earlier he also instantly calmed a storm while sailing the other way on that trip out from Bethsaida (Matthew 8: 23-27). Then there was the miracle of the massive take of fish, a fisherman’s dream catch, not far from Capernaum (Luke 5:1-11). These three events spoke of the divine nature of the man as much more than a prophet and healer, as creator and master of all creation.
And yet, after some time the locals grew used to the supernatural and the unexpected. They would eventually and shockingly turn their back on Jesus. The power of stubborn, threatened religious leaders and the deeply entrenched local religious mindset took over from the innocence of divine visitation (Luke 6:1-11). Jesus would eventually speak harshly about the lack of faith and repentance in both Capernaum and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:20-24). He knew what he was talking about when he said that a prophet is without honour in his hometown (John 4:43-44). How true.
Miracles alone cannot convince an unbeliever. It must be faith and repentance from a contrite heart. The episode of the ten lepers demonstrates this so well (Luke 10:13-15). How many locals from Capernaum and Bethsaida are in heaven now? One day I’ll find out.