Capernaum (“Capharnaum, The Town of Jesus”) was our next stop. It was to Capernaum Jesus went after his native Nazareth rejected Him (Matthew 4:13). Capernaum was the centre of Jesus’ Galilean ministry and the site of many of His miracles.
Again, there were many ruins.
Remains of Peter’s house, where his mother-in-law was healed (Matthew 8:14,15) are preserved under glass skylights. The information sign says:
“The traditional house of Peter was close to the lake shore and was flanked to the east by the main north-south road (cardo maximus) of the village. Spacious courtyards with a staircase and terra refractaria fireplaces were shared by several roofed homes.”
From Capernaum we drove north to the Golan Heights for a stop at Banias, the site of ancient Caesarea Philippi.
This spot, at the foot of Mount Hermon, is one of the sources of the Jordan River. The waterfall was a rare and welcome sight.
A grotto to the god Pan was located here. Mike Mason describes the beliefs about this site:
“In ancient times, it was called Panaes, after Pan, the goat-footed Greek god associated with nature, fertility, and carnal excess. The dark opening in the cliff… was the Cave of Pan, believed to be the doorway to the underworld (Gates of Hades) where fertility gods lived in winter, returning to earth each spring on the subterranean stream that formerly gushed from the cave mouth. To the right of the cave are several niches where pagan statues would have stood. Today this is an archaeological site, but in Jesus’ time it was an active center of pagan worship with a temple, courtyards, and shrines—the focal point of the Romanesque city of Caesarea Philippi” – Mike Mason, Jesus: His Story in Stone (2017), p. 53.
It was to this site that Jesus brought His disciples and asked them “’Who do men say that I am… Who do you say that I am?’” – Matthew 16:13.
When Peter replied, “’You are the Christ (Messiah) Son of the living God,’” Jesus answered, “’Blessed are you, Simon, Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build My church and the Gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:17,18)
A huge rock at the site is a wonderful visual, reminding us of Jesus’ words.