While Jesus was born in
in Bethlehem Judea about 6 miles south-west of , he grew up in Jerusalem in Nazareth Galilee and was known by all as Jesus of Nazareth. Interesting, then, is the fact that he seems not to have spent very much time there once he began his ministry. Doubtless this is because of his conviction, recorded both in the Synoptics and John (Matthew , Mark 6:4, Luke and John ) that a prophet is not accepted by those from where he comes or as we might say ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. This coming Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke -21) records a visit Jesus did make to . This is a visit that ends with the people there trying to kill him. Nazareth
St Luke uses this passage to introduce the ministry of Jesus and its themes. Probably St Luke felt it appropriate to begin his account of the ministry of Jesus with a story from where Jesus grew up. St Luke himself, however, records that Jesus’ ministry was well under way before he went back to
and that the people of Nazareth had already heard about it. Jesus says that they will doubtless say to him, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Nazareth .’ (Luke 4:23) Capernaum
, it is worth mentioning ‘The Mystery of the Two Missing Cities’! The first is Sepphoris, a very significant city. Capernaum was just 4 miles south of Sepphoris. It would have been almost impossible for Jesus not to have gone there at some time in his life, and yet there is not a single mention of it in the New Testament. The second missing city is Tiberias, effectively the main city of Nazareth . St John tells us that the Sea of Galilee was also known as the Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1) and mentions an occasion that some boats came from Tiberias with people looking for Jesus (John 6:23). But it is only in Galilee Gospel that Tiberias is even mentioned and Jesus is never recorded as having gone there himself. St John’s
The reasons for this seemingly deliberate avoidance by Jesus of even talking about these cities, let alone visiting them are complex. Tiberias was built on graves, which made it unclean for Jews, so that may be part of the explanation when considering Tiberias. Sepphoris is much harder to explain. Whatever the reason, Jesus avoided the two biggest population centres in Galilee although, given the relative closeness of places in the region, doubtless people from each went to hear Jesus as we know, from John, they at least did from Tiberias. What they thought about Jesus’ refusal to go there personally we can only guess.
? It was certainly conveniently placed as a base for Jesus’ ministry around the Capernaum Lake and its villages, and it was just 9 miles from Tiberias. Perhaps more important was that this was where some of his earliest disciples seem to have worked and lived.
The fact that James and John, who were also fishermen, are associated so closely with Peter and Andrew (Mark ) and with this visit to Peter’s house (Mark ) may suggest that they too lived in
. There is some suggestion that Jesus rather than simply staying at Capernaum in St Peter’s house may have actually moved his own family there as well. I will talk about family next! Capernaum