Monday, January 20, 2014

Capernaum gets the light

Capernaum Ruins
"Capernaum Ruins" by Alex Bruda (RGB Stock Photos)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 4:12-25

 TO CHEW ON: "And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali." - Matthew 4:13.

Capernaum, on the shores of Lake Galilee, became the headquarters for Jesus' ministry. It was the hometown of His disciples Peter and Andrew. It was in Capernaum that Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law as well as many others (Mark 1:30-31).

Jesus gave more than one sermon in its synagogue where His hearers "… were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes" - Mark 1:21,22. It was also in the Capernaum synagogue He gave His "I Am the Bread of Life" sermon, in which He spoke the controversial (to the scribes and Pharisees) words:  "… unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you…" - read the whole incident in John 6:53-59.

I love how Matthew sees Jesus' arrival and sojourn in Capernaum as the fulfillment of Isaiah's ancient prophecies (compare Matthew 4;15 with Isaiah 9:1,2 and Matthew 4:16 with Isaiah 42:7).

I love the connection of Jesus' arrival with light ("The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned" - Matthew 5:16)  It reminds me of another apostle, John, and how he depicted Jesus' coming and presence: "In Him (the Word who was with God in the beginning and who became flesh and dwelt among us - John 1:1,2,14) was life and the life was the light of men" - John 1:4.

But the grace of Jesus' light on Capernaum didn't freeze-frame it as forever blessed. For when His teachings along with His "mighty works" didn't bring its inhabitants to repentance, He "woe"d them along with other unbelieving cities (Luke 10:13-16).

In her book Pilgrimage, Lynn Austin describes current-day Capernaum: "The town rests on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and the sun seems brighter here as it reflects off the water. … There's no longer a village of any kind here, only Israel's typical tourist combination of archaeological ruins and a Christian church commemorating the site. … The village from Jesus' day, like so many other sites in Israel, was destroyed during the Roman invasion in A.D.70 that also demolished the Temple and Jerusalem" - Pilgrimage, Kindle Locations 1929, 1934, 1938.

Two things stay with me from this story of Jesus and Capernaum:

1. Jesus' presence brings light. Just as it brought light to seaside Capernaum in Jesus' day, it still brings light to our lives today (John 8:12). And is it possible that when the Spirit of Jesus lives in us, we too are light bringers? Not only possible but what is to be expected (Matthew 5:14-16)?

2. The presence of that light and its blessing on our lives depends on how we receive it. Like the people in Capernaum, we too can quench that light with stiff-necked unbelief if we refuse to repent and acknowledge that Jesus is right about who we are and what we must do to have a relationship with God.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You that Your light continues to shine through the centuries. Help me to be a light-bearer today. Amen.


New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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