25.1.14

The House of Peter: The Home of Jesus in Capernaum

Pilgrimage reflection on the power of the Holy Spirit

The memorial chapel to Peter (Home to Jesus in Capernaum)







As an adult, Jesus lived in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. The Bible suggests that Peter's house became Jesus' home (Matthew 8:14–16). The church built over this impressive site, the site of Peter's home, rose like some kind of spacecraft hovering over the landscape but was conceived as a ship whose hull would appear to hover above the Apostle’s house, an image alluding to the call of the Apostle Peter, who from simple fisherman became a fisher of people and the rock upon which Jesus would build his church. 

This church, where I sat with a friend, on a simple wooden bench, would become for me the most significant moment of my pilgrimage. Slowly as we prayed, the building cleared of every other single person until we were the only people there. God's presence was so tangible. 

If I had looked, I would have found the remains of simple rough walls below me, through a glass preserving floor. I would have seen small rooms that had once surrounded two open courtyards. The octagonal building I sat in to pray, on this our last full day of pilgrimage, was built directly above the remains of this very house of Christ's and the early church. Beneath me were the ruins of Jesus' home but I was glued to my seat as we prayed and so I didn't look.

Biblical archaeologists are certain that this is the house because it was the only one found that had been plastered and from which domestic culinary items had been removed. Peter's house was transformed by the earliest Christians into a place of prayer. A well known pilgrim to the Holy Land called Egeria was himself convinced by the site saying: 'And in Capernaum, what is more, the house of the prince of Apostles (Peter) has been turned into a church, leaving its original walls however quite unchanged.' The house became a place for the first Christian prayer gatherings. Such a hypothesis has been confirmed by the unearthing of more than a hundred graffiti on the church’s walls: “Lord Jesus Christ help thy servant” and “Christ have mercy.” They are accompanied by small crosses. Peter's name is mentioned in several graffiti too.
Whilst residing in such a house as this at Capernaum, Jesus paid the temple tax for himself and Simon Peter (Mt 17: 24-27), he called his first disciples: Andrew and Simon Peter and James and John and Matthew (Mt 4:18-22 and 9:9-13). He healed a possessed man (Mk 1:21-28). He healed Peter's mother-in-law (Mt 8:14-15), a paralysed man (Mt 9:2-8) and the centurion's servant (Mt 8:5-13). In Capernaum's neighbouring synagogue he proclaimed himself the living bread. 

Mark describes how private teaching would happen in this house where Jesus resided: 'To you has been given the mystery of God's Kingdom, but to those outside everything is told in parables,' (Mk 4:11). It is whilst teaching here that Jesus' mother and family come in a flurry from Nazareth because they believed that he had gone 'out of his mind!' Jesus responded saying that those gathered were his family because they all have the same Father-God, and do his will. 

It is this place, of all the places that I visited, that I will never, ever, forget. It is this place where God visited me. 

(Click to visit http://www.360cities.net/image/capernaumpeter#-2.43,57.59,110.0

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