Day 4 (Part 3) – Cana and Capernaum

Text and images on this page are from our 2014 pilgrimage. Click on the pictures to see them in larger format.

After a VERY full morning — Nazareth and Nazareth Village — our pilgrimage group headed a few miles northeast to Kfar Kanna (Cana), the Arabic town that commemorates Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:1-12) and his second miracle of healing the son of one of Herod’s officials (John 4:46-54). Cana is also identified as the hometown of the Apostle Nathanael, who was also called Bartholomew (John 21:1-2).

Our first stop was lunch — tasty felafel and schwarma pitas again — at a nice restaurant on the busy main street. We also did some shopping nearby on the way back to the bus. Since it was Palestinian Mother’s Day, Foteh and Walid surprised all the ladies with the gift of a red carnation.

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To get to the church, we walked down a very narrow cobbled street that was lined with more shops on both sides. Every so often we had to dodge the local cars as residents made their way to the main part of town. (When I did a “street view” of this area on Google maps, there was one of our tour company’s buses parked on the corner.)

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The church itself sits off the street in an enclosed courtyard, and its exterior facade is lovely. Sheathed in native limestone, it almost seems to glisten in the sunlight. Foteh explained that the architect (not Antonio Barluzzi, as I had guessed) intended the two towers to represent husband and wife, with Jesus (standing on the middle pediment) in the midst of their relationship. (What a wonderful symbol of Christian marriage!) We also paused outside for a few minutes of Bible study about Jesus’ first “water into wine” miracle.

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The interior of the church was simple, but quite beautiful. The area under the dome was relatively unadorned except for the artwork over the high altar. And the rough limestone blocks and high arches helped to flood the sanctuary with light, a great visual reminder of the nature of miracles.

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Though I didn’t go downstairs this time (bum knee, again), I know that the discoveries from the excavations are quite interesting.

On the way out of Cana and back east toward the Sea of Galilee, we encountered a pretty major traffic jam. But Walid’s driving skills “saved the day” as he took us on some alternate routes that got us to Capernaum in plenty of time to have a nice, long visit in this town that was Jesus’ “headquarters” in the Galilee. The site is under the custody of the Franciscans, and the grounds are beautifully kept.

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Many of the gospel accounts about Jesus’ miracles took place in Capernaum: the healing of the centurion’s servant, of Peter’s mother-in-law, of the man in the synagogue with an unclean spirit, and of the paralyzed man who was let down through the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching. In the waters nearby, Jesus found a coin to pay the temple tax in the mouth of a fish. It was also while in the Capernaum synagogue that Jesus declared himself to be “the bread of life.”

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Toward the center of the site is an octagonal shaped modern church dedicated to St. Peter. The decorative ironwork railings — outside the building and around the center of the inside — contain a variety of Christian symbols, including letters that spell out the apostle’s name.

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We weren’t permitted inside because a Catholic Mass was being celebrated at the time (so the picture above obviously wasn’t taken by a member of our group), but we were able to view the archeological ruins around the base of the church. The “See the Holy Land” website describes it in this way:

Today an ultra-modern Catholic church, perched on eight sturdy pillars, hovers protectively over an excavation site. It is believed to have been the site of Peter’s house, where Jesus would have lodged.

Archaeologists believe the house was in a small complex grouped around irregular courtyards. Drystone basalt walls would have supported a roof of tree branches covered with straw and earth — a fairly flimsy construction easily breached to lower a paralysed man on a mat, as described in Mark 2:1-12.

Excavations show that one room in this interlinked complex had been singled out since the middle of the 1st century. Graffiti scratched on its plaster walls referred to Jesus as Lord and Christ (in Greek). It is suggested that this room was venerated for religious gatherings as a house church. If so, it would have been the first such example in the Christian world.

In 5th century an octagonal church was built around this venerated room. The present church, dedicated in 1990, repeats the octagonal shape.

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We ended our afternoon there with some time for individual exploration and reflection. I don’t know what everyone else was thinking about, but I was also remembering that for all the wonders Jesus performed in that town — probably including the conversion of the tax collector, Matthew — people generally refused to believe in him and rejected his ministry and message. (Luke 10:13-16) I prayed that God would help me to be found faithful at the end of my life, even through the various ups and downs.

After one more scrumptious buffet style dinner, we gathered for Bible study and sharing and then enjoyed a good night’s sleep.

Click here for additional group pictures of Cana and Capernaum.

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