The Journey of Jesus
Jesus spends his early adult years at Nazareth in Galilee with his family. He learns the skills of a carpenter from Joseph, and enjoys the company of his younger brothers James, Joseph, Judas (Jude) and Simon, as well as his sisters and other close relatives (see Mark 6:3). In 26AD, around the age of thirty (Luke 3:23), and with several younger brothers now old enough to look after his mother and sisters, Jesus leaves his hometown of Nazareth and journeys south.
Map 5 Jesus begins his work
Mk 1:10-11 Jesus is baptised by John in the River Jordan near Bethany (see John 1:28) in the summer of 26AD. As he emerges from the water, the Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove (see Isaiah 42:1) and God’s voice is heard saying, “You are my Son, whom I love” (Mark 1:11) (see Psalm 2:6-7).
Jn 1:35-42 Over the next couple of days, John and his followers spot Jesus several times among the crowds. John calls out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Andrew – one of John’s followers – rushes to find his brother Simon, exclaiming, “We have found the Messiah” (the ‘Christ’) (John 1:41). When Jesus meets Simon, he calls him ‘Petros’ or ‘Peter’ (meaning, in Greek, ‘a rock’)
Mk 1:12-13 Soon afterwards, Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the Judaean Desert where his resolve to follow God’s will is severely tested by the ‘satan’ (a Hebrew word meaning the ‘accuser’). The ‘satan’ (or the ‘devil’) is the one who accuses people at the final judgement, and who tempts people to follow man’s ways instead of God’s ways (see Job 1:1-12, Zechariah 3:1-2, 1 Chronicles 21:1.
The Judaean Desert near Masada (Mark 1:12)
After forty days and nights fasting without food (like Moses on Mount Sinai – see Exodus 24:18), the devil tempted Jesus to turn the stones into bread (see Matthew 4:2-4). The Judaean Desert is a barren, rocky desert (see Map 5). Some stones are coated in soft lime and curiously resemble loaves of bread – making the temptation doubly painful. Although Jesus had the power to turn stones into bread, he resisted the satan’s suggestion by quoting from the Jewish scriptures: “A person does not live by eating only bread, but by everything God says” (Matthew 4:4) (see Deuteronomy 8:3).
The devil then transported Jesus to Jerusalem and tempted Jesus to throw himself down from the Pinnacle – the highest point of the Temple. He also quoted from the scriptures: “If you are the Son of God”, he said, the angels “will catch you in their hands so that you will not hit your foot on a rock” (Matthew 4:6) (see Psalm 91:11-12). Jesus again resisted the temptation to glorify himself and responded again from scripture, “It also says in the Scriptures, ‘Do not test the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:7) (see Deuteronomy 6:16). Following the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, the Pinnacle of the Temple (its highest point) was incorrectly identified by medieval Christian pilgrims as the south east corner of the Temple Mount (the highest point of the ruins of Jerusalem at that time).
The south east corner of the the Temple Mount, Jerusalem (Matthew 4:5)
The devil then took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. The Judaean Hills reach up to 2447ft / 746m and offer extensive views westwards towards the Mediterranean coast and eastwards across the Dead Sea. The satan tempted Jesus by offering him all the wealth of these kingdoms if Jesus would bow down and worship him. Jesus resisted the lure of wealth by following the word of God. “Go away from me, Satan! It is written in the Scriptures, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him’” (Matthew 4:10)
The place where Jesus was tempted by the devil is traditionally regarded as Jebel Qurantal (the ‘mountain of temptation’), overlooking the Jordan Valley near the site of Ancient Jericho. Today, the Greek Othodox Monastery of the Temptation, built originally in the 6th century, provides a magnificent viewpoint across the Jordan Valley for visitors who walk from the foot of the cliff or take the cable car up to the restaurant.
Jesus returns to Galilee
Jn 2:1-12 After his time of contemplation and prayer in the Judaean Desert, Jesus returns north to Galilee (see 3 on Map 5). In the autumn of 26AD, he performs his first miracle at a family wedding at Cana in Galilee by turning water into wine. Six large stone jars had previously been filled with water for the Jewish guests to wash their hands so they would be ritually ‘clean’ before eating the wedding banquet (see Mark 7:1-4).
Heavy stone jars were used because they could be washed out to ‘cleanse’ them and then be re-used. Lighter earthenware jars would have had to be regularly replaced as they were slightly porous and therefore became ritually ‘unclean’ when handled by anyone who was ‘unclean’ (see Leviticus 11:33).
Jesus tells the servants to fill the jars again and to serve this ‘water’ to the guests – who are amazed that the host has kept the best wine until last.
Cana of Galilee was a village within walking distance of Nazareth (see Map 5). When Jesus and his family attended the wedding at Cana – where Jesus preformed his first recorded miracle – the water for ritual washing would have been stored in stone jars before being miraculously turned into wine.
Traditionally, ever since the purchase of property here in 1641 by Franciscan monks, the site of Biblical Cana has been identified as the hill top village of Kafr Kana, about 3 miles / 5km north east of Nazareth. Today, visitors to Kafr Kana are welcome at the Franciscan Shrine of Cana that commemorates Jesus’s first miracle and the sanctity of Christian marriage.
Also in the village of Kafr Kana is St Bartholomew’s Chapel, which commemorates the home of Nathanael (Bartholomew) “from Cana in Galilee” (John 21:2).
St Bartholomew's Chapel, Kafr Kana (Cana) (John 21:2)
Archaeological and historical evidence, however, identifies the site of Biblical Cana (the ‘place of reeds’) as the uninhabited mound at Khirbet Kana (meaning ‘ruins of Cana’), about 5 miles / 8 km north of Kafr Kana on a hillside overlooking the Bet Netufa valley. (The marshy valley floor here would have been filled with reeds in Jesus’s day).
Excavations at Khirbet Kana have revealed Roman and Byzantine pottery, underground cisterns to store rain water, a cross carved inside a cave, and other evidence that the first century village on this site became an early Christian pilgrimage site commemorating Jesus’s first miracle at Cana. Theodosius, writing in 530AD, reported that it was five miles from Diocaesarea to Cana of Galilee. Dioceasarea was an earlier name for Sepphoris, and this description fits the location of Khirbet Kana precisely. This location is confirmed on two Florentine maps dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. These place Sepphoris between Cana and Nazareth.
Jesus goes back to Nazareth
Lk. 4:14-30 One Sabbath day, according to his usual custom, Jesus goes to the local synagogue in Nazareth where he was brought up (see 4 on Map 5). When asked to read from the scriptures, he picks up the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, unrolls it, and begins to read, “The Lord has put his Spirit in me, because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to tell the captives they are free and to tell the blind that they can see again… to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness” (Luke 4:18) (see Isaiah 61:1-2).
All eyes in the synagogue are fixed on him as he says, “While you heard these words just now, they were coming true!” (Luke 4:21). Many are impressed by Jesus’s teaching, but others, realising he is a local boy – ‘Joseph’s son’ – dismiss his words as arrogant nonsense, and they threaten to throw him down the steep cliff below the brow of the hill on which Nazareth is located.
Jewish synagogue in Galilee (Luke 4:14)
Lk. 4:31-37 Following this rejection in his home town, Jesus goes down toCapernaum, by the lakeside (see 5 on Map 5). On the Sabbath, he begins to teach the people. In the synagogue, a man with an evil spirit shouts out, “Jesus ofNazareth! What do you want with us? Did you come to destroy us?” (Luke 4:34) Jesus commands the evil spirit to leave the man, and after throwing him to the ground, it leaves him without harming him. The crowds are amazed that Jesus has the authority to drive out evil spirits.
Jesus travels to Jerusalem
Jn 2:13-25 After spending some time in Capernaum, Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover festival in the spring of 27AD (see 1 on Map 6). He performs many miracles and many people believe in him.
Map 6 Early Journeys of Jesus
Jn 3:1-8 While Jesus is in Jerusalem, one of the members of the Jewish council (the Sanhedrin) – who is impressed by the miracles Jesus is performing – comes to see Jesus secretly under cover of darkness. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot be in God’s kingdom” (John 3:3). Jesus points out that he is referring to spiritual re-birth, not physical re-birth. To enter the kingdom of God, Jesus explains, people must have a powerful new experience of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Jn 3:9-21 Jesus tells Nicodemus that the ‘Son of Man’ – a title that Jesus adopts to show he is the Messiah, the Christ (see Daniel 7:13-14) – will be killed in order to save mankind from wrongdoing and death. “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Nicodemus becomes a secret follower of Jesus, and when Jesus is crucified three years later, Nicodemus – together with his fellow Jewish councillor Joseph of Arimathea – asks Pilate’s permission to bury the body of Jesus (see John 19:38-42).
Jn 3:22-36 Jesus and his disciples move into the Judaean countryside where they baptise in the River Jordan during the summer of 27AD (see 2 on Map 6). John is also baptising in the Jordan at Aenon.
Jesus passes through Samaria
Mk 1:14 After John is arrested by Herod Antipas (in 27AD), Jesus goes north to Galilee (meaning ‘the circle’ – an apt name for the roughly circular lake and the surrounding hills). The Hebrew name for the lake, Yam Kinneret, means a ‘harp’ – again describing the shape of the lake. The lake is quite small – roughly 13 miles / 21km long by 7 miles / 11km wide and lies in the Jordan Valley about 650 feet / 200 metres below sea level.
Jn 4:1-6 En route to Galilee, Jesus stops at Sychar on the south east slope of Mount Ebal in Samaria (see 3 on Map 6). Here he talks with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well – a well dug by the Jewish patriarch Jacob on land he purchased near Shechem and gave to Joseph (see Genesis 33:18-19 & 48:21-22). Jacob’s Well was typical of the deep wells at numerous settlements in this area. The Samarian Hills are limestone – a permeable rock that allows water to percolate down through the cracks. Consequently, there is little surface water and deep wells are dug to reach the water stored underground.
Jesus took the direct route north from Jerusalem to Galilee through Samaria, in contrast to most Jews who took the longer, indirect route east of the River Jordan through Peraea because of their hatred for the Samaritans (see Map 6). The Samaritans were descendants of the Israelites of the northern kingdom who had intermarried with foreign settlers after the fall of Samaria (the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel) in 722 BC.
As a result of this racial intermarriage, they were no longer considered to be truly Jewish and were hated by most Jews. The Samaritans continued to worship as the Jews did, but took only the first five books of the Old Testament as their spiritual authority. They built a ‘rival’ temple on Mount Gerizim – which they believed to be the site of the altar where Abraham prepared to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice (see Genesis 22:1-14) – but this was destroyed by the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus in 128 BC.
At the time of Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman, Mount Gerizim was still a holy place, and even today, the Samaritan community offers lambs as a ritual sacrifice on the slopes of Mount Gerizim at Passover time.
The site of Jacob’s Well, on the eastern side of Nablus, is now part of a Greek Orthodox monastery. The monastery was built in the 1860s on the site of a late 4th century Byzantine church, which was itself succeeded by a Crusader church. Today, visitors can enter the modern church built in 2007 around what is believed to be the original well, restored by the Crusaders in the twelth century.
Jesus offers ‘living water’
Jn 4:7-15 The Samaritan woman asks Jesus how he – a Jew – has the nerve to ask her – a despised Samaritan – to draw some water from the well. In exchange for a drink, Jesus offers to give her ‘living water’ – the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that will give her eternal life. Whoever “drinks the water I give will never be thirsty,” he says (John 4:14). Water is vital for life but is difficult to obtain in the limestone hills around Sychar. Instead, Jesus promises her “a spring of water flowing up inside … giving eternal life” (John 4:14). Springs rarely run dry, so Jesus’s offer is to give her the life-giving ‘water’ of the Holy Spirit that will never run out (see John 7:37-39).
Jn 4:16-26 When Jesus displays a miraculous knowledge of her marital affairs, she realises he is a prophet. She points out that her ancestors worshipped in the temple on Mt Gerizim while the Jews worship in the Temple at Jerusalem. Jesus tells her that a time is coming soon when true worshippers will not be restricted to worshipping in any one place as they will worship anywhere “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). The woman says the promised Messiah – the Christ – will explain everything when he comes. Jesus replies, “I am he” (John 4:26) (see the feature on Who was the Messiah? in Section 2).
Jn 4:27-42 When Jesus’s disciples return from the village, they are surprised to find him speaking to a Samaritan, especially a woman! The woman leaves her heavy water jar and rushes back into town telling everyone about her encounter with Jesus. As a result, people flock to hear Jesus and many believe his message of repentance and forgiveness. They urge him to stay, so he teaches here for two days.
Jesus performs healing miracles
Mk 1:15 Jesus arrives in Galilee during the autumn of 27AD. He tells the crowds, "The right time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Change your hearts and lives and believe the Good News" (Mark 1:15). In this way, Jesus announces a 'kairos moment' - God's appointed time (Greek, 'kairos', means 'an opportune moment').
Jn 4:43-45 Jesus is welcomed by people who have seen him earlier that year when they were in Jerusalem for the Passover festival (see 4 on Map 6).
Jn 4:46-50 At Cana, a royal official from Herod Antipas’s court at Tiberias, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, begs Jesus to come and heal his dying son in Capernaum – some 18 miles / 29 km away. Jesus tells him that his son will not die.
Jn 4:51-54 The official is met on the way home to Capernaum by his servants who tell him his son has already been healed. As a result of this miracle, the official and his family become believers.
Lk. 7:11-17 Jesus raises the only son of a widow from Nain from the dead. Her son was probably the widow’s only source of financial support, so his death was a terrible blow. As a result of this miracle, people are filled with awe and praise God. Nain (meaning ‘pleasant’) is situated to the south east of Nazareth, on the lower slopes overlooking the Vale of Jezreel (see 5 on Map 6). Its name aptly describes the area and its views.
Jesus calls his first disciples
Mk 1:16-20 Jesus moves back to the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee – an area where he is now well known (see 6 on Map 6). On the lakeside near Bethsaida (meaning ‘house of the nets’) Jesus calls the fishermen Simon and Andrew (whom he had met earlier by the River Jordan) (see John 1:35-42) and James and John to follow him. Jesus probably knew these local fishermen well and, as a skilled carpenter, may even have repaired their wooden fishing boats. The Galilee fishing industry was very important in Jesus’s day – as it still is. Pickled fish – mainly the Tilapia (now also known as St Peter's Perch) – were exported around the Mediterranean world.
The exact site of Bethsaida was uncertain until recent archaeological excavations near to where the River Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee uncovered the remains of the fishing village that was the birthplace of Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, four of Jesus’s closest circle of friends (see Map 6). Near Bethsaida, Jesus restored the sight of a blind man (see Mark 8:22-26), though he later criticised the inhabitants of the town for their lack of faith (see Matthew 11:21-22).
The town was first fortified in c.1000BC, but was destroyed when King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria attacked Galilee in 733BC (see 2 Kings 15:29). The settlement was rebuilt in the 2nd century BC and became part of the tetrachy of Philip on the death of Herod the Great in 6BC. Philip, whose position relied on the support of the Romans, renamed the town Julias, probably in honour of the mother of the reigning emperor, Tiberias Caesar (14-37AD). He considerably romanised the town, which may help to explain why Simon, Andrew, James and John – all religious Jews – were eager to leave the town and follow Jesus.
In Jesus’s day, Bethsaida stood on a small promontory, jutting out into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee. An earthquake in 363AD caused a landslide that blocked the River Jordan to the north of here. The river ponded up behind the newly-created dam of earth, but when it eventually burst through, the resulting wall of water smashed through the town, destroying the settlement and filling in the harbour. The town was never rebuilt, and the site is now on the east bank of the River Jordan, 1 mile / 2 km north of where it joins the Sea of Galilee.
Today, visitors to the site of Bethsaida can pass through a re-constructed gateway and climb the settlement mound (El Tell / Tel Bethsaida) on which the ancient Bronze Age / Iron Age settlement stood. Excavations on the lower-lying site of 1st century Bethsaida have uncovered remains of a paved street, a fisherman’s house built around a courtyard (where lead weights, hooks and anchors were found), and another house belonging to a vine-grower (where wine jars were uncovered in the cellar).
Jesus teaches in Capernaum
Mk 1:21-34 They arrive at the lakeside town of Capernaum (meaning ‘village of comfort’) where Jesus teaches in the synagogue and casts an evil spirit out of a man. Afterwards, Jesus is invited to the home of the Barjonas family (meaning ‘Son of Jonah’ or ‘Son of John’ – see John 1:42) where Simon and Andrew now live with Simon’s wife and other members of the prosperous family fishing business. Many people are brought to Jesus, who heals the sick and drives out many demons.
Jesus made Capernaum his base from the autumn of 27AD (see Map 6). He preached here, and performed many healing miracles – including the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law from a fever. Capernaum is situated at the foot of the Galilean Hills, where hot springs rich in minerals, bring naturally warm water to the surface. The town is situated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in the Jordan Valley and lies at about 700 feet / 200 metres below sea level. As a result, the climate is much warmer than in Jerusalem or on the Judaean Hills, and it would have been pleasant for crowds to sit outside in the sunshine listening to Jesus – even during the autumn and winter. Jesus – significantly – spent his time in Galilee during the winters of the first three years of his ministry (26-28AD).
Modern-day visitors to Capernaum can visit the synagogue built in the 3rd century AD on the site of the one that stood here in Jesus’s day. The black basalt blocks forming the foundations of the earlier synagogue built by a Roman centurion (see Luke 7:5) can be clearly seen. A modern Franciscan church – in the shape of a boat – was built in 1990 over the remains of a house believed to be the home of Simon Peter – where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. The original house had been converted into an octagonal church in the 5th century.
Black basalt blocks form the base of the synagogue at Capernaum (Luke 7:5)
Jesus travels round Galilee
Mk 1:35-45 During the winter of 27/28AD, Jesus goes to the nearby villages of Galilee, preaching and casting out demons. In one village he heals a man with leprosy and sends him to the priest to offer a sacrifice in accordance with the Jewish custom (see Leviticus 14:1-7).
Map 7 Lakeside Teaching and Miracles
Jesus's teachings on a hillside
Matt. 5:1-12 In the spring of 28AD, Jesus goes up onto a hillside overlooking the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (see Map 7). He uses a natural amphitheatre above the lakeside to address the crowds who have gathered from Galilee, Jerusalem, Judaea and the Decapolis (the ten towns on the eastern bank of the River Jordan). His teachings become known as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.
The Church of the Beatitudes, near En Tabgha (Matthew 5:1)
The Mount of Beatitudes
Jesus teaches people how to be blessed by God:
Blessed are those who are humble before God for they will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who are saddened by immorality and dishonesty for they will be comforted by the Holy Spirit.
Blessed are those who are compassionate and forgiving for they will realise that the whole world belongs to God.
Blessed are those who hunger after honest and sincere relationships for they will have all their needs met.
Blessed are the merciful who forgive others for God will forgive them.
Blessed are those with pure motives in their heart for God will be their inspiration.
Blessed are the peacemakers for God will welcome them into his family.
Blessed are those who are persecuted as a result of being honest for they walk in the ways of God.
These eight ‘blessings’ have become known as the ‘Beatitudes’ (from the Latin for ‘blessed’). Jesus’s teaching of the Beatitudes was commemorated at the end of the 4th century by a small Byzantine chapel built beside the main road at En Tabgha near Capernaum. This chapel and a small adjoining monastery were abandoned in the 7th century. The remains of a Byzantine mosaic floor from the chapel can be seen on display at Capernaum (see Map 7).
The hillside where it is believed that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount and taught the Beatitudes – overlooking the Sea of Galilee above En Tabgha near Capernaum – is now occupied by the modern Church of the Beatitudes, built by the Italian Franciscan architect Bertalucci in 1938. The octagonal shape of the modern building reflects the number of blessings taught by Jesus. The eight ‘blessed’ sayings are inscribed (in Latin) on a series of plaques in the attractive gardens surrounding the church.
Blessedare those who hunger and thirst after honesty (Matthew 5:6)
On the slope below the Mount of Beatitudes, above the lakeshore between En Tabgha and Capernaum, a wide natural hollow is thought to be the place where Jesus often taught parables such as the Parable of the Sower to the large crowds who flocked to hear him. The excellent acoustics of this natural amphitheatre have led to the area becoming known as the Sower’s Cove.
The salt of the earth
Matt. 5:13 Jesus tells the crowds, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its salty taste, it cannot be made salty again” (Matthew 5:13). Salt was highly valued in former times as a preservative as well as for flavouring. Salt that loses its saltiness may refer to salt from the south west corner of the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea lies on the floor of the Jordan Valley (see Map 1 & Fig 1). At 1378 feet / 420 metres below sea level, it is the lowest point on earth. The water in the Dead Sea is very salty because rivers, such as the River Jordan, carry dissolved salts into the sea but there is no outlet. Consequently, as the water evaporates due to the high temperatures, what liquid remains becomes exceptionally salty.
On the southern shore of the Dead Sea, the water was completely evaporated in salt pans, while the remaining salty deposits were shovelled into heaps or ‘pillars’ of salt in order to dry (see Genesis 19:26). Because of impurities and chemical changes, the outer layer of the salt had to be discarded because it had lost much of its salty taste.
Light for the world
Matt. 5:14-16 Jesus tells his followers, “You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
There are many hilltop towns in Samaria and Galilee. Safad, for instance, situated on top of a hill to the north west of Capernaum is clearly visible from the north west shore of the Sea of Galilee. When lamps are lit in the houses at night, they can be seen from a great distance and cannot easily be hidden.
Matt. 5:17-37 Jesus teaches that he has come to fulfil the prophesies in the Jewish scriptures (the ‘Old Testament’). He says it is useless to make an offering aiming to put things right with God unless you have first put things right with your neighbour. He speaks against immorality, lust, divorce and swearing.
Matt. 5:38-48 He urges a peaceful resolution to disputes. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’” (Matthew 5:38) (see Exodus 21:24). In contrast, Jesus advocates ‘turning the other cheek’. “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek as well” (Matthew 5:39). And if a Roman soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile (the maximum permitted under Roman law), “go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:41). The Jewish law taught people to love their Jewish neighbours (see Leviticus 19:18). But Jesus added, “love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you” (Matthew 5:44).
The Lord’s Prayer
Matt. 6:1-18 Jesus teaches his followers how to pray to God. Believers should pray using simple words and without any ostentatious display. Jesus offers a ‘model’ prayer – which has become known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ (see the feature on The Lords Prayer).
Matt. 6:19-34 Jesus urges his followers not to worry about the future. “Don’t store treasures for yourselves here on earth … But store your treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed...”. Jesus is indicating that God is preserving these ‘treasures’ until the time comes when he renews the whole of creation (Matthew 6:19-20).
“Look at how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that even Solomon with his riches was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers” (Matthew 6:28-29). Galilee has ample rain during the winter, so the hillsides are covered with a multitude of wild flowers when Jesus talks to the crowds in the spring of 28AD.
Matt. 7:1-23 Jesus teaches his followers not to judge others, “or you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). He tells them to expect good gifts from God. If they give willingly to their children, “How much more your heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). Jesus warns that it is necessary to stick to God’s path in order to gain eternal life, for “The gate is wide and the road is wide that leads to hell” (Matthew 7:13). He warns people not to be led astray by those who do not tell the truth. These ‘false prophets’ will be recognised by their ‘fruit’ – their dubious lifestyle that is not in keeping with God’s ways.
The parable of the housebuilders
Matt. 7:24-27 Jesus tells a story about two very different people who build their faith in God on what they hear. They are like two housebuilders – a wise man who builds his house on solid rock and a foolish man who builds his house on sand. Sand is loose and unconsolidated, and any house built on it can easily be washed away by a heavy downpour. Rock, on the other hand, is resistant to erosion, so it provides a firm foundation for a house. So too with faith – it must be built on the solid foundation of God’s word, not the fanciful ideas of ‘false prophets’.
Lakeside Teaching and Miracles
Mk 2:1-12 Arriving back home in Capernaum, Jesus heals a paralysed man who is lowered on a mat through the roof of his house. Jesus tells him, “Young man, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). The crowds are amazed when the crippled man walks away, but some of the teachers of the Jewish law are furious and accuse Jesus of blasphemy. They point out (correctly) that only God can forgive sins.
Homes in Jesus’s day
In the dry climate of Palestine, most simple houses were constructed with a flat roof where people could escape the smoke from the fire and the noise of children, or sleep outside in the cool breeze on a hot summer night (see Acts 10:9). The roof of the house would consist typically of thin wooden poles laid across more substantial crossbeams. It would not have been too difficult a task to remove these wooden poles in order to lower the crippled man through the roof (see Mark 2:4).
The roof of a 4th century house at Ancient Qasrin
Reconstructed houses built in this fashion can be seen today at Ancient Qasrin, a Jewish village dating from the 4thcentury AD nearQasrin (Katzrin) on the Golan Heights to the northeast of the Sea of Galilee (seeMap 7). In addition to entering a partially reconstructed synagogue from the 6thcentury AD, visitors can use a hand-operated quern to grind corn and can observe an early olive press and an olive crusher.
Reconstructed houses at Ancient Qasrin
Remains of early Jewish Christian houses from the 1st century AD have been uncovered at Er Ramtaniyya near Qasrin. Lintels on the door show a combination of both Jewish and Christian symbols. These include the menorah (a Jewish seven-branched candlestick), a lulav (a palm branch), a fish (the Greek word for fish, ‘Ichthus’ represented the initial letters of ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God and Saviour’ in Greek) and the cross. Excavated remains from the Qasrin area and nearby Gamla can be seen at the Golan Archaeological Museum in Qasrin.
Reconstructed houses similar to those built in the 1st century AD can also be seen at Nazareth Historical Village, 500 yards / 500 metres south west of the town centre of Nazareth, where Jesus spent his childhood days.
Jesus upsets the Pharisees
Mk 2:13-28 Jesus teaches in and around Capernaum during the spring of 28AD. He calls Levi (or ‘Matthew’ – meaning ‘gift of the Lord’) - a despised public official (or ‘publican’) who collects taxes on behalf of the Romans – and is accused by the Pharisees of eating and socialising with tax collectors (‘publicans’) and sinners who are ritually ‘unclean’.
His disciples pick ears of corn to eat on the Sabbath – just before the wheat harvest in early May – to the consternation of the Pharisees who believe he is breaking the Jewish Sabbath laws (see Deuteronomy 23:25 & Exodus 34:21). Jesus replies that even King David ignored the Jewish laws when he and his men ate the consecrated ‘showbread’ that only the priests were allowed to eat (see 1 Samuel 21:1-6 & Leviticus 24:8-9).
Jesus adds, “The Sabbath day was made to help people; they were not made to be ruled by the Sabbath day” (Mark 2:27).
Mk 3:1-6 Jesus heals a man with a shrivelled hand in the synagogue at Capernaum on the Sabbath. The Pharisees (who were very strict in their interpretation of the Jewish law) begin to plot Jesus’s death as they are convinced that he has broken the law forbidding ‘work’ on the Sabbath (see Exodus 20:8-11). Jesus points out that it is quite in keeping with the spirit of the law to do good and to save life on the Sabbath.
Mk 3:7-12 Crowds flock to see Jesus from all over the region – from Judaea, Jerusalem and Idumaea to the south, from the Decapolis (the ten cities founded by the Greeks) on the eastern side of the Jordan, and from the western coastal areas around Tyre and Sidon. Jesus teaches them from a boat anchored just offshore.
The Decapolis was a loose confederation of ten cities that, in the time of Jesus, were centres of Greek and Roman culture. The cities were given some degree of political autonomy by the Romans, who hoped they would encourage the adoption of ‘civilised’ Greek culture by the surrounding population.
With the exception of Damascus, they were all founded as Greek cities between the death of Alexander the Great in 323BC and the Roman conquest of Syria in 63BC. Except for Scythopolis, they were all situated to the east of the River Jordan (see Map 6).
The ten cities (Greek ‘deka polis’) were:
Philadephia (Amman, the capital of modern-day Jordan) Gerasa (Jerash in Jordan) Pella (Tabaqat Fahl in Jordan) Scythopolis (on the site of Beth Shean in Israel) Gadara (Umm Qais in Jordan) Raphana (Abila in Jordan) Capitolias (Beit Ras in Jordan) Hippos (Susieh near the south east shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel) Canatha (Qanawat in Syria) Damascus (the capital of modern-day Syria)
In addition, Arabella (Irbid in Jordan) was sometimes included in the Decapolis, while Damascus was sometimes considered to be an ‘honorary’ member.
Today, impressive remains of classical Greek and Roman architecture can be found at most of these sites, especially at Gerasa (Jerash) and Scythopolis (Beth Shean).
Jesus appoints twelve apostles
Mk 3:13-18 On a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Jesus appoints a group of twelve ‘apostles’ (close followers who are to be ‘sent out’ to spread the Good News). They are Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John, Philip, Nathaniel (Bartholomew), Levi (Matthew), Thomas, Thaddaeus, James (the son of Alphaeus), Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot.
Mk 3:20-35 Jesus goes back to his home in Capernaum. His mother and brothers arrive from Nazareth (about 30 miles / 48 km away) as they think he is out of his mind. Some teachers of the Jewish law from Jerusalem think that he is possessed by the prince of demons, ‘Beelzebul’ (see 2 Kings 1:2, where the evil spirit Baal-Zebul (‘Prince Baal’) is referred to in mockery as ‘Baal-Zebub’ (Hebrew for ‘Lord of the Flies’). Jesus responds that they are insulting the Holy Spirit – an unforgiveable sin.
Mk 4:1-2 Jesus is busy teaching parables (stories with an underlying spiritual meaning) by the Galilean lakeside during the summer of 28AD.
The Parable of the Sower
Galilee has warm, wet winters and hot, dry summers. It is a fertile area where a variety of crops (e.g. wheat, barley, olives, figs and vines) grow well, and farming is an important activity. In the Parable of the Sower (see Mark 4:3-20), Jesus compares the way God’s word is received by different people to the way in which plants grow in the ground:
Some seed is sown on the path – on hard, compacted soil - so the seeds can’t take root and the birds eat it.
Some seed is sown amongst the rocks where the seeds start to grow; but there isn’t enough soil so the plants easily wither due to the hot sun and lack of water.
Rocky ground in the Judaean hills (Mark 4:5)
Other seedlings are choked by thorn bushes competing with the seedlings for water, light and food.
Only good soil provides plants with all they need – water, air, nutrients and space for the roots to develop. The seed sown on good soil produces a good crop, giving thirty, sixty or even a hundred times more grain than what has been sown as seed.
The meaning of the parable is that the word that Jesus sows in peoples’ hearts only grows into faith if the listeners are receptive to the message. Only then will their faith in God grow like the seed in the good soil.
The Parable of the Growing Seed
Jesus tells another story about how seed grows day and night without the farmer doing anything more until the harvest is ready. It’s like this when God’s word is spread abroad and the Holy Spirit works in someone’s life to deepen their faith and love for God (see Mark 4:26-29).
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
In a third story about seeds, Jesus compares the effect of preaching God’s word with the planting of a mustard seed. Although it’s a tiny seed, the mustard seed produces a huge plant. In the same way, planting the word of God in someone’s heart has a huge effect on their life (see Mark 4:30-34).
Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee
Mk 4:35-36 One evening in the autumn of 28AD, Jesus and his disciples set off across the Sea of Galilee in a wooden fishing boat in order to escape from the crowds (see 1 on Map 7).
Mk 4:37-41 The lake is subject to sudden squalls, especially during the autumn. Winds blow from the west, funneling between the hills and whipping the lake up into a fury of waves. A sudden storm threatens to sink the boat while Jesus is asleep. The disciples are terrified and wake Jesus. They’re even more amazed when he rebukes the waves and the storm calms down.
The Jesus Boat at Magdala
In 1985, when the lake level was particularly low during a time of drought, the remains of a wooden fishing boat were discovered on the bed of the Sea of Galilee near Magdala, to the north of Tiberias (see Map 7). Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the boat was built in the 1st century around the time of Christ. The boat was immediately dubbed the ‘Jesus Boat’ as it’s likely to be similar to the fishing boats that Jesus and his disciples used on the Sea of Galilee.
Fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:36)
The boat was almost 27 feet / 8 metres long and nearly 8 feet / 2.4 metres wide – so it was much larger than a small rowing boat and more the size of a small ocean-going yacht. It was powered by a large sail, and would have had plenty of room for seine nets that could have been drawn round into a circle to catch a shoal of fish (see John 21:6).
The remains of the original hull have been preserved, and a replica of the boat can be seen at the Yigal Allon Centre at Ginnosar on the western shore, near the site of Magdala. Today, other replica boats built in the same style as the ‘Jesus Boat’ take visitors across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias and En Tabgha.
Magdala, a small fishing village in the 1st century AD, was the home of Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’s close circle of friends. Remains of a public building (possibly a synagogue) with heart-shaped columns and Doric capitals have been excavated near the lakeshore.
Jesus visits Gerasa
Mk 5:1-17 Jesus and his disciples arrive on the eastern side of the lake in the non-Jewish territory of Gerasa (or Gadara) (see 1 on Map 7). Jesus casts out a whole ‘legion’ of evil spirits from a man and they enter a herd of pigs. The pigs rush down the steep slope into the lake and are drowned.
The territory of Gerasa (Mark 5:1)
The healing of the man with a ‘legion’ (a large number) of evil spirits took place in, or close to, the Decapolis - an area of ten semi-autonomous Greek cities on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee which had been given the freedom by the Romans to conduct most of their own affairs. Gerasa (modern-day Jerash in Jordan) was one of these ten cities (see Map 7).
The healing could only have taken place in a Gentile (non-Jewish) area as the herd of pigs (into which the evil spirits were sent) would not have been found in a Jewish territory such as Galilee. This is because orthodox Jews consider pigs to be ritually ‘unclean’ (see Leviticus 11:7) and therefore don’t rear pigs or eat pork.
The steep slope above the Sea of Galilee where this healing is believed to have occurred is on the eastern shore of the lake in the Kursi National Park to the north of Ein Gev (see Map 7). In 1970, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a large Byzantine monastery and church built here in the 5th century AD to commemorate the healing of the Gadarene man. Today, visitors can sail across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias to Ein Gev before catching a local bus to see the mosaics and reconstructed remains of the church building at Kursi.
Jesus returns to Galilee
Mk 5:18-20 The man who has been healed goes through the Decapolis (the territory of the ten Greek cities on the south eastern shore) telling people what has happened.
Mk 5:21-43 Jesus and the disciples sail back across the lake to Capernaum (see 2 on Map 7), where they are approached by a distraught leader of the local synagogue whose twelve-year-old daughter has just died. Jesus miraculously brings Jairus’s daughter back to life and heals a sick woman who dares to touch his coat in faith, even though she is regarded by most Jews as ritually ‘unclean’ (see Leviticus 15:25).
Mk 6:1-6 Jesus and his disciples leave Capernaum and walk to Nazareth (see 3 on Map 7) where Jesus is rejected in the synagogue in which he grew up by those who see him as ‘just a local boy’. Jesus is amazed at their lack of faith and is unable to perform many miracles – apart from healing a few sick people.
Jesus was frequently disappointed by the lack of faith shown in the villages and towns of his home area. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus denounced the towns of Galilee that would not repent of their wrongdoings even though they had witnessed the miracles he had performed: “How terrible for you, Korazin! How terrible for you, Bethsaida … And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to the depths” (Matthew 11:21-23).
Korazin (Chorozain) was one of three small towns situated just north of the Sea of Galilee (see Map 7). Unlike the other two lakeside towns, it was situated in the Galilean Hills about 2 miles / 3.5 km from the shore. Being nearly 900 feet / 280 metres above the level of the lake, it had a good view south across the Sea of Galilee.
Remains of the 1st century Jewish settlement at Korazin can still be seen today, including several small stone-built houses and a synagogue. The town expanded considerably in the 2nd century after the Roman Emperor Hadrian expelled the Jews from Judaea in 135AD. It was extensively rebuilt in the 4th century, and remains of larger Byzantine houses, surrounded by courtyards, can be identified as well as steps leading down to a large bath for ritual cleansing. The 2nd century synagogue has been partially restored, and contains an inscribed basalt ‘Seat of Moses’ on which the rabbis and Pharisees sat (see Matthew 23:2).
The twelve apostles are sent across Galilee
Mk 6:7-13 Jesus leaves Nazareth and teaches in the villages of Galilee. He sends out his twelve ‘apostles’ to preach, heal and cast out demons during the winter of 28AD. They spread Jesus’s message, and many people respond by being sorry for their wrongdoings and turning back to God.
Mk 6:21-29 Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and Peraea, is disturbed when he hears about Jesus’s popularity. Some people think that Jesus is John the Baptist, raised from the dead, as Herod Antipas had beheaded John some months earlier at Machaerus (see Map 3).
To be Continued.......