‘He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum.’ (Matthew 4.13)
The Gospels repeatedly mention Capernaum. Jesus lived there for some time, taught in the synagogue and healed the sick, even showing kindness to the enemy by curing the servant of a Roman centurion who was stationed there.
Capernaum, the ‘village of Nahum’, on the western shore of Lake Galilee, lay on a trade route between Syria to the north and Egypt to the south. In other words, when Jesus relocated from Nazareth, his quiet hometown, to bustling Capernaum, he was making a strategic move. His reputation ‘spread through all the surrounding country’ (Luke 4.14), no doubt partly thanks to tradespeople travelling through Capernaum and telling others what they had seen and heard.
Despite all the positive impact, Jesus also had words of warning for Capernaum’s inhabitants. He hadn’t come to wow them with his powers, but to urge them to turn to God.
Jesus knew when to withdraw and when to advance. Hearing of John the Baptist’s arrest, he withdrew. Jesus did so regularly, not because he was an ‘I’ (introvert) on his Myers-Briggs test, but because he knew the importance of being alone with God. In seasons of hurting and in seasons of hurry, Jesus knew the best place was the quiet place. Do we have similar patterns established? If Jesus withdrew, then we need to.
He also built his life around serving people. He placed himself in Capernaum so that he could intentionally be with people, to a point where he was accused of being ‘a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
This sets Jesus apart. Neither remote nor indifferent, he loved, served and cared for people, especially those on the fringe. He was a light to those who knew they were in darkness.
Do our lives resemble Jesus’? Do we risk our reputation for his sake? Called to shine as lights in the darkness, what contexts might enable us to do so?