Nazareth to Cana, and Capernaum
According to Luke 3:23, Jesus was about thirty years old (quite old in those days) when he began his ministry. His ﬁrst preaching at Nazareth seems to have been unsuccessful, and he left the town to settle at Capernaum on the shores of Lake Gennesaret.
Capernaum (in the original Hebrew. Kefar-nahum, “Village of Nahum“) was a prosperous little town whose inhabitants engaged mainly in ﬁshing (a great haul of ﬁsh is recorded in Luke 5:6). Being a frontier town between the domains of Antipas and Philip (see Provinces of Galilee), it had a custom post – the Apostle Matthew may have been called from his duty there as a tax-collector (Matthew 9:9: Mark 2: 13-14; Luke 5:27). A centurion commanding the local garrison, though he was a Gentile, had built the local synagogue (Luke 7:5), where Jesus often preached.
It was at Capernaum that Jesus called his ﬁrst disciples, the ﬁshermen Simon (Peter) and Andrew, men of nearby Bethsaida east of the Jordan (John 1:44), as well as James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and here he invested the Twelve Apostles (Mark 3:13-19; Matthew 10:1-4).
It was here also that he performed many of the miraculous deeds reported in the Gospels. From then on Capernaum was called ‘his own city’ (Matthew 9:1). As Capernaum had a more varied population and was nearer to the borders of the Decapolis than landlocked Nazareth, it was probably more receptive to the new teachings.
Yet Jesus did not entirely sever his ties with the town of his youth. John 2:11 continues, after the story of his baptism, with a miracle performed by Jesus at Cana in the presence of Mary and the disciples. Therefore, if we follow John’s Gospel, the visit to Cana occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
Gospel texts: Matthew 4:12-22, 8:5-17, 9:9-10, 18-20
Mark 1:16-34, 2:1-17, 5:22-43
Luke 4:31-41, 5:27-32, 7:1-10, 8:40-56
Reconstruction of an ancient fishing village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, by Balage Balogh
19th century photograph of a Palestinian village
19th century photograph of Cana, as it then appeared
Palestinian women carrying large water jugs