Even though Jesus was born in Bethlehem and died in Jerusalem, it was in Galilee that his ministry was forged, and an astonishing three-quarters of his activity recorded in the New Testament took place on, around, or within the sight of the Sea of Galilee. The life and teachings of Jesus gain meaning and resonance from the landscape and the social setting in which they emerged. Understanding their context enhances the understanding of the events that have shaped the Western civilization.
Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, built the city as the capital of the Galilee in AD18, and dedicated the town to Tiberius, then emperor of Rome.
“…boats from Tiberias come near the place…” (John 6:23)
Mount of Beatitudes
The traditional site of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is set in hilltop gardens, with a church and a superb view of the lake.
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him… Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Matthew 5-7)
Two events in the life of Jesus are recalled in two churches here. One is Multiplication and a famous 5th century mosaic records the event. Crowds followed Jesus and evening came.
“You give them something to eat… We have only five loaves here and two fish… Bring them… He looked up to heaven and blessed… And they all ate and were satisfied… About 5,000 men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14: 15-21)
The other even was the primacy of Peter. The beach and an attractively simple chapel recall the appearance of Jesus on the shore.
“Have you any fish?... No… Cast the net… It is the Lord… Simon (Peter)… Do you love me? Feed my sheep…” (John 21: 1-19)
Jesus made this thriving Jewish town, now an archeological site, the center of his ministry.
“He went and dwelt in Capernaum…” (Matthew 4:13)
He also preached here.
“And immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught” (Mark 1:21)
Today people come here to be baptized in the Jordan at Yardentin.
“Then Jesus came from the Galilee to the Jordan to John to be baptized by him.” (Matthew 3:13)
When the wine ran out at a wedding feast, Jesus turned six stone jars full of water into superior wine.
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did in Cana of Galilee…” (John 2:1-11)
Here, according to the New Testament, an angel appeared to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus. It was here he grew up (his so called “hidden years”) and he returned to Nazareth as a teacher.
“…he went to the synagogue… on the sabbath… he stood up to read… the prophet Isiah…” (Luke 4:16-30)