Lessons from a Visit to Jesus' Hometown

Sermon from The Rest of Your Life series: Rested and Ready to Go  (video link) 

By, Shari Jackson Monson

Psalm 92:1-8, Mark 1:35-39

I have found that visiting the family home of someone important to me always yields interesting insights about them – things I would be unlikely to learn another way. I wonder if you have had a similar experience?

In 1996 I visited the boyhood home of an American President. In that visit I gained some insights about the 34th President that have stayed with me – things I probably would not have otherwise known: including:

This President, born October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, the third of seven boys. As a mother of 2 young children at the time I marveled at the idea of 7 boys! (Guesses? Keep quiet!)

When he was 2 years old the growing family moved to Abilene, Kansas = hometown. His parents set aside specific times at breakfast and at dinner for daily family Bible reading. Chores were regularly assigned and rotated among all the children, and misbehavior was met with strict discipline

As a freshman at Abilene High School he injured his knee and developed a leg infection which his doctor diagnosed as life-threatening. The doctor insisted that the leg be amputated but the teenager refused to allow it, and miraculously recovered.

This former President is 2nd from left in this picture of the 1912 West Point football team.

Academically, his best subject by far was English. He graduated in the middle of the class of 1915. As a young officer he met and fell in love with Mamie Geneva Doud of Boone, Iowa, six years his junior, while he was stationed in Texas. He proposed to her on Valentine's Day in 1916.

In 1953, just 12 days after being inaugurated as President he was baptized at National Presbyterian Church in Washington DC

Who is this American President? Dwight D Eisenhower (What’s the D for? David named after his father)

A trip to the Holy Land is a kin to visiting the family home of Jesus and his many relatives in the Bible. Since our passage tonight is set in Jesus home town of Capernaum let’s take a look at what we see there today – and see what the hometown setting says about Jesus

Capernaum is located in the region of Israel called the Lower Galilee, situated along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. In Jesus day it was an important center of commerce especially for the fishing industry. When Jesus was calling his first disciples he did so here – Simon and his brother Andrew, and a little further down he called James son of Zebedee and his brother John. A short time later, just outside of town…Levi later called Matthew begins to follow Jesus.


What catches your eye in an artists rendering of Jesus' hometown? Archeological discoveries of the past 30 years indicate the region was populated by the wealthy, business owners, artisans, as well as peasants. Jewish people in the area were devout – and the connection to Jerusalem and the temple was strong, as was the study of Torah in local synagogues and use immersion pools for ritual purification.

It seems to me the artist may have been generous with the size of the homes based on this picture of today’s archeological park at Capernaum. We are standing outside Simon Peter’s home, facing Capernaum’s synagogue. In between lie the foundations of 1st century homes.

From this vantage point listen to the Gospel of Mark chapter 1:22-39

They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

A Preaching Tour in Galilee

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Synagogue close to Simon Peter’s house. Rabbinic literature of the 1st c attests to the Galilean practice of pilgrimage to Jerusalem and its temple. Some Sages from Jerusalem taught their disciples in Galilee. Strictness in observing Torah.

A church stands today over the remains of Peter’s house where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.

Our text says:

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

The whole city was gathered around the door of Peter’s door – imagine! Did they sort of parade by, did they approach one by one, family by family, was there pushing and shoving? Was their quiet respect, a hush over the place? Were kids running in the streets? Jesus must have been exhausted!

Early in the morning, at the height of his popularity, Jesus heads out to a solitary place by himself – to pray.

Physically worn out by crowds – he needed to orient himself to his mission. He prays, talking with his Father, Abba, Daddy.

Last mention of God’s voice was at Jesus’ baptism – You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

Longing to hear that voice again, Jesus prays. He communes with God, his Father.

One of the unique things about spending time in the Middle East is hearing the Muslim call to prayer – early in the morning, about 5 am. Loud speakers blare – Get up, Get up, Prayer is better than sleep.

I’ve often thought as I hear it – that’s true!  It accurately reflects Jesus habit of nurturing his interior life.

At the point at which ‘the whole town’ is looking for him, eager for more wonders and healings – Jesus has slipped away for prayer. He’s never been busier. And what does he do? Seeks a quiet place to pray.

What do we do when life gets busy? Honestly? Our prayer life probably suffers.

We do not know the words to his prayer – but we do know the result. He tells his disciples it is time to head out of town. To head for lesser known places. It is time to return to his mission – proclaiming the Gospel message.

If I had been following Jesus at that time I am pretty sure I would be shaking my head in disbelief. Why in the world would Jesus choose not to return to the crowds? Sure,  crowds are  exhausting.  But it is such heady stuff – the fame, the glory, the notoriety. It is hard as Americans to walk away from adoring crowds. We tend to idolize celebrity status. Most of us, in truth, long to be famous.

Jesus knows what we so often forget – to change the world one needs an interior life oriented to the Father.

Let’s Pray.

Interim Ministry Note: author had just returned from leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during her study leave. To learn more visit CCI Trip to the Holy Land on Facebook.