Capernaum was the center of Jesus’ Galilee ministry. Today, substantial digging has been done there, revealing Simon Peter’s house as well as two synagogues – one from the first or second century and one from Jesus’ time -- and many other buildings and artifacts.
In John 6:35-58 Jesus is teaching in the Capernaum synagogue and describes Himself as the Bread of Life. The reaction to His teaching once again points out the disbelief of people as to how He could be who He said He was:
Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don't really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don't let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me."
"This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed--not a single detail missed--and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time."
At this, because he said, "I am the Bread that came down from heaven," the Jews started arguing over him: "Isn't this the son of Joseph? Don't we know his father? Don't we know his mother? How can he now say, "I came down out of heaven' and expect anyone to believe him?"
Jesus said, "Don't bicker among yourselves over me. You're not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me--that's the only way you'll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End. This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, "And then they will all be personally taught by God.' Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally--to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father. No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father--and you can see me."
"I'm telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread--living Bread!-who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live--and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self."
At this, the Jews started fighting among themselves: "How can this man serve up his flesh for a meal?"
But Jesus didn't give an inch. "Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always."
This is The Message translation. As the Bread of Life, Jesus provides me all I need but, as with any food, I must come to Him and partake. It can be an intravenous feeding but I must make myself available, and allow the needle of His word to pierce my flesh so that I can receive His power, strength, and sustenance. (Okay, that unintentionally sort of rhymed – sorry.) I love this translation where it says that He will hold on and not let go once I am with Him. In my life, Jesus has been tenacious and I can relate to this. I accepted Christ when I was eleven years old but there were a lot of years when, even though I called myself a Christian, I had turned off that little valve on the intravenous line – I was not accepting the Bread of Life, and I was not anywhere even remotely close to trying to live the life of a disciple. Yet, Jesus was always there, gnawing at me, calling me to something more. I am still working to figure out what all that “something more” is but I hope, at least, that I am on the right path. I know that He loves me and He desperately wants me to find the path and plan that He has had all along for my life. It is incredibly humbling that the one who spoke the words above wants to have this sort of relationship with me.
The Jews’ reaction to Jesus’ words boils down to disbelief which then deteriorates into a feeling that this man had to be pulling their leg. How was it that this ordinary man (albeit the one we now call the greatest man and teacher ever) could teach such a revolutionary doctrine, and face, as anticipated, a great deal of doubt, yet be taken seriously enough by a few that He would go on to impact the world forever? His actions, particularly His miracles, though they were undoubtedly chalked up as being snake-oil magic or flim-flam scams by some, helped many people take note of this man from Nazareth. Mark 1:21-27 details another Capernaum incident:
Then they entered Capernaum. When the Sabbath arrived, Jesus lost no time in getting to the meeting place. He spent the day there teaching. They were surprised at his teaching--so forthright, so confident--not quibbling and quoting like the religion scholars.
Suddenly, while still in the meeting place, he was interrupted by a man who was deeply disturbed and yelling out, "What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you're up to! You're the Holy One of God, and you've come to destroy us!"
Jesus shut him up: "Quiet! Get out of him!" The afflicting spirit threw the man into spasms, protesting loudly--and got out.
Everyone there was incredulous, buzzing with curiosity. "What's going on here? A new teaching that does what it says? He shuts up defiling, demonic spirits and sends them packing!"
It really does strike me as amazing, perhaps now even more than it did at the time, that I was standing on the ruins of the Capernaum synagogue where Jesus taught and healed. It is phenomenal to me that I had such an opportunity. This man met such doubt, such questioning, as well as eventual ridicule, denial, persecution, and condemnation, yet He truly changed the world as the Savior who lived and left His promise for us all. And I was standing where He stood, walking where He walked.