Capernaum. It was a small town on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus called his disciples Peter, Andrew, James and John here. It became his home base during his years of public ministry.
Visiting Ancient Capernaum
We visited Capernaum when we went to Israel last December. We saw the ruins of the city where Jesus and his disciples spent so much time. Our pastor led a devotion as we sat in the ruins of the ancient synagogue. It has been partially reconstructed but the foundation was there in the time of Christ.
A beautiful sanctuary is built on top of the remains of part of the residential area, specifically over what they believe to be Peter’s house. Early excavations found ancient graffiti on the walls of one of the homes — mostly the sign of the fish, which is often associated with the disciple, Peter. A portion of the floor in the sanctuary is glass so you can view the ruins below.
In another area of Capernaum, there was a collection of artifacts that archaeologists have discovered over the years. These included stonework from buildings decorated with the star of David, flowers and pomegranates, columns, olive presses, and millstones. The millstones looked different from the wheel-like millstones I have seen in historic locations here in the states. The Capernaum millstones were smaller and shaped differently. Even so, you could tell they were quite heavy.
Jesus and the Children
Looking at these millstones scattered about reminded me of the passages in the Gospels where Jesus was with the children. The accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke are similar. One day the disciples asked Jesus “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child over and told the disciples unless they became like children, they wouldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbled himself like a child would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven and whoever welcomed a child in His name welcomed Him.
Jesus didn’t end the conversation there. He continued saying “Whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me — it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Yikes! That’s pretty powerful. I could see the millstone of which he was speaking right in front of me and I could see the Sea Of Galilee in the distance. The thought of a millstone as a necklace made me shudder inside.
The passage above and others in the Bible give us an idea of how Jesus felt about children. It’s safe to say it was a very high opinion. He loved children. Think about the first songs we learned in church as children — Jesus Loves Me and Jesus Loves the Little Children.
I wonder what Jesus thinks about how we as a society treat our children. In our prosperous nation, children live in poverty and go hungry. There are organizations who fill backpacks with food so children won’t go hungry over the weekend when they aren’t at school. Children are abused and victims of child pornography and sex trafficking. Then, there are the ones that never make it out of the womb. Surely, it must break His heart.
Would it be any different if the ones who are hurting the most innocent imagined themselves with a millstone around their necks trying to keep their heads above water? Would it make them have second thoughts about harming a child?
As I read through the Bible and listen to my pastor, memories from my trip to the Holy Land come to the surface. Some bring pleasant thoughts, some sad but then some like the memory of the millstones at Capernaum are sobering.