forgiveness • peacemaking • reconciliation
equality • poverty • missions


Alive amid the Ruins

May 8, 2018 by

Last month my wife and I travelled to the Holy Land and walked in the footsteps of Jesus. We will never forget it. The narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem teemed with humanity as hundreds of thousands of fellow pilgrims descended on the holy sites to experience the Eastern Orthodox Easter and Passover that coincided with our visit. The throngs from all over the world reminded us of the crowds who once gathered around Jesus.

Image of ruins in Jerusalem Ruins of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee

One particularly memorable place we visited was Capernaum, a now-uninhabited village by the Sea of Galilee where Jesus lived during the early years of his ministry. The parables Jesus told and the teachings he gave his disciples came alive for us, even though we had read them many times and knew them well. It may seem inconsequential, but to stand on a dusty road and see the mustard plants (Luke 13:18–19) and the sycamore trees (Luke 19:1–10) brought us closer to our Master.

In Capernaum today, you can see the ruins of a synagogue where Jesus most likely preached. According to the second chapter of Mark, Jesus came to Capernaum and entered a home, surely in sight of the synagogue. We stood among those ruins and read what happened:

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. (Mark 2:1–4)

The friends and caregivers of this paralytic were so eager to bring him into the presence of Jesus that they tore a hole in the roof. This must have taken a lot of courage! But when Jesus saw the faith of these men he said to the sick man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

looking out over Jerusalem Ruins of what may have been the house of the apostle Peter in Capernaum

Mark goes on to tell us that some of the witnesses were upset that Jesus forgave this man.

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the paralytic – “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:6–12).

The faith of this man and his friends challenged us. Do we have faith for those we know who are sick – a brother, a sister, a friend, or a neighbor? Do we have faith that Jesus can heal any sin, sickness, or burden that we carry? If we would have even a small amount of faith, what healing and redemption could Jesus offer today?

An image of ruins in Israel Ruins of a synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus most likely preached

Standing by the Sea of Galilee, I remembered the moment I had last been in that place – thirteen years ago with fellow Bruderhof pastor Johann Christoph Arnold and NYPD Detective Steven McDonald. Steven was completely paralyzed from the neck down, and had such great faith that he firmly and sincerely believed that God would heal him, right then and there. He wanted us and his caregivers to take off his shoes and dip his feet into the water, although he had no sense of feeling in his feet.

Even though God did not heal Steven physically, as he had hoped, God healed his soul and granted him peace of heart, which only strengthened his faith. Watching the endless cycle of waves roll in, I thought of Christoph and Steven who were called home to God last year just a few months apart.

While in the Holy Land, I gained a deeper understanding of Jesus and his teachings. And despite the tangible and visible tensions and conflict there today, my faith was strengthened by the knowledge that God can and will intervene in this world – especially in the land of his birth, life, and death – to heal the brokenhearted, bring his peace, and establish his rulership.

All pictures taken April 2018. Comments

About the author

Paul Winter

Paul Winter

Paul Winter serves as the Elder of the Bruderhof. He lives with his wife, Betty, at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof.

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