Mk 1:15 Jesus arrives in Galilee during the autumn of 27AD. He tells the crowds, "The right time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Change your hearts and lives and believe the Good News" (Mark 1:15). In this way, Jesus announces a 'kairos moment' - God's appointed time (Greek, 'kairos', means 'an opportune moment').
Jn 4:43-45 Jesus is welcomed by people who have seen him earlier that year when they were in Jerusalem for the Passover festival (see 4 on Map 6).
Jn 4:46-50 At Cana, a royal official from Herod Antipas’s court at Tiberias, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, begs Jesus to come and heal his dying son in Capernaum – some 18 miles / 29 km away. Jesus tells him that his son will not die.
Jn 4:51-54 The official is met on the way home to Capernaum by his servants who tell him his son has already been healed. As a result of this miracle, the official and his family become believers.
Lk. 7:11-17 Jesus raises the only son of a widow from Nain from the dead. Her son was probably the widow’s only source of financial support, so his death was a terrible blow. As a result of this miracle, people are filled with awe and praise God. Nain (meaning ‘pleasant’) is situated to the south east of Nazareth, on the lower slopes overlooking the Vale of Jezreel (see 5 on Map 6). Its name aptly describes the area and its views.
Jesus calls his first disciples
Mk 1:16-20 Jesus moves back to the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee – an area where he is now well known (see 6 on Map 6). On the lakeside near Bethsaida (meaning ‘house of the nets’) Jesus calls the fishermen Simon and Andrew (whom he had met earlier by the River Jordan) (see John 1:35-42) and James (Greek: Jacob) and John to follow him. Jesus probably knew these local fishermen well and, as a skilled carpenter, may even have repaired their wooden fishing boats. The Galilee fishing industry was very important in Jesus’s day – as it still is. Pickled fish – mainly the Tilapia (now also known as St Peter's Perch) – were exported around the Mediterranean world.
The exact site of Bethsaida was uncertain until recent archaeological excavations near to where the River Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee uncovered the remains of the fishing village that was the birthplace of Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, four of Jesus’s closest circle of friends (see Map 6). Near Bethsaida, Jesus restored the sight of a blind man (see Mark 8:22-26), though he later criticised the inhabitants of the town for their lack of faith (see Matthew 11:21-22).
The town was first fortified in c.1000BC, but was destroyed when King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria attacked Galilee in 733BC (see 2 Kings 15:29). The settlement was rebuilt in the 2nd century BC and became part of the tetrachy of Philip on the death of Herod the Great in 6BC. Philip, whose position relied on the support of the Romans, renamed the town Julias, probably in honour of the mother of the reigning emperor, Tiberias Caesar (14-37AD). He considerably romanised the town, which may help to explain why Simon, Andrew, James and John – all religious Jews – were eager to leave the town and follow Jesus.
In Jesus’s day, Bethsaida stood on a small promontory, jutting out into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee. An earthquake in 363AD caused a landslide that blocked the River Jordan to the north of here. The river ponded up behind the newly-created dam of earth, but when it eventually burst through, the resulting wall of water smashed through the town, destroying the settlement and filling in the harbour. The town was never rebuilt, and the site is now on the east bank of the River Jordan, 1 mile / 2 km north of where it joins the Sea of Galilee.
Today, visitors to the site of Bethsaida can pass through a re-constructed gateway and climb the settlement mound (El Tell / Tel Bethsaida) on which the ancient Bronze Age / Iron Age settlement stood. Excavations on the lower-lying site of 1st century Bethsaida have uncovered remains of a paved street, a fisherman’s house built around a courtyard (where lead weights, hooks and anchors were found), and another house belonging to a vine-grower (where wine jars were uncovered in the cellar).