Insignificant questions? Trivial matters? Not when you understand the lessons behind the names. If you look at the internet you will see that there are a lot of people who genuinely struggle with this question. At one time, I was one of those people. This question deeply troubled me. Why? Because I had thoughts like this: “If the Gospels can’t agree about whether or not there were ONE or TWO demon-possessed men in the Gaderenes; and if the Gospels can’t agree on something as simple as recognizing the home of Peter, then what information is reliable? Which location was the home of Peter and Andrew? Where were they from? Was it Bethsaida or Capernaum?
Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.–John 1:44
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching … As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.–Mark 1: 21-22a, 29
He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching … After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house.–Luke 4:31-32a, 38a
Bethsaida or Capernaum? Which is it? Now how in the world does this question have any application for your life? It applies to you in wondrous, wondrous ways! Let’s take a look…
It seems clear to me from scripture that Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew had a current home in Capernaum. But that doesn’t mean that they were born and raised in Capernaum, does it? Maybe, they were born in Bethsaida and at some point moved to Capernaum. That seems plausible. After all, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but He was known as “Jesus of Nazareth”. Why? Because His folks moved to Nazareth when he was a kid. Once I was able to think in these terms, I saw no conflict and I had peace.
What great lessons did I learn as I struggled with the question of Peter’s hometown???? The Lesson of Bethsaida and the Lesson of Capernaum.
Lesson of Bethsaida
Get your eyes off where you come from! When you come into Christ, your hometown is not your spiritual hometown anymore. You are no longer a citizen from the house of smelly fish (Bethsaida means city of fish. A smelly place). You no longer come from a place of being trapped in a net where you begin to die from the moment you are brought forth onto the shore of the city. You are now a citizen of a new incorruptible kingdom, and you have moved to spiritual Capernaum! You’ve passed from death into life! Where we come from is not nearly so important as where we are going. I’m not supposed to focus on my past or my old identity, I’m looking to the future. Listen, all of us have been in a place of sin, For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But that is not where we are staying. Are you listening? You may fall back, you may slip up, you may even WALLOW in it for a season, but sin is not your home anymore. If you are a prodigal, I’ve got news for you. You may think that you are a slave and a servant to sin and no longer worthy to be called a son, but if you will turn back, the Father doesn’t see a slave…He sees a son! He sees a daughter! That’s who you are. I’m not who I once was, I am being made into His likeness! I have a new identity in Christ!
Identity. You are a Child of God. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!–1 John 3:1
Identity. You are the strengthened in Christ. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength–Phil. 4:13
Identity. You are one who stands. If God is for us who can stand against us–Romans 8:31
Identity. You are a new creation. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come–2 Cor. 5:17
The Lesson of Capernaum
One more thing. You no longer come from the house of things that are trapped in nets and begin to die right away and start smelling (Bethsaida: City of fish). You are now a citizen of the New Jerusalem (City of “peace”). But in the meantime, you are still located on earth. Nevertheless you are no longer living in Bethsaida…Just like Peter, you have been moved to a new house on earth. You live in spiritual Capernaum. Capernaum means “City of Nahum”. Nahum? What does Nahum mean? Let me explain it this way: You are no longer in the spiritual home of things that are trapped in nets which begin to rot. You now dwell in a spiritual house that helps to bring freedom to those who are trapped. How is that? You no longer dwell in the House of Bethsaida, you dwell in the House of Capernaum…You dwell in the House of Nahum. According to the Hebrew meaning for Nahum, you now dwell in the House of the “Comforter”, the Holy Spirit. Andrew and Peter may have come from Bethsaida, but they were later identified with Capernaum. Embrace your new identity. Now go spread the good news.