Root of Jesse icon by Michael Damaskinos (1530/5-1592/3), showing Christ and His forefathers and earthly brethren
"After this He went down unto Capernaum, He and the mother His, and the brothers His, and the disciples His: and there they stay not many days."--Jn 2:12
Between the Lord's first sign at Cana in Galilee and His cleansing of the Temple during His first Pascha during His public ministry, John the Theologian recounts this simple trip to Capernaum. No more details are given except who went and that they did not stay long. What can we learn from this short passage?
John may have recorded this event to show us our Lord's need to rest, as He is man as well as God. There is no record that He preached to the crowds or healed the sick during this time, and it was only a few days: perhaps it was a rest before Pascha. Since it was before Pascha, maybe it was a form of Lent, a preparation for the pending Feast. Another possibility, though, is that this is an intimate moment in which the Lord revealed His Truth to those He loved.
There were no crowds involved in this event: it was a small gathering of the Lord, His family, and His disciples. Could it be that He took this time to teach them privately? He taught His disciples privately, and He must have taught His Mother so as well: is it strange if He also tried to teach His brethren, His kinsmen, privately? Whether any believed is unknown, for we see at other times their disbelief: "Neither therefore did His brethren believe in Him," as John writes before Jesus went up for the Feast of Booths. Again, "A prophet has no honor in his hometown," and that is where His brethren would mostly be living. So maybe in Capernaum Jesus preached the Gospel to His brethren, but maybe there His brethren rejected Him.
But maybe the brethren He brought with Him to Capernaum did believe in Him: if so, what was there? There was a gathering of believers, a gathering of the saints, an early meeting of the Church with Jesus in their midst. There was the Lord, the Theotokos, the Lord's brethren, and the Lord's disciples. Who are the Lord's brethren? Those who hear His Father's will and guard it. Are those not also His disciples? Jesus was the Only-Begotten, but He was the first of many brothers, the firstborn of the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Thus this could be a view of Heaven: there is God, there is His Mother, there are His brethren and disciples, resting together.
Yet it is but a rest: this time in Capernaum is not timeless. For soon thereafter, "at hand was the Pascha of the Jews." This short, blessed time in Capernaum was merely a rest, yet a rest that foreshadowed Heaven. In this way it maybe is a type of the Liturgy, when God comes down to dwell with us and Heaven meets earth: Heaven will after all be a great Liturgy, as John's Revelation shows, and thus each Liturgy is a foretaste of Heaven.
In short, what can we gain from this short passage? A goal which we hope to reach: rest with the Lord and His family, the Church. We can experience tastes of this rest in the Liturgy, and we can also experience smaller tastes of it at all times, for the Lord is always with us, His Mother is always with us, and His brethren and disciples in Heaven are with us. Let us strive to bring to mind this great moment in Capernaum, let us strive to place ourselves there by being always in communion with the Lord and His family, and let this inspire us to ever press onwards to our final goal, the unceasing Capernaum in Heaven. Christ is risen!
Caption: "The Mystical Icon of Our Holy Orthodox Church Amidst Persecutions and Wars with Heretics Which Could Not Overcome Her"