March 3, 2016
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities
Thank you John Cougar Mellencamp. I, too, was born in a small town.
So why this small town of Nazareth as the community to raise the Son of God? I see two major reasons. First, in the eyes of the world, Nazareth was an insignificant, podunk, off-the-trail, unremarkable kind of village. Far from a “destination” it was probably the kind of town kids grew up in wanting to get out of. I don’t want to read too much of the small town I grew up in into Nazareth, but I can’t help but interpret Nathaniel’s famous insult of Nazareth through the lens of how the city people viewed my town growing up. Check it out from the first chapter of John’s Gospel:
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law,and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
If reason one for Nazareth as Jesus’ hometown was its unremarkable insignificance, number two may come as a surprise. And reason number two for Nazareth as the hometown of the Son of God—it was divinely important. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Something tells me the likely fewer than five hundred people who lived in Nazareth weren’t walking around in search of the prophetically predicted Messiah in their midst. It’s funny how God works like this. Divine truth always sits in plain view for anyone with eyes to see, yet it remains hidden in the places where nobody would ever think to look. Come on! Really? Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?!
It’s the same way God plants his plans in the last people anyone would expect to find them unfolding. I can never forget the piercing words of God to the Prophet Samuel as he passed over the best and brightest contestants for Israel’s King like they were so many also-ran hopefuls on “The Bachelorette”:
Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7.
God chose Nazareth because it was insignificant to the world and because it was supremely important to him. It offers yet another view of the grand canyon between the ways of God and the ways of his wayward people. Let’s give Paul the last word on the topic today:
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
1. Are you one of those people who thinks your pained past or poor pedigree somehow disqualifies you for eligibility as a player in the Kingdom of God? How does today’s reading challenge you?
2. Foolish, weak, lowly, despised and the things that are not. . . seems to be what God is looking for. How do we square our own ways of valuing smart, strong, impressive and important with this? What would it mean for us to stop looking on the outward appearance and look upon the heart?
3. How do these kinds of major value exchanges challenge your discipleship to Jesus? How does it change the way you see and value yourself? Others? What one thing have you so highly prized about yourself or others before that you might start asking harder questions about now?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.