A few weeks ago I read something under this heading and the thoughts have stayed with me. Nazareth was an obscure village in Israel. It was a backwater and was not highly rated by the Israelites. It is never mentioned in the Old Testament. And Jesus’ followers never referred to Him as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ - possibly because it would have been drawing attention to the fact that He came from a place that was of no account. He lived there for thirty years before He began His public ministry. When Nathanael speaks to Philip about Jesus he asks:
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)
This seems to sum up the general attitude to the town. It is the enemies of Christ who speak of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ in the gospels - such as the soldiers who came with Judas to arrest Jesus; Pilate, who put the sign on the cross ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’. And even in Nazareth itself, Jesus was rejected. No one wanted to listen to Him and He was driven out of the town.
But that is not the end of the story. On resurrection morning, the angel declared to the women who came to the tomb:
Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.
He is risen; he is not here. (Mark 16:6)
He is identified as being from Nazareth - on the very first occasion He is named after His victory over death! When we move into the book of Acts we find that Peter preaches again and again about Jesus of Nazareth - and people are saved through that name and healed by the power of that name.
When we come to the conversion of Paul, he says later that the voice that speaks from heaven says:
I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting. (Acts 22:8)
Nazareth is now no longer a name that is associated with something derogatory - it is part of the identity of the risen Lord . Doesn’t this get right to the heart of the gospel? Jesus began His search for us in Nazareth. And he takes us - who are nothing in this world’s eyes - into a new place. Into resurrection life and glory.
What a gospel! What a Saviour!
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