Summary: Nazareth would seem to be an insignificant backwater town. That's how most scholars have painted it. The city didn't even seem to make much difference in the life of Christ. But is there more to its story?
What you just saw was the opening celebration for last year’s “Christmas in Nazareth”. It’s a 5 day festival that begins with the lighting of a Christmas tree and fireworks. In the following days there are parades, concerts, street musicians and jugglers, market stalls selling local produce, arts and crafts and food. And there’s entertainment for all the family, and a visit from Santa.
And, of course, there’s even a reference or two to Jesus.
They do this festival because of the obvious tie-in between their city (Nazareth) and Christ’s birth. I discovered the video while doing a YouTube search for Nazareth and Christmas and was surprised by all that was going on there. But as I watched, I got to thinking - that’s a lot of activity for a city that never even saw the Baby Jesus.
Now Nazareth does have a connection with the tale of Christmas. Luke 1 tells us “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee (who told her) “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." Luke 1:26 & 31
But that’s pretty much it.
Shortly after she became pregnant, Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to register for the Roman census. And, of course, Bethlehem was where Jesus was born and raised for 1st couple of years. But shortly after that, King Herod heard about the new King born in Bethlehem… and he decided he didn't want another king around, and sought to kill Jesus.
Being warned in a dream Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt where they lived for the next couple of years until King Herod died. Then they returned to Nazareth. By the time they returned to their hometown Jesus was at least 4 or 5 years old.
When most scholars refer to Nazareth, they describe it as an insignificant, back water town. One person described it as an “unimportant town, hidden away in the mountains of Galilee” (Wayne Burnett). Someone else said it was “an obscure little town, one of about 200 such little towns in that area” (Gregory Dawson).
A website I visited that focused on the history of Nazareth said “The city of Nazareth was a small and insignificant agricultural village in the time of Jesus” (http://www.nazareth-israel.com/nazarteh-history)
In fact, Nazareth was so insignificant that Nathanael asked his friend Philip: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46
So, there’s not much about Nazareth that would impress us.
It doesn't seem to play a significant part in the Nativity story, and Nazareth seems to have been an extremely unimportant town in Israel.
You might be tempted to think that Nazareth wasn't all that important for God either. You might be inclined to believe that it was just an accident that Jesus’ parents just happened to come from there.
What do you think? Do you think it was an accident that Joseph and Mary came from Nazareth?
Well, you’re right. It wasn't an accident.
Nazareth was exactly where God wanted Jesus to grow up.
And one of the main reasons was this: it fulfilled prophecy.
Matthew 2 tells us that Joseph and Mary took Jesus back to Israel after King Herod died “and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” Matthew 2:23
Now, the prophecy that Matthew’s referring to came out of Isaiah 11:1 which said “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch (Hebrew “netzer”) shall grow out of his roots.”
The Hebrew word for Branch is “Netzer”… which is Root of word “Nazareth” and “Nazarene”
So, Matthew’s telling us that in order for Jesus to fulfill the prophecy that said that He would be called “the Branch” He HAD to come from Nazareth and be called a Nazarene.
Now in Jesus’ life, He fulfilled over 300 prophecies out of the Old Testament. And each of those prophecies was like a “calling cards”. Each of those prophecies was one of His “credentials” that said “I am who I say I am.”
And one of the “credentials” – one of those calling cards - was that Jesus was called a “Nazarene” which fulfilled the prophecy from Isaiah.
Now, that’s interesting.
But I have to admit I found that fairly boring.
What difference did it make if Jesus fulfilled this particular prophecy or not?
Then I did a “word study” and looked up everyplace in Scripture you would find the words “Nazareth” or “Nazarene” and was amazed at what I discovered.
These words showed up a total of about 30 times… and each time the city or title was associated with Jesus. Even more significant than that, I discovered some interesting things when Jesus was referred to as “Jesus the Nazarene” or “Jesus of Nazareth”.