Summary: While Galileans were despised by Judeans, Galileans themselves despised people from Nazareth. People are asking the same question today. Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? This was a question asked of Jesus’ disciple Nathanael – and Phillip said to him; “Come and see.” Nathanael was from Cana, another Galilean town just to the North of Nazareth. While Galileans were despised by Judeans, Galileans themselves despised people from Nazareth. People are asking the same question today. Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Caius Octavius (Oc-ta-vi-us) was the grand-nephew, adopted son and primary heir to Julius Caesar. Before and after Julius Caesar’s death in 44 BC, the Roman Government was constantly torn by power struggles. Octavius ascended to undisputed supremacy in 31 BC and the Roman Senate declared him to be Rome’s first Emperor. Two years later they honored him with the title “Agustus” which means “exalted one.” Under his reign the Roman Empire dominated the Mediterranean region, ushering in a period of great prosperity and relative peace (the “Pax Romana.”) He ordered “all the world” (the world of the Roman Empire) to be registered. This was not a one-time census. The decree actually established a cycle of registrations that were to occur every 14 years. Because Jews were not allowed to serve in the Roman Army, they had been excluded from census taking in the past. (Generally when a census was issued, it was to register young men for military service – as well as account for all Roman citizens. But not this time. Caesar Agustus issued this decree to number each nation by family and tribe. Each person was required by law to return to their ancestral home to register. Both Mary and Joseph were descendants of David and therefore went to their tribal home, Bethlehem in Judea to register. Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, a small crowded city located up on a hill a fifteen miles southwest of Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee. They needed to travel south through Samaria, over to the Jordan River, down to Jericho (just north of the Dead Sea), fifteen miles up the mountain to Jerusalem. Jericho is about a thousand feet below sea level and Jerusalem is 2500 feet above sea level, so the climb is quite steep. Once Joseph and Mary got to Jerusalem, they went south to Bethany and five miles further to arrive in Bethlehem, the city of their ancestors. All in all, it was a difficult trek of about 70 miles through mountainous terrain.
God is a God of hope. What He says is true, always. How does God speak to us today? Through His Word, and through people He places in our lives.
Man plans and God laughs. God plans and we best pay attention. Way back in 750 BC, there was a prophet named Micah (a contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah, who lived during the reign of three Judean Kings – Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. He prophesied that Judah would eventually fall to the Babylonians, which came true in 586 BC, but he also made another rather obscure prophecy as well. Whenever a prophet foretold the future, it was to awaken the people to their responsibilities in the present. Bible prophecy isn’t entertainment for the curious; it’s encouragement for the serious.
The Prophet Micah writes in his book, chapter 5 verses 2-5:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be our peace when the Assyrians invade our land and march through our fortresses. We will raise against them seven shepherds, even eight commanders.” (Micah 5:2-5)
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet Micah has written:
But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”