Summary: Jesus "fills full" the prophecies that Messiah would be a Nazarene and a light to the Gentiles. His place of birth and service is part of his humiliation as God reached down to lift us up.

Matthew 2__19-23 The Nazarene

"Jesus of Nazareth"

Jesus moved from Bethlehem in Judea to Nazareth in Galilee with a stopover in Egypt.

Saying you are from Nazareth is a bit like saying you live in Shelbyville or Knightstown. You aren’t living in a place known for its class or appeal. Jesus was not from an upper class neighborhood.

Philip was excited when he was first called to follow Jesus. Philip found Nathanael and said to 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." Do you remember Nathanael’s response? "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (Jn 1:43-46). Keep in mind that Nathanael himself came from Nazareth.

Another time the Pharisees challenged Jesus’ supporters and followers with these words: "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee" (Jn 7:52). Jesus cannot possibly be a true prophet, a rabbi, a teacher in Israel if He comes from Galilee of the Gentiles. That was the thought of those who considered themselves to be God’s chosen, His pets.

The Jews didn’t like Galilee because it was populated with many of the "outsiders"; immigrants who were working for the hated Roman forces of occupation. Galilee was known as "Galilee of the Gentiles."

I suspect that if an Iraqi were living in "the Green Zone" he might be greeted with the same sort of disdain were he to venture into Bagdadh and announce that he was on a mission to re-organize the society and the religion of the people. Can anything good come out of the Green Zone? Our current experience in the mideast tells us that an Iraqi, annnouncing he came from the Green Zone to reform the inhabitants of Bagdadh would be in great danger.

When Jesus first started His ministry people were torn between believing Him or rejecting Him: (Jn 7:40-44) On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." (41) Others said, "He is the Christ." Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? (42) Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" (43) Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. (44) Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

Jesus cannot possibly be the Messiah because He comes from Galilee was the party line of the religious establishment.

Not only that, but do you remember what words were tacked to the cross on Golgotha hill?

(Jn 19:19-22) Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (20) Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. (21) The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write ’The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." (22) Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

Pilate was poking fun at the Jews. He was being sarcastic. For, how could a man from Nazareth of the Gentiles be the king of the Jews. It was laughable and absurd.

When we look at the book of Acts we see that those who opposed the church dismissed it as "the Nazarene sect" (Acts 24:5). That was not meant as a compliment. You can well imagine that they said this phrase with sarcasm and scorn.

Among the Jews, then, you were an object of mockery and scorn if you came from Nazareth. People back then made fun of Nazarites just like many Americans today make fun of those from Appalachia or Canadians make fun of those from Newfoundland. Among the Jews, Nazarenes were considered outsiders. They definitely were not part of the in-crowd like those that lived in Jerusalem and Judea.

Why did Nazareth receive such bad press, even from people who lived there? Why did it have such a low reputation? The people of Nazareth suffered discrimination because many Roman soldiers, the army of occupation, lived in Galilee and Nazareth. The Nazarenes consorted with these Gentile soldiers and thus were looked down upon as being compromisers. In this light, the prophet Isaiah uses a phrase to describe Galilee that sounds quite prophetic. He calls it "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Is 9:1-3; cf Mt 4:15-16). It was a place of Gentiles and outsiders. It was a place of those who did not quite fit in, who did not really belong. It was a place of outcasts.

Matthew starts his Gospel with the claim that Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham, and the Son of God. Matthew starts off this way because of Jews who did not believe in Jesus, who denied His divine origin because they knew of His humble human family. In response to them Matthew shows Jesus is the Emmanuel, God with us, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. In response to them Matthew shows that Jesus can trace His lineage back to the family tree of David and Abraham.

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