April 1, 2020

Egypt to Nazareth Matthew 2:19-23

Joseph, like his patriarchal namesake, was a “dreamer”. Here in these four verses of scripture we read of a third, then a fourth directive dream. Joseph receives from the Lord. The third instructs him to go back to Israel. The fourth moves him and his young family on to the region of the Lower Galilee to a town called Nazareth. It was here that Jesus lived the next thirty years of his life, working as a carpenter side-by-side with his mentor Joseph. We can only imagine the conversations, the family meals, the fellowship with friends and neighbours, that helped shape the emerging Messiah.

Nazareth was, and in many ways still is, an inconsequential, nondescript town. Situated on a range of hills overlooking the Jezreel Valley, its only distinction was its proximity to international trade routes. It was a frontier town, out of the mainstream, and marked with a peculiar accent. Indeed Nazareth and Nazarenes were looked on with scorn by the Jewish world to the south of them. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” was a common slight. So even the moniker “Jesus of Nazareth” had a certain innuendo — yes he was from Nazareth, but he was also “from Nazareth”, not to be taken seriously. (It took more than a bit of getting used to be being called “Notzrim” when I and my family first moved to Jerusalem in 1981. I was often introduced by my Israeli friends to others as a “Notzri”. Not much good out of that town. I always felt slightly diminished). Nevertheless that’s where Jesus grew up, and that’s what makes Nazareth a name of honour to this day. He was “called a Nazarene”.