Nazareth could be the Biblical counterpart to Caldwell although Jesus, its prestigious resident, had nothing to do with presidents and was actually born miles away thanks to a census which compelled His parents to take a temporary leave from their hometown. Matthew records that Joseph and Mary eventually returned to Nazareth (Mt. 2:23; Lk. 2:39, 51-52) and Jesus grew up there (Lk. 4:16) giving Him the name, Jesus of Nazareth (Mt. 21:11; Mk. 10:47; Jn. 18:5,7; Acts 2:22; 3:6; 10:38). Neal May wrote, “It was only the fact that Jesus spent the early years of His life in Nazareth that gives the town its status of interest. Aside from this, it is only mentioned once in Scripture… The one time it is addressed, aside from the fact that it served as Jesus’ hometown, it is addressed with a noticeably sarcastic tone (Jn. 1:45-46).” It is not really clear from Scripture why Nazareth was viewed with such disdain in Jesus’ day, but by the time of Constantine (A. D. 324-37) it had become a revered site in Christendom so much so that when Joseph of Tiberius appealed to the emperor for funds to build a church there it was granted.
So why is Nazareth such a big deal and why do the Gospel writers make a point in telling us Jesus’ association with it? The answer begins with Isaiah who wrote, “A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse and a branch from his roots will bear fruit” (Is. 11:1). Nazareth and the shoot of Is. 11:1 share the same Hebrew root word- and that’s what it means, root! A netzor is a unique botanical term. Have you ever seen a gardener trim a bush down to the ground in the Fall and thought, “That’s the end of that bush!” only to see it send up shoots in the Spring? That’s a netzor. The plant appears to be dead and suddenly life springs up from its roots. Nazareth is “Root Town” as my one professor used to say. But Who is this Root that Isaiah speaks of? He is a descendant of Jesse according to the prophet and our first thought is that it might be Jesse’s most famous son, David. But like that flattened bush, David’s descendants all but disappeared when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was carried off into exile (2 Ki. 25:8-21). However all that changed when an angel appeared to a young woman in Nazareth whose lineage was in the line of David (Lk. 1:26-35; although not mentioned by name, this is Mary’s lineage- compare Mt. 1:1-16 which is Joseph’s) and announced to her that she would bear God’s Son (Lk. 1:26-35). Likewise, when Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb after His crucifixion, His life appeared to be cut short as well. But we all know what happened after that (Jn, 20)!
It appears that when Jesus began His ministry He was not accepted in Nazareth (Lk. 4:16-24). Perhaps it was due to the familiarity of watching Him grow up but Bible historians have noted that Nazarites had the expectation that the Messiah would come from their midst. So their disbelief resulted in Jesus’ departure (Mt. 13:53-58). However by the time that Paul was brought up on charges of insurrection before the Roman governor Felix, Jesus’ followers had become known as “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:1-5). In spite of His rejection by the people of Nazareth, it is this town Pilate associates with Jesus upon His death (Jn. 19:19-22). And while its place in Christendom was slow to catch on, today it is visited continuously by Christians from all over the world.
It has become fashionable to trace one’s roots these days. Some methods, like DNA testing, make it fairly easy to find out “where you come from”. But while our genetic make-up can be interesting and revealing the Bible is not really concerned about our genealogical roots. Rather it is concerned about where our roots take hold. Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus (a city many miles from “Root Town”!) that it was his prayer for them to be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17). The source of that love is Christ’s love which is almost beyond understanding (vv. 18-19). While there are a number of benefits to knowing your family’s roots, knowing the love of Christ and connecting your roots to Him (like a tree which sends its roots down to a subterranean water source) has eternal benefits (Ps. 1:1-3; Jn. 4:13-14; 7:37-38; 15:5). Your physical roots may be from Hometown, USA or the country where you live, but where are your spiritual roots? Be sure they are connected to The Netzor. His family tree is everlasting.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 11/12/2017