Jesus the Nazarene: Matthew 2:19-23
“22) But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23) and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Matthew‬ ‭2:22-23‬
We now have a unique twist of events. As Joseph was returning from Egypt, God warned not to go the the region of Judea, instead he picked the city of Nazareth in the region of Galilee.
This proved providential in many ways. First, as John 7:48-52 indicates, the religious leaders were thrown off in their viewing Jesus as being from Galilee. They missed His prophetic birth in Bethlehem of Judea.
Second, over 15 times the gospels refer to Him as “Jesus the Nazarene.” Many other times He is identified as being from the region of Galilee. At the time of the New Testament the land was divided into three regions. Judea was in the south. Samaria was in the middle. And Galilee was in the north.
When Israel was divided in the Old Testament into two Kingdoms, Judah was in the south and Israel was in the north. Separate kings ruled over each area. Because Jerusalem was the capital of Judah, it was home to the temple and generally held better loyalty to God.
Note, that the Messiah was prophesied as being from the tribe of Judah. With Jesus growing up in Nazareth, He was from the region originally given to the tribe of Naphtali. This was typically looked upon as being a sinful area with more gentile influence.
Third, the cultural influence on Jesus growing up near Nazareth meant that He was considered a commoner. He was at home with country folks without the legalism or pious Pharisee shadow that resided in and around Jerusalem. Everything from His accent to His dress style labeled Him a Nazarene. Though He was born in Bethlehem of Judea, He was the cultural byproduct of Nazareth of Galilee.
Finally, in one sense this is a beautiful picture of God trying to bring the two kingdoms back together. In another sense, it smelled of tension and rivalry from centuries of conflict and even war between Judah and the northern kingdom. It guaranteed that Jesus would never be welcomed or respected by the religious elite that ruled Jerusalem.
God often uses common and ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. Being born in a manger in Bethlehem was the most humble of beginnings in Judah. Being raised in Nazareth meant He came from the most common and humble region of Galilee.
A careful reading of 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 can be applied to “Jesus the Nazarene.” The title was by no means meant as a complement. A modern title from US culture could be rendered “Jesus the Hillbilly.” Jesus was in every human way very common and ordinary.
Never look down on your social, economic, ethnic or cultural status. God chooses those who are small in their own eyes to accomplish great things. God wants the glory for the mighty things He accomplishes through people. The smaller your view of yourself the bigger God can shine through you.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global