“‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip.” (John 1:46, NIV)
Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” With these dismissive words Nathanael shrugged off Philip’s excited announcement that the Messiah, announced by Moses and the Old Testament prophets, at long last had come and was now in their midst (John 1:46). Nathanael’s question would have resonated with most of his contemporaries. Nazareth lay fifteen miles to the west of the Sea of Galilee, off a major highway—a sleepy little village lacking importance or stature. Surely nothing of significance would come from Nazareth. Yet, oddly, Jesus grew up in this village (Luke 2:39).
Matthew explicitly links the fact that Jesus hailed from Nazareth with the fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew says of Joseph, “He went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:23). What Matthew has in mind here is not entirely clear. No Old Testament passage exactly corresponds to this prediction. Perhaps Matthew’s reference is to the promised Branch that shall grow out of Jesse’s roots, spoken of by the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 11:1). In that case, Matthew is using a play on words, linking the Branch (Heb., nēser) to a resident of Nazareth (Gk., Nazaraios). What is clear is that Matthew links Jesus’ connection to Nazareth with the fulfillment of prophecy.
Like the insignificant town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born, Nazareth the town of His upbringing had no apparent claim to greatness. Yet from these small villages, and out of incredibly humble beginnings, came the King of kings whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. The circumstances of His birth reflect a divine paradigm that shows preference for the weak, the lowly, and the insignificant.
Can any good come from lowly Nazareth? Yes, indeed! In a paradox beyond comprehension, the greatest Good of all came from humble surroundings, becoming as it were poor so that we through His poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9)!