Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.
Nazareth is about 146 kilometres north of Jerusalem, with Bethlehem lying some 10kms further south beyond the city. The small, little-known town was set in the h i l l s o f l o w e r G a l i l e e . I t w a s approximately 60 acres in area at the time of Jesus’ childhood, and had a population of about 500 people. It was some 25 kilometres from the Sea of Galilee and 10 kilometres from the nearest trade route. It had a single well with a weak supply of water in the centre of the village. All in all it was insignificant and was omitted from any of the historical writings of the time. The nearest large town of significance was Sepphoris which was the capital of Judea until AD 20.
Nazareth was not just the starting place for Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. Jesus and his family returned there from their years in Egypt and He grew up there. He is often referred to as Jesus of Nazareth. This was part of the inscription Pilate placed on the Cross above His head: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
Matthew brings to his readers’ notice that the prophesied Messiah would ‘be called a Nazarene’ (Matthew 2:23). Whilst there is no Old Testament prophecy stating this, John also linked Jesus to fulfilled prophecies made by Moses and the prophets (John 1:45-46) when he reported Philip telling Nathaniel they had found the One about whom Moses and the prophets wrote. Nathaniel was quick to dismiss the small town: “Can anything good come from there?”
Scripture does not record the route Mary and Joseph took as they travelled to Bethlehem. It is unlikely they travelled directly south as that route was both mountainous and traversed Samaria. Whilst the pictures of Mary show her on a donkey, there is no mention of an animal in the Gospels, and it is probable she would have walked. So a mountainous route would have been a challenge at that stage in her pregnancy. In addition, it was not common for Jews to travel through Samaria as there was conflict between the two peoples. It is more likely, say scholars, that Mary and Joseph took the longer but easier route following the Jordan River valley. This would have added about 30 kilometres to their journey. So at an average of approximately 20-30 kilometres a day, the trip would have taken them about 5-7 days, bearing in mind they would not have walked on the Sabbath.
Archaeological digs beneath the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth have revealed that it was an agricultural community. Shards of pottery found there date it as far back as 900 BC to the Iron Age. Several Jewish tombs have been found in the environment, including four that had been sealed with stones rolled across their entrances, in the same way the romb in Gethsemane was sealed.. Today, Nazareth has a population of just over 74 000, and is predominantly Muslim
Think back to your childhood home. What memories do you have of it? How did it influence who you have become today?
What does the fact that Jesus and His family came from an insignificant town say about who God is to you?
What does the simple background of Jesus say about who He is to you?
The name Nazareth links to the word ‘branch’ which the prophet Isaiah used in regard to God’s promise of hope to restore Israel. How do you think God has fulfilled (or is fulfilling) that promise?
Jesus’ link to Nazareth brought power and hope into people’s lives. Where do you need power and hope today? Tell God about it and ask Him to provide you with what you need.
Who do you know who needs power and hope in their lives? How can you be a channel of such power and hope for them today? Ask God to show you if you are not sure and follow His lead
Archaeological Study Bible, NIV, The Zondervan Corporation, 2005