Something came up at the end of the sermon this weekend when the pastor was speaking on the last verse in his text, Matthew 2:13-23:“And they went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.” This is a bit of a difficult verse for a couple of reasons. First of all, try to find one prophet recorded saying that the Savior will be called a Nazarene in the Old Testament. It’s not there. (Well, some make the stretch that it sounds like the Hebrew word for “Branch” and is referring to Isa.11:1.)
My pastor said that the plural usage here is important: prophets. And then he started talking about this place called Nazareth.He called it a Podunk town. It’s such a no-name town that we never even see it mentioned in the entire Old Testament. That leads to another difficulty. There’s a line in an old Bruce Lee movie, Enter the Dragon, where ex-Shaolin student, now criminal mastermind Mr. Han tells African American activist/fighter, Williiams,
“Your style is unorthodox.”
Those words ring true here, where we have Jesus, the true Israel, called out of Egypt (Matt. 2:15, Hosea 11:1), to….Nowheresville? That is where the Savior of the World is going to spend four-fifths of his life on earth? It’s a bit unconventional. King Herod has slaughtered all the male babies in Bethlehem in a failed attempt to kill the true King Jesus. We see God’s sovereignty and faithfulness to save his people through his Son as Joseph is following the revelation given to him by an angel of the Lord, first out of Bethlehem, and then Egypt. With all this divine birth and divine intervention, we would expect the next place to be a pretty big deal.
The One who has been in exile moves on to be an even bigger nobody.“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46).You can almost hear the disdain. He might as well have said he came from a van down by the river. If you come from Nazareth, you “don’t amount to jack squat!” My pastor explained that Nazareth was used as smear word. Well we have heard something like that from the prophets.
“But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Ps. 22:6-8).
“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isa. 53:2-3).
“Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: ‘Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’”(Isa. 49:7)
My pastor pointed out that our Messiah is a humble servant, a lowly man. He reminded us that Jesus left the glory of heaven to live in Nazareth. Because he humbled himself, we can be assured that he ministers to us in our own lowly place. And we can be humble. Rachel wept and lamented over her children; things are not as they should be.
Pastor Vandelden preached that “the deliverer has come to hush our loud lamentation.”Christ is no longer in Podunksville. He is now sitting at the right hand of the father, constantly interceding on behalf of his people. We were reminded of one of the most glorious verses of the Bible, which not only describes the best city ever, but an end to our lamenting for the rest of eternity:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:1-4)
We like to think more of ourselves than we actually are. And if we were to narrate our own stories, we would be in important places, ones that aren’t equivalent to smear words, doing important things. But God’s style of sovereignty is a bit unorthodox, for us anyway. The poor in spirit are blessed, and so are those who mourn. God loves the broken, and as we were encouraged this Sunday, he is the great comforter.
Our pastor exhorted us to look to the One who was in exile, to bring our lamentations to him. He will comfort the mourning. And he will lead us to eternal holiness where everything will be made right. And we will dwell with him on the new heavens and the new earth.
*Originally published on January 5, 2015.