Monday, November 18, 2013

Can anything good come from Nazareth?

John 1:43  The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." 44  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." 46  Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." 47  When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" 48  Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." 49  Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" 50  Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these." 51  And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

The Arabic name for Nazareth is an-Nāira  ( الْنَاصِرَة), a town that is currently the largest city in the North District of Israel. In the time of Jesus, Nathanael is scornfully dismissive of this town, implying that little of value could be expected from it. Today this town generates controversy and tourism in equal measure. There are ongoing tensions between Christians and Muslims over a site where a nephew of Saladin is believed to be buried, and Christians from all over the world come in pilgrimage.

Of interest is that “Jesus of Nazareth” is the appellation assigned to Jesus the Christ by history – but this is mostly the history of the English translations of the Bible. The original Greek form is   "Jesus the Nazarēnos" or "Jesus theNazōraios” (Ναζωραος) better translated as Jesus the Nazarene.[1] Around 331 Eusebius records that the Christ was called a Nazoraean, and that in earlier centuries Christians, were once called Nazarenes.

So where do we go from here? One thought that strikes me is that we are all known by the places we come from – but we are not trapped by them! We can be more than the environment we were born into – and we can be more than whatever our home town becomes. We are first and foremost the children of God. And God sees us for what we can become, and not for where we come from.    

Last Sunday after Pentecost
56 Christ the King
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 341.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

[1] A Nazarene was an Israelite who had taken special vows of dedication to Yahweh whereby he abstained for a specified period of time from using alcohol and grape products, cutting his hair, and approaching corpses. At the end of the period he was required to immerse himself in water for cleansing.

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