By Pamela Palmer, Crosswalk.com
The town of Nazareth is mentioned in the New Testament Gospel accounts and the book of Acts. What makes Nazareth significant is that, as Scripture tells, it was the childhood hometown of Jesus. Jesus certainly made this otherwise unimportant village highly significant.
During Jesus’ time, Nazareth was a small settlement located in Galilee, which was a region in Israel. From Scripture, we know very little about Nazareth other than it was a small and humble community. Archeologists, based on many excavations and findings, have discovered that there was mainly a Jewish community that lived in Nazareth. This is consistent with what is found in Scripture, which tells that Nazareth is where Jesus grew up.
Nazareth: Jesus’ Homeplace
Jesus was raised in Nazareth, and this is a significant piece of information regarding Jesus’ life and story. His humble upbringing was consistent with the humility Jesus demonstrated during His life and ministry. It is mentioned in numerous places in Scripture that Jesus was indeed from Nazareth. He was often referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth.”
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38).
There are many references in the New Testament that affirm Nazareth was Jesus’ childhood homeplace. Nazareth was a small community, not near any major roads, so it likely did not get many travelers or visitors. It would have had just the basics to sustain itself and the families who lived there. Nazareth was not an affluent place and even Philip, who went on to be a disciple of Jesus, remarked that nothing good came out of Nazareth (see John 1:46). This indicates it was a simple village with not much to be desired, nor would it have anything of worth or importance to entice visitors. Yet the life of Jesus forever changed how Nazareth would be seen and remembered.
We learn from the Gospels that Jesus did go back to Nazareth during his years of ministry. It remained an important place to Him. Even when the Risen Christ encountered Saul on the road to Damascus, He referred to Himself as “Jesus of Nazareth” (see Acts 22:8). Though others did not think much of Jesus’ hometown, He was not ashamed of His modest roots and upbringing.
Scripture Verses That Mention Nazareth
Scholars believe that Nazareth was an insignificant settlement in Galilee. Nazareth is mentioned throughout the Gospels and in the book of Acts; however, it is not cited in the Old Testament. That is likely because most of the Old Testament narratives were based in Judea and other areas.
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a branch will bear fruit" (Isaiah 11:1).
Some theologians have theorized that Isaiah’s prophecy in the 11th chapter reference Nazareth as the hometown of the coming Messiah. This is because the word “branch” in Hebrew has the same root word as Nazareth. This may make sense of what Matthew’s Gospel says when it teaches that the prophets predicted that the Messiah would come from Nazareth (see Matthew 2:23). Matthew was able to glean even more from this prophecy in Isaiah with the knowledge of where Jesus was from.
We do find in the New Testament an assortment of clear references to Nazareth and its connection to the life of Jesus.
"The crowds answered, 'This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee'” (Matthew 21:11).
"At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan" (Mark 1:9).
"In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee" (Luke 1:26).
"When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth" (Luke 2:39).
"They told him, 'Jesus of Nazareth is passing by'” (Luke 18:37).
"Philip found Nathanael and told him, 'We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph'” (John 1:45).
Book of Acts
"People of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know" (Acts 2:22).
"Then Peter said, 'Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk'” (Acts 3:6).
"Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed" (Acts 4:10).
"For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us” (Acts 6:14).
"'Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied" (Acts 22:8).
Modern Day Nazareth
Today, Galilee, the region in which Nazareth was located, is within northern Israel and southern Lebanon. Nazareth still exists and is a major city with a large population. Most people who reside there are either Christian or Muslim. In the mid-1800s Europeans declared Nazareth to be a holy site, which led its growth into what it is today.
Nazareth is a trade center and draws in tourists from around the world because it is the hometown of Jesus. Many people, tourism groups, or churches will visit Nazareth as part of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There are unique sites to see while in Nazareth, such as Mary’s Well, markets, historical buildings, and long-standing churches. It is a flourishing place that many desire to see and visit as they seek to connect with Jesus and where He was when He walked this earth.
A Small Town That Is Part of a Big Story
From Scripture, little is known or told about Nazareth. It is mentioned only in reference to Jesus and His childhood. There is not much information about the life that Jesus lived while He grew up there either. Fortunately, historians, archeologists, and theologians that have helped provide a fuller picture of Nazareth and what we can know about it.
Nazareth was a small area. Jesus’ humble roots in Nazareth are consistent with the humility He demonstrated throughout His life, ministry, and ultimately, His obedience and willingness to give up His life. Though others may not have thought Nazareth was a worthy place, Jesus was not ashamed of where He grew up and acknowledged His childhood home.
It was a small Jewish community during Jesus’ time, yet now has become a major hub in Israel. Tourists from all over the world visit Nazareth each year. Many are Christians who are longing to see the Holy Land and walk the streets and towns where Jesus resided and visited during His life.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Massimo Borchi/Atlantide Phototravel
Pamela Palmer is a writer, speaker, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces devotionals and faith resources to inspire keeping faith at the center of life. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of others. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is the author of Living a Deeper Faith: Nurture Your Relationship with God and Live a Faith-Fueled Life. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com, and you can follow her at upheldlife.com or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.
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