************ Sermon on Matthew 2:23 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on January 30, 2005


Matthew 2:19-23
Matthew 2:23
"Jesus of Nazareth"

I Contemptible Nazareth
A Jesus moved from Bethlehem in Judea to Nazareth in Galilee – with a stopover in Egypt.

Saying you are from Nazareth is a bit like saying you live in Goshen or Orosi – you aren't living in a place known for its class or appeal. That is the clear teaching of the Bible itself.

For instance, Philip was all excited when he was first called to follow Jesus. Philip went and found Nathanael and said to 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." Do you remember Nathanael's response? "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (Jn 1:43-46). Keep in mind that Nathanael himself came from Nazareth.

Another time the Pharisees challenged Jesus' supporters and followers with these words: "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee" (Jn 7:52). In other words, Jesus cannot possibly be a true prophet if He comes from Galilee.

When Jesus first started His ministry people were torn between believing Him or rejecting Him:
(Jn 7:40-44) On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." (41) Others said, "He is the Christ." Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? (42) Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" (43) Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. (44) Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
In other words, Jesus cannot possibly be the Messiah because He comes from Galilee.

Not only that, but do you remember what words were tacked to the cross on Golgotha hill?
(Jn 19:19-22) Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (20) Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. (21) The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." (22) Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."
Pilate was poking fun of the Jews. He was being sarcastic. For, how could a man from Nazareth – of all places – be the king of the Jews. It was laughable and absurd.

When we look at the book of Acts we see that those who opposed the church dismissed it as "the Nazarene sect" (Acts 24:5). That was not meant as a compliment. You can well imagine that they said this phrase with sarcasm and scorn.

Among the Jews, then, you were an object of mockery and scorn if you came from Nazareth. People back then made fun of Nazarites just like many Americans today make fun of those from Appalachia or Canadians make fun of those from Newfoundland. Among the Jews, Nazarites were considered outsiders. They definitely were not part of the in-crowd like those that lived in Jerusalem and Judea.

Why did Nazareth receive such bad press – even from people who lived there? Why did it have such a low reputation? The people of Nazareth stuck out or struck out because of their unpolished dialect, lack of culture, and measure of impiety and moral laxity. Furthermore, many enemy or Roman soldiers lived in Galilee and Nazareth. The Nazarites consorted with these Gentile soldiers and thus were looked down upon as being compromisers. In this light, the prophet Isaiah uses a phrase to describe Galilee that sounds quite prophetic. He calls it "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Is 9:1-3; cf Mt 4:15-16). It was a place of Gentiles and outsiders. It was a place of those who did not quite fit in, who did not really belong. It was a place of outcasts.

B Matthew starts his Gospel with the claim that Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham, and the Son of God. Matthew starts off this way because of Jews who did not believe in Jesus – Jews who denied His divine origin because they knew of His humble human family. In response to them Matthew shows Jesus is the Emmanuel – the God with us – Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. In response to them Matthew shows that Jesus can trace His lineage back to the family tree of David and Abraham.

In chapter 2 Matthew admits that Jesus comes from Nazareth. Matthew says this because the same opponents of Jesus also refused to believe in Jesus because He was from Nazareth of Galilee.

In this morning's passage Matthew responds to them. He lets them (and us) know that it was no accident that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee. In fact, it was part of God's salvation plan that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee.
(Mt 2:23) and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

We see three geographical destinations in our Scripture reading, each more specific than the one before. First, the angel of the Lord told Joseph it was safe to return "to the land of Israel" (vs 20). Second, Joseph is warned in a dream not to live in Judea so he withdrew "to the district of Galilee" (vs 22). Third, Joseph went and lived "in a town called Nazareth" (vs 23). The same God Who had planned the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem of Judea also planned His growing up years and the start of His ministry in Nazareth of Galilee. "So was fulfilled," writes Matthew in our text, "what was said through the prophets: 'He will be called a Nazarene.'"

In fact, when we look through the Gospels and the book of Acts we see the title "Jesus of Nazareth" used 15 different times. As far as Jesus and Peter and Paul and the early church was concerned, this was a badge of honor; it was not a title expressing sarcasm and jest.

You know, if the Jews of Jesus' day had carefully read the Old Testament Scriptures they would have realized that Nazareth had an important place in Messianic prophecy and an important role to play in Messianic ministry. It was Isaiah the prophet who predicted this. I want to quote a passage from Isaiah that Matthew quotes at the start of Jesus' ministry (cf Mt 4:15-17):
(Is 9:1-3) Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-- (2) The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (3) You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.
Do you hear what Isaiah said? God, in the Messiah, "will honor Galilee of the Gentiles." And, He did this by having Jesus grow up there and start His ministry there.
(Mt 2:23) and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

II Nazareth of the Gentiles
A Now, why was it so important that Christ Jesus end up in Nazareth of Galilee? Why did God make this part of His plan for our salvation? What was the point?

We need to realize that Matthew sees progression and fulfillment in the history of salvation.

The angel told Joseph that "those who were trying to take the child's life are dead" (vs 20). This is almost a word-for-word repetition in the Greek of what the Lord had said to Moses in Midian:
(Ex 4:19) Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, "Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead."
Just as the death of Pharaoh freed Moses to begin his mission of leading God's people to the Promised Land, so the death of Herod enables Jesus to return to the place of His mission in the Promised Land. What we see is that Jesus is fulfilling Israel's salvation history under Moses.

But we can say more than this. Just as Israel went to Egypt for safety, so Jesus went to Egypt for safety. And, just as Moses escaped the death of Israel's sons in Egypt, so Jesus escaped the death of Israel's sons in Bethlehem. And, just as Israel was called to leave Egypt, so Jesus was called out of Egypt. And, just as Israel wandered around the desert for years before beginning its mission in the Promised Land, so Jesus did not begin His mission until He spent 40 days in the wilderness. In Jesus we see the fulfillment of Israel's salvation history.

B Matthew tells us that Jesus living in Nazareth is also the fulfillment of salvation history.
(Mt 2:23) and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."
Yet, when we look through the Old Testament we do not find the words of this prophecy at all; we don't even find a close resemblance. Yet, Matthew says salvation history is being fulfilled. To understand this we need to realize that the Jews thought of the Messiah as the son of David, as the branch of David, as the shoot of Jesse. In other words, the Messiah is a Jewish Messiah, someone Whose rule benefits Israel and makes Jerusalem the center of the earth.

However, as Matthew reminds us in chapter 1, the Messiah is also the son of Abraham. What does this mean? This means the Messiah, in fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham, is also the One through Whom "all people on earth will be blessed" (Gen 12:3). Messiah Jesus, in other words, is not just meant for Israel and the Jews. Messiah Jesus is also meant for the Gentiles.

In this light consider that Jesus' hometown – according to the plan of God – is Nazareth. Jesus' hometown – according to the plan of God – is Nazareth of the Gentiles.

In Matthew's Gospel, who were the first ones to pay homage to the Messiah, the King of the Jews? The first ones to pay homage to the newborn King were Magi, Gentiles from the East. In other words, outsiders and aliens and outcasts. Who were the first ones to pay homage in Luke's Gospel? The first ones to pay homage to the newborn King were shepherds. In other words, outsiders and aliens and outcasts. Near the beginning of John's Gospel we see a Samaritan woman being one of the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. In other words, an outsider and alien and outcast.

By the plan of God Jesus was raised in Nazareth of the Gentiles – as a message, a statement, that He came for outsiders and aliens and outcasts.
Topic: Salvation
Subtopic: Only Through Christ
Index: 3117
Date: 7/1990.11
Title:

Many years ago the Prince of Wales visited the capital city of India. A formidable barrier had been set up to keep back the masses of people who wanted to catch a glimpse of royalty. When the prince arrived, he shook hands with some of the political dignitaries who were presented to him. Then, looking over their heads to the crowds beyond, he said, "Take down those barriers!" They were quickly removed, and all the people, regardless of social rank, had free access to the heir of the British empire. Some time later when the prince came to that district again, 10,000 outcasts waited under a banner inscribed with these words: "The Prince of the Outcasts."
What a great description of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Prince and Savior of the outcasts.
(Mt 2:23) and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

Salvation history is being fulfilled in Christ. God's covenant promise to Abraham is finally being fulfilled. As Isaiah put it,
(Mt 4:16) the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Who are the people living in darkness? Who are those living in the land of the shadow of death? It is those living in Galilee of the Gentiles, Nazareth of the Gentiles. It is all those who are outsiders and aliens and outcasts. In Christ, "many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 8:11).

C We need to realize that in God's sight all of us – because of our sin and misery – are also outsiders and aliens and outcasts. We are exactly like those in Nazareth of the Gentiles. Christ has come for us just as He came for the sons of David. Christ has come for us just as He came for those in Nazareth.

The question you and I must now answer is this: how do we respond to Jesus, the Messiah, the son of Abraham? I ask that because when we look ahead in the Gospel of Matthew we see that many in Galilee and Nazareth had the same response to Jesus as those in Jerusalem – they rejected Him. Matthew tells us that after Jesus taught in the synagogue of Nazareth "they took offense at him" (Mt 13:57). The same thing happened in the other towns of Galilee:
(Mt 11:20-24) Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (21) "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (22) But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. (23) And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. (24) But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."
Korazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Nazareth were all cities of Galilee. These are the cities that Jesus – by the plan of God – was sent to. Yet, they all rejected Him. The Apostle John writes "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him" (Jn 1:11). How disappointing this must have been for the Lord.

In fact, when we look through the Gospels we see that the Magi, the shepherds, and the Samaritan woman were part of a very small group that did accept Him and believe in Him.

Is it any different today? The message of salvation is offered to all, but many reject Him or neglect Him. What about you and me? Are we part of the small group that accept and believe Jesus of Nazareth?

III Nazareth and Humiliation
Why was it so important that Christ Jesus end up in Nazareth of Galilee? Why did God make this part of His plan for our salvation? What was the point?
(Mt 2:23) and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

Don't forget, Nazareth was a despised town. Its people were outsiders and aliens and outcasts. Jesus grew up in this despised town; Jesus grew up being considered an outsider and alien and outcast. It was part of His humiliation. God became man, lived in Nazareth, and was crucified as a criminal. Isaiah writes:
(Is 53:3) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Don't forget why Christ suffered this humiliation and the humiliation of the cross and the grave. His humiliation was for our salvation and exaltation. His humiliation results in our joy.

Conclusion
By the plan of God, Christ lived in a town called Nazareth. As our text tells us:
(Mt 2:23) and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."
A place of outsiders and aliens and outcasts. So, right at the outset we see His mission to the lost. By the plan of God, Christ underwent the humiliation of living in Nazareth. So, right at the outset we see God's plan for our salvation.

The question, as I already said, is this: do we accept or reject Jesus of Nazareth?
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