According to wikipedia, there are 359 towns in the state of Oklahoma that registered on the census of 2010. At the top of the list are Oklahoma City (nearly 1.6 million), Tulsa (nearly 400,000) and my hometown of Norman (over 110,000). Most anyone who is familiar with the state of Oklahoma would have at least HEARD of these three cities. However, as you move down the list of Oklahoma towns, you quickly digress into places almost no one (except maybe a storm chaser like Val Castor) has ever heard of.
Quick, tell me something about each of these towns: Ringwood, Achille, Tryon, Depew, or Stonewall. Anyone? Anything? I didn’t think so. Each of these towns range in size between 497-470 people.
At this point, you have to be wondering if I simply have way too much time on my hands. In the midst of a busy holiday season, why am I searching through 2010 census data? The reason is this: Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth . . . population – 480.
Can you imagine that? The Savior of the world grew up in a one dog town (and that dog was old and mean.) The One who would explain God in terms we could all understand, spent his adolescent years in an area so small that only a few families would make up the entire community.
Mary and Joseph were residents of the town of Nazareth before Jesus was ever born, but after His birth, they lived life apparently moving from place to place (Bethlehem to Egypt). However, by the time Jesus was a preschooler, God led them to move back to Israel, and through some sovereign direction, led them back to Nazareth in the region of Galilee. Hear the story of how that happened in Matthew 2:19-23:
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he 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.
It is possible that Joseph and Mary would have planned to raise Jesus in the region of Judea, a region of Israel with higher population and a better reputation. It would have been a weighty task to raise the Messiah. No doubt Joseph and Mary wanted to absolute best for their son, and might have assumed they needed to live nearer the capital city of Jerusalem for their child to assume His throne. However, God had other plans. God used the political climate of the day, and direction through a dream, to guide Joseph, Mary, and Jesus back to Nazareth.
Matthew mentions that Jesus’ hometown being Nazareth was “spoken by the prophets,” but this can be a confusing statement. There is no direct Old Testament prophecy that mentions the town of Nazareth. So how can Matthew see Jesus being called a “Nazarene” being a fulfillment of prophecy?
The answer is quite surprising. Though Jesus is never prophesized to be from Nazareth, many prophets indicated that Jesus would be despised and rejected. The reputation of the small town of Nazareth was so poor that being called a “Nazarene” was an insult of sorts, a demonstration of His humble nature. Instead of coming to the world with privilege, educated degrees, and earthly titles, Jesus came as a humble carpenter’s son from a town of less than 500. Instead of being from the big city, He was from Ringwood, or Depew, or Stonewall.
The Son of God who sits sovereign over space and time could have been born anywhere at anytime in history. He could have been raised in any environment and still been human. In His wisdom, Jesus chose to be raised in a town of 480 people. It was not an accident, God made it happen. This fact simply further drives home the point that Jesus came for all men and women.