Nazareth was a place I really looked forward to visiting. I was ready to add depth to my understanding of the place where Jesus grew up as a child, lived and worked until he was around 30 years old. I experienced it though, acknowledging that it is a very different place now! In the time of Jesus, Nazareth was a very small village, apparently too small to be recorded for its significance. In John 1:46 Jesus has called Phillip to be a disciple, Phillip seeks the prophet Nathaniel to tell him he had found the Messiah, and Nathaniel’s reply is ‘can anything good come out of Nazareth’. We know now, that yes – the best thing that every came to this world, came from Nazareth! Praise God for his humble beginnings. He didn’t need fame and fortune, he came to give love and grace.
After an early departure from Tiberias, we arrived at Nazareth for an 8.30am tour of the ‘settlement’. They have reconstructed a Nazareth settlement, with rooms for a carpenters shop, outside sheep pen, people dressed up as ‘locals’, wine and olive presses, and terraces showing how they managed their gardens.
I considered Jospeh in the carpenters workshop, creating things from olive wood or similar, teaching Jesus the tricks of the trade. Plenty of dust would have been in the air, and I imaging Mary would periodically tell them to tidy up! I wonder what sort of things Jesus would have made, and imagine that his workmanship would have been second to none! I imagine he would have lovingly created beautiful yet useful pieces.
The images below are of a terraced section of a wine press where people would stamp the grapes, and the juice would collect. The mechanical wine press in the other photo, shows how they had stone weights to press the grapes. And then there was an olive press with a large stone which was turned by hand or maybe a donkey. At this press we considered how Jesus was ‘pressed’ for our sin. Without the pressing, there would be no reward from the fruit. This can also be a beautiful analogy for life – when we go through periods of pressing, there may be scars left, but there can also be beauty that comes from it. The “oil” that comes from our pressing, can be light or nourishment for someone else. The other thing to consider is when we are pressed, our Lord Jesus knows exactly what it feels like, and he is there with us to support, strengthen and walk with us through those times.
As we wandered through the settlement, we were shown how the original tools worked, and what the workshop might have looked like. We also saw how they coloured wool, spun it into thread and made woven mats. I loved the authenticity of this, and it was a real treat to walk through and have my imagination taken back to Jesus’ time.
At the end, we were led to a replica synagogue, which is a lot like the synagogue Jesus was found in as a child. He was often found listening to the Old Testament being read, and then most likely first spoke as a young person. Everyone was amazed at the teachings and wisdom that came from Jesus, wherever he went. In Luke 4, the story is told, after Jesus has been tempted in the wilderness, he returns to Nazareth, speaks in the synagogue, and everyone is amazed at first. After he speaks though, they become furious, drive him out of town and try to throw him off the cliff. Scripture says; “But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” From here he heads to Capernaum, to preach at the synagogue there.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.Luke 4:16-22
From such a humble beginning and family life in Nazareth, Jesus grows “in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people.” (Luke 2:52 NLT). Jesus did not need the pomp and magnificence of a palace nor did he need his father to be a synagogue priest or a teacher of the law, he didn’t need wealth or popularity, or status. The beauty of grace is shown here – he took our poverty to give us riches (spiritual richness), he took on humbleness so our worth can be restored. He took on a servant-heart so we could be Princes and Princesses. Unimaginable, never-ending grace!
Philippians 2:7 says He…”emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”