He Will Be Called A Nazarene
Key Verse 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.’”
Read verses 1-12.
We really do not know who these wise men were. The Bible refrains from telling us where their home might be and what their names were. What we are told is that they came from the East. We do not know whether they were Chaldeans or Arabians or Persians. And we also do not know how they had learned to expect the coming of Christ the Savior. Whether they had learned it from the ten tribes of Israel who had been scattered all over the world, or from the prophet Daniel’s prophesies. It really doesn’t matter who they were. The most important thing about them is what we can learn from what they did.
These verses reveal so many wondrous things to us. They show us that there may be servants of the living God in so many places we do not expect to find them. The Lord Jesus has so many “hidden servants”, like these wise men. Their history in this world may be as obscure as that of the high priest Melchizedek whom the Bible says so little about. Or of Jethro, the man who helped Moses in a most difficult situation, or even Job, that mysterious man of God whose origins are also unknown. But these wise men’s names are written in the Book of life, and they will be found with Christ on the day of his Coming Kingdom. We should know this in our hearts, that there are such people in this world whom no one knows much about, yet who are most important and vital to God’s history. We should never think that there are no such great servants of God in this or that place. You never know where and how and through whom the grace of God works to raise and to serve his purpose. So many are born and raised in obscure places and have no name. But like the wise men they are doing the work God called them to do. There are so many the church has no idea who they are and where they’re from. But they grow and blossom in hidden places according to God’s wisdom, and Christ loves them and seeks them as they love Christ and seek him.
There is something else these verses reveal to us, that is not always those who spiritually privileged who give Christ the Lord most honor. You might have thought that the Priests and the Scribes and the Pharisees would be the first to rush to Bethlehem as soon as the slightest rumor that the Savior was born. But that did not happen. What happened is that a few obscure strangers from a far away land were the first to honor him, other than the shepherds to whom the angels announced his birth. That’s what John the apostle tells us: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:11) What a sorry picture this is of the decadent human nature. And how often this happens even among us who have been most spiritually privileged of all. How often it is that the very person who is closest to the God’s abundant grace is the very person who most neglects it! Have you thought about that? It is true! The nearer the person or church to God, the further from him they are. We easily forget how privileged we are! We easily forget the grace of God that looms over our hearts and lives. When we become too content with God’s grace, it becomes easy eventually to despise them. That is when we have begun to take them for granted. What I am saying is that there are many who because they are so privileged should be the first to worship God and to honor his Christ, and yet they are always the last to do so. And there are many whom you expect to be the last to do so, who are always the first. Shouldn’t those who were supposedly nearest to God have rushed to welcome and to worship the Christ. Why then didn’t they, while those who were not expected like the Magi were the first! Are you spiritually privileged? Are you the first or the last to honor him?
There is something else these verses reveal to us. They reveal that one may know the Bible in one’s head and have no grace in one’s heart. Sometimes people wonder what we are talking about when we mention head knowledge versus heart knowledge. But this is it! This is a case of head knowledge where the priests and Pharisees and even the people knew that they Savior would be born in Bethlehem, but they had nothing in their hearts. They knew, but they never pursued him. There was no urgency in their hearts to see him, to be drawn to him, to worship him. They knew in their heads that the Christ was born in Bethlehem, but their hearts were cold to him and distant from him. Head knowledge should lead to heart knowledge, otherwise it is useless knowledge, and even dangerous! What’s in your heart? Does it pine for Christ? Or is your head just satisfied with knowledge but doesn’t urge you to see him up close? The Bible tells us that “When [king Herod] had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.” The Bible also tells us that from their answer, they had the accurate Bible knowledge and understanding about where the Christ was to be born. But they never went to Bethlehem to seek the coming Savior. Later on, they did not believe in him when he ministered among them. Their heads were far better than their hearts. You and I should be very careful about having head knowledge alone. It’s good to have it. But it must go down into our hearts or else it’s no good. Many can have lots of it, and still perish in their sins. What’s in my heart? That’s a question I should always be asking myself after each Bible study, after each sermon I hear.
There is again something else that these verses tell us. They show us a great example of what spiritual commitment and devotion is all about. These Magi or wise men must went through a lot of trouble to travel from their homes in the east all the way to the house where the Lord Jesus was. How many tiresome miles they must have travelled! Can you imagine their exhaustion? We cannot possibly understand their pains while we live and travel in this our generation. The journey was not only exhausting but long and full of perils. But none of these things bothered them or deterred them from making their long journey. Why? Because they had set their hearts on worshiping him. And they never rested until they saw him. They never gave up. They never complained. There’s a saying: Where there’s a will there’s a way, and this well describes their commitment and their devotion to the Lord. And this is what God expects of all professing Christians who claim to believe in Christ and to follow him. In this we have to ask the question: Where is our self denial? What are we willing to go through in our devotion to him? What commitment do we have in our service to him? These are very serious questions, and they deserve our serious consideration.
These verses also show us another thing. They show us a remarkable example of faith and what faith is all about. These wise men believed in Christ even when they had never seen him. But that was not all! They believed in him when the Pharisees and the priests didn’t. And that’s not all either. They believed in him when they saw him as nothing but a little child on his mother Mary’s knees. And they worshiped him as a King and Savior. This indeed was the crowning point of their faith! And what remarkable faith they had! They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no sermons and teachings from his lips to encourage them to believe. They saw no signs of divinity and greatness to convict them. What they saw was nothing more than a child, helpless and weak, and in need of his mother’s care like any other child one might see. And yet when they saw him, they believed that they saw the divine Savior of the world. And they “Bowed down and worshiped him”. There is no greater faith than that in the whole Bible. It is the kind of faith that deserves to be placed side by side with the repentant thief on the cross. The thief saw Jesus on the cross, dying like a common criminal. And yet, he prayed to him and called him Lord, and asked him to take him to heaven to be with him. Likewise, the wise men saw a child on the lap of his poor mother, and yet they worshiped him and confessed that the was the Christ. How blessed are they who would believe in the same manner! This is the kind of faith that God would honor with all his heart. We need to have this kind of faith not only in believing in him, but in trusting him and serving him with all our hearts as our King and Savior.
Read verses 13-23
These verses show us how true it is that the rulers and authorities of this world are seldom friendly to God, to Christ and to the gospel cause. The Lord Jesus, the One and Only Son of God comes down from heaven to save sinners, and immediately we are told that king Herod wanted to kill him. He was called Herod the great. But there was nothing great about him. Human greatness is so fickle and deceptive. Money and riches are deceptive. Authority and power are deceptive. People usually don’t know how dangerous it is to be entrusted with riches and with greatness in this world. Everyone seems to want them. But not many know how perilous it is to be given them. People wonder what it would be like to gain riches and to have prominence in this world. Other lament not having them and envy those who do. Surprisingly, even Christians think this way! Even Christians pursue them! Btu the truth is that they are a great danger to the soul. Once the soul has them, that soul sinks into all kinds of moral turpitude and that soul loses itself to the wiles of evil. Better not have them at all and be content with the blessing of poverty and anonymity and be godly and righteous, rather than to have them and find oneself in hell. Does a Christian man or woman envy the rich and the great? They need be very careful what they wish for. Like Herod, they might also fall into all kinds of wickedness and cruelty. Remember what the Hebrew author told us: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)
Let no one think that the gospel cause depends on the power and support and the investment of those in high power and authority. Such things and such people have rarely done much to advance the gospel and the name of Christ our Lord. More often they have been enemies of the truth. Many are those who are like Herod. And few are those who are like king David who are friendly to God and to his cause in the world.
These verses we just read also tell us something else. They tell us how the Lord Jesus was a man of sorrow even from his birth. The trouble began the moment he was born and came into this world. His life was in danger from Herod and his hatred of the Lord. His mother Mary and step father Joseph were forced to take him and run away to Egypt at night. This would be a foreshadow of all his experiences in this world. His humiliation and suffering began to weigh him down even when he was a child. And that is why Jesus is the right Savior for all who sorrow and are suffering in this world. They need him so! He knows what we mean when we tell him in our prayers of our troubles. He understands. He sympathizes with us when we cry out to him when we suffer injustice or when things become unbearable. No one should stay away from him at their time of suffering, for he is truly a friend for those who suffer. He was born in it and to it.
There’s another thing. Consider how death removes the kings of this world like it does all other men. Even the most powerful rulers of this world, when the time comes, they too die. Even the murderer of the innocent children of Bethlehem himself dies, and then he had to face God’s judgment. And when Joseph and Mary hear the news of this cruel man’s death, they once again return to their own land. The high and mighty might inflict unspeakable suffering. But the Christian should know that the time of such persecution and hardship comes to an end at some point. The enemies of Christ and his church many be strong and we may be weak. But no Christian should be afraid. We should remember that God is the Judge and these people’s time will surely come to an end. I know that this is little comfort for the Christian who is suffering at the time at the hands of these enemies of God. But still, it should be a comfort to know that no wicked act, no evil and no enmity with God will some day go unpunished. Sometimes it is punished even when evil doers are still alive. But the worse terror is still in store for the likes of Herod upon his sure death.
There’s another thing to consider here. The place where the son of God dwelled teaches us what true humility is; what it’s all about. He lived in a town called Nazareth when he grew up in this world. Nazareth was a small town in the province of Galilee. It was really an obscure retired village in the land of Israel, mentioned not even once in the in the Old Testament. Almost everyone knows where Hebron is or where Jericho is. But no one knew much about Nazareth. Even one of the first disciples mocks it when another disciple tells him they had found the Messiah, saying: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” God Almighty by passed all the great cities and towns of Israel to settle his Son in a place called Nazareth. This is what it is to be humble. This is true humility. Our God is humble.
In Nazareth, our Lord lived almost thirty years before he emerged as the Messiah. It was there that he grew up from childhood to boyhood, and from boyhood to youth and then to manhood. We don’t know much about what he did and how he might have lived during those thirty years. But we know that during that time, he was under Joseph and Mary’s supervision and obeyed them as a son ought to obey his godly parents. (Luke 2:41) He certainly may have also worked in his step father’s carpenter store, learning the trade and sharing in the family’s sustenance. We only know that almost five sixth of his life on earth was lived in Nazareth, that obscure and despised part of the world. In Nazareth he shared in the humiliation of being one of the inhabitants of Nazareth. Later he was known as Jesus the Nazarene. It may seem as if it is a title given him marking where he was from. But in reality it was an offensive and demeaning term given to those from there. This indeed is humility. Our Lord is truly humble.
We can all take a lesson in wisdom from the Lord himself. Most of us are ever so ready to seek great things. We are far to ready to want to be associated with the notable and the distinguished. Rather we should not seek them at all. Listen to what the Lord says. “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.” (Jeremiah 45:5) To have a place and a title and a position in society is not as important as people make it look. It is a sin to be covetous of such things, an it is a sin to be proud of it as well. But it is not a sin to be poor and obscure and unknown in this world of woe. It really doesn’t matter what you have, and it doesn’t matter where you live, but it does matter who you are in the sight of God, and what direction is your life taking. Do you live for riches and glory or do you live for the Lord. Do you have worldly materials or influence, or do you have a heart that pines for the Lord and seeks to please him! Where will you and I end up is far more important than who we are in this world and what we have. And we want to end up in the hand of God’s grace and destined for his kingdom. So this is what we should be concerned with this in this world. And more than anything else, we need to imitate our Lord’s humility at this time of year. It’s a good prayer topic for this Christmas. Blessings on you.