Matthew 2:23 [Mary, Joseph and Jesus] went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
After Herod died, the family moved back to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. The word Nazarene does not appear in the Old Testament, nor is the town of Nazareth even mentioned. So why did Matthew say the prophets foretold that Jesus would be called a Nazarene?
Years ago I lived in a city with a suburb that people liked to joke about. It is a factory town without a reputation for wealth or refinement. People make fun of it, and imitate the accent of those who live there. And if you happen to be from there, people will chuckle behind your back. Nazareth was not much different.
To be from Nazareth meant that you were despised, and this what the prophets foretold about the Messiah. He would be despised by the people (Psalm 22:6), despised and abhorred (Isaiah 49:7), despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3). So when Nathanael heard about Jesus of Nazareth he said, Can anything good come from there? (John 1:46). Being despised and being from Nazareth were essentially the same. [H]e would be called a Nazarene.
Matthew 4:12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.
After John the Baptist was imprisoned, for criticizing King Herod Antipas (Matthew 14:3-4), Jesus moved about eighty miles north of Jerusalem, to Galilee, where he carried out much of his ministry. This was according to God’s plan as foretold by the prophet Isaiah. Galilee of the nations . . . . The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Matthew 4:15-16, Isaiah 9:1-2).
The prophets not only foretold that Christ would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), but that he would spend time in Egypt (Matthew 2:15, Hosea 11:1), and minister in Galilee, as well as in Jerusalem (Malachi 3:1). This prophetic foresight is remarkable, and assures us that the ultimate author of Scripture is God.
Galilee was called a place of darkness because it was far away from the temple in Jerusalem, and was home to so many Gentiles. But that is where the light of Christ shone brightly. As always, the gospel came as a gift to people who did not deserve it (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Matthew 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
Jesus began his preaching ministry with a call to repentance. Repentance does not mean punishing yourself, or feeling bad about yourself. It is simply a change of mind that leads to a change in direction. I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds (Acts 26:20), said Paul.
A group of mountain climbers made it to the top of Mount Everest, and then began their journey down. A storm reduced their visibility to almost zero, so they decided to camp. The sky was clear in the morning, and when they looked to the south, they discovered they were one step away from a thousand foot drop. Repentance is waking up to the danger we face, and changing our direction.
Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus looked at his crowd of followers, he saw many who were trampled down by life, and described them as poor in spirit. The phrase occurs only here in the Bible, and means dispirited, discouraged and defeated. Jesus was not teaching that sorrow is a virtue, but that even through misery Christians are blessed, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Those who describe the Christian life as uniformly joyful represent it badly. The night of his arrest Jesus said, My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Matthew 26:38). The burdens of life would be absolutely crushing if not for the kingdom of heaven. But if the kingdom is real to us, our burdens will not destroy us, because our glorious future is just ahead. In spite of heavy burdens, believers are blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
The world mourns over things that are lost: lost family, lost friends, lost love, lost health, lost fortunes, lost youth, lost jobs, lost innocence, lost reputations, lost pets, and anything else that can be lost. Sometimes the mourning is so deep that we look for comfort wherever we can find it: the liquor store, the pharmacy, the internet, or in the arms of a stranger. But Jesus wants us to know that we can find comfort in God.
For the Lord comforts his people (Isaiah 49:13). As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you (Isaiah 66:13). I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow (Jeremiah 31:13). And, the God of all comfort . . . comforts us in all our troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), wrote Paul. Our deepest knowledge of God does not come from happiness alone, but from the comfort he provides in times of sorrow.
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
One of the Bible’s best promises to earthlings is that we will inherit the earth. The earth was made for people, and people were made from the earth (Genesis 2:7). Earth is our natural habitat. That is why many people want little more than a small plot of land they can call their own. But others want it too, and nations go to war for it.
One of the saddest chapters in Israel’s history was their defeat by the Babylonians. Families were forced to leave their homes and live in a foreign land. Likewise, many are forced to leave their homes today because they cannot pay the rent. But this won’t always be the case. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity (Psalm 37:10-11), wrote David.
A nice couple in their sixties was building their dream home, and looking forward to retirement. Their children were grown, and now it was time for them. Hours of dreaming and choosing went into the project, but half way through she died. And just before it was finished, he also died.
That is the problem with living in a fallen world. Even if you get a little piece of paradise, you cannot hold onto it. But the time is coming when The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever (Psalm 37:29), wrote David. We will not have to fight for it, work for it, or be afraid of losing it. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Reflection and Review
Why is it important to repent?
How does Christ comfort us?
What is your perfect dream house?