Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? (John2. 46)

Nathaniel asked the question; “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” 

Let’s look at the context: 

The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He *found Philip. And Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip *found Nathanael and *said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip *said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He *said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:43-51 

As you can see Nazareth is a backwater town in which nothing much happened.  Nathaniel certainly knew his Bible, that the Town Nazareth is not found in the Old Testament and no prophet came from this town.   

(The quotations I have used in much of the next sections are taken from Spurgeon’s writings:

Spurgeon reminds us of a verse that was to do with the arrest of St Paul:

“For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. Acts 24:5”

Spurgeon continues:

“Thus, it appears that our Lord and Master is called a Nazarene, and his disciples are styled “the sect of the Nazarenes,” while Christian doctrine was called by the Jews the heresy of the Nazarenes.

     Our Saviour, though actually born at Bethlehem, was commonly known as Jesus of Nazareth, because Nazareth was the place where he was brought up. There he remained with his reputed father in the carpenter’s shop until the time of his showing unto the people. This Nazareth was a place very much despised. It was a small country town, and the people were rough and rustic. They were some three days’ distance from Jerusalem, where I suppose the Jews thought that everything that was learned and polite could be found, as we are apt to think of our own city, or of Oxford, and Cambridge, and other seats of learning. The people of Nazareth were the boors of Galilee, the clowns of the country.”

Although Matthew puts ‘prophets’ in the plural Spurgeon gives us a messianic text from Isaiah with reference to the first verse but for context I will quote a little bit more:

“1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,

And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,

The spirit of wisdom and understanding,

The spirit of counsel and strength,

The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

3 And He will delight in the fear of the LORD,

And He will not judge by what His eyes see,

Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;

4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor,

And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;

And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,

And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.

5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,

And faithfulness the belt about His waist.

6 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,

And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,

And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

And a little boy will lead them.

7 Also the cow and the bear will graze,

Their young will lie down together,

And the lion will eat straw like the ox. Isaiah 11:1-7”

As we continue looking at verse 1; “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1)

The word branch here is translated from נֵצֶר netser.  Originally before the birth of the Masoretic text Hebrew was written without vowels so what you have is “ntzt= NaZaReth”.  Spurgeon and I think correctly sees a reference to the Messiah who would be a descendant of King David. This is why I quoted from the longer passage because the passage is obviously Messianic.

Concerning Jesse’s line and king David we have the following quotation from St Pauls first missionary journey:

“After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’ 23 From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, Acts 13:22-23”

This line of thaouyght about Jesus being a branch of King David is found.  There are other references in the Old Testament but I think this is sufficient to show the importance of Jesus as the Messiah from the Old Testament.  Even to the time of Spurgeon someone from Nazareth was looked down on:

Spurgeon continues:

“As Nazarene was a term of contempt in the olden times, so it has continued to be. The apostate emperor Julian was wont always to call our Lord the Galilean; and when he died, in his agony of death, he cried, “O Galilean, thou hast vanquished me.” He was obliged to confess our Lord’s supremacy, though he still showed his contempt by calling him the Galilean. The Jews to this day, when they feel wroth against our Christ, are wont to call him the Nazarene.

     Nazarene is not at all the same word as Nazarite. It is a different word in the Hebrew, and you must not confound the two. Never suppose that when you say, “He shall be called a Nazarene,” that it signifies that he was called a Nazarite. Nazarite among the Jews would have been a title of honour, but Nazarene is simply a name of contempt. A late traveller tells us that he had a Mahometan guide through Palestine, and whenever they came to a village that was very dirty, very poor, and inhabited by professed Christians, he always said, “These are not Moslems; they are netza,” or “Nazarenes,” throwing all the spite he possibly could into the word, as if he could not have uttered a more contemptuous term. To this day, then, our Lord has the name of the Nazarene affixed to him by those who reject him, and to this day Christians are called among (Muslims), Nazarenes.

     Our Lord Jesus Christ was never ashamed of this name: in fact, he called himself “Jesus of Nazareth” after he had risen from the dead. He told Paul when he smote him to the earth, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom thou persecutest.” His disciples were not ashamed to call him by that name; for as they walked to Emmaus, and he joined them, and asked them what they were speaking of, they said they were talking of Jesus of Nazareth. This is a name at which devils tremble, for they besought him, even Jesus of Nazareth, that they should not be sent into the deep when he cast them out. It was the name which in contempt was nailed above his head upon the cross— “Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews.” Oh, but it is a glorious name, as I shall have to show ere I have done. But still this is the meaning of it— the meaning of Matthew when he says that the prophets declared that he should be called a Nazarene. He meant that the prophets have described the Messiah as one that would be despised and rejected of men. They spoke of him as a great prince and conqueror when they described his second coming; but they set forth his first coming when they spoke of him as a root out of a dry ground without form or comeliness, who when he should be seen would have no beauty that men should desire him. The prophets said that he would be called by a despicable title, and it was so, for his countrymen called him a Nazarene.”

So, Jesus was spoken of with a ‘despicable’ title.  Nazarene was a title of contempt but for believers the shame of the cross is full of glory and honour for the Christian.


Before I continue with this reflection, we need to be reminded that we are called to love everyone no matter what their background.  We are called to love Muslims, Jews, other Christians, Hindu’s, atheists and all the varieties found in the human race.  We are in this blog talking about Jesus the Nazarene. 

On reflection anyone claiming to be something special from Nazareth would be looked on with contempt.  This is exactly what the Old Testament expected from the Messiah in his first coming.  Spurgeon in this particular piece of writing gives us three collecting points:

  1. First, then, our Master, the Nazarene, was despised, and is despised even to this day.
  2. secondly, our other text informs us that Christ’s followers have been known as the sect of the Nazarenes
  3. there is, after all, nothing despicable in either Christ or his people.

So, then we know that Jesus is the Son of God in his birth and what followed even in the small print of the Old Testament, we find what sort of person the Messiah was going to be. Our Lord would be despised and rejected and killed on our behalf.  This is only Half the story as the Old Testament as well as the New Testament would show his glorious return as the real Judge and king of Israel, the Church and the world. 

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