Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
You know that moment when you’re so excited about something you can hardly stand yourself? You’re practically bursting to share the good news with anyone who will listen—It’s a boy! I got the job. She said “Yes.” Enter Philip and the first disciples. They’re excited. They’re telling everyone. And wouldn’t you if you had just met the answer to everyone’s hopes and dreams?
But Nathanael isn’t impressed—at least not yet. His response says it all.
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
Nazareth had a reputation, and it wasn’t the kind anyone wanted. It went something like this: Nazareth Is for Losers. It wasn’t important, it wasn’t inspiring, it wasn’t hip, it wasn’t anything. Can anything good come from Nazareth?
It’s a fair question. I think we all have our own moments of asking Nathanael’s question in some way or another.
I know I have. It may be a disappointment, or a divorce, a failure, a misstep, or perhaps even parts of yourself where you can’t help but ask Could anything good really come from this?
I hear this question surface over and over again, especially in our Small Groups that meet weekly throughout the community. It isn’t always phrased in those exact words but it’s there, and I always get excited when I hear it—not because I enjoy other people’s pain, but because it’s real.
Because I know the question so well and continue to ask it myself…
Because it’s the first step towards honesty and the kind of raw vulnerability that can bring true change.
Now, here’s what’s amazing to me. Jesus has identified with and embraced that question. He took the Nazareth title.
Think about that for a moment.
He wasn’t known as “Jesus of Jerusalem,” the epicenter of religious importance and home to the Temple. He wasn’t called “Jesus of Rome,” the seat of power. He was “Jesus of Nazareth.” And not only did Jesus embrace this title, He seemed to willingly wear it as a badge of honor, as if to say
This is my mission. This is why I came—to embrace every place of poor reputation, dead dreams, and pain, and make it my home. I came to transform what you’re most embarrassed about and want to hide into the birthplace of something brand new, something you can be proud to tell others about.
Indeed, the sign fixed to the cross and hanging over Jesus’ head in three different languages for the world to see read: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. (Jn 19:19) No doubt it was meant to add insult to injury, but something tells me Jesus didn’t see it that way.
Because it’s the very places about which we wonder, from which we’re not expecting much, where a death has crushed and ridiculed our hope that are the places Jesus loves to call home and make ready a resurrection. He is Jesus of everything in our lives we would call “insignificant,” “worthless,” “no good.” He is Jesus of Nazareth.