Mt 2:22,23 Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 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.”
People have different and sometimes extreme ideas about Scripture. One extreme is that it is full of mistakes and contradictions. It isn’t, it was inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16). The other extreme is that it should be perfectly understandable with no questions arising. It isn’t; it came through the channel of men. Now we say this today because our two verses produce a question. Where in the Old Testament does it say Jesus will be a Nazarene? The answer is that it doesn’t. Some commentators scuffle around this by saying that Nazareth sounds like ‘branch’ of Isa 11:1 but if it is Matthew would be using a word play and there seems no other indication of that. So somewhere in Jewish history some prophets, unknown to us, spoke of the Messiah coming from Nazareth.
Now the main thing we know of Nazareth is that it was a small town of no significance. It is not even mentioned in the Old Testament. Place names were important to the Jews because they were very conscious of their history, but Nazareth has no historical context. Even more, Nazareth is in Galilee in the north, far from Jerusalem. The fact of this being his home town was obviously well known (Mt 21:11, 26,71). Luke more than Matthew establishes Nazareth as Jesus’ home town (Lk 1:26, 2;4,39,51, 4:16). In choosing this as Jesus’ home location it is almost as if God is choosing the most obscure and isolated location in the land that He can for His Son’s earliest years.
If this is so, what does it say? First of all it confirms the whole tenor of the prophecies about the Messiah, that he would be of low estate and not highly esteemed (Psa 22:6, 69:8, Isa 49:7, 53:2,3 etc.). In no way does the Lord use the ways of the world – important image, advertising, big publicity – in bringing His Son to this world. Starting his life in a stable was clearly a pointer to this same thing. No big palace for the Son of God. In fact later on he would declare that he had no home (Mt 8:20).
Second, and flowing from this, is the clear indication that Jesus came to associate himself with the poor and needy. Perhaps a modern day equivalent of this would be Jesus being born in the slums of, say, India, because he wants to reach the beggars there. Everything we see of Jesus, as we read through the Gospels says he came to, and associated, with the poor, those so often referred to be the religious elite as ‘the sinners’. Tax collectors and prostitutes (Mt 21:31,32) knew that here was a man they could identify with. Can we identify with the big religious leaders of our day? Neither could the poor of Jesus’ day associate or identify with the Chief Priests, the Scribes or the Pharisees of the time. Religiosity has no meaning for such people; life is too hard. No, the place of God’s choosing for His Son to live in obscurity for nearly thirty years was a place that came to actually be despised (see Jn 1:45,46), just as Jesus himself so often associated with those in society who were despised.
So God sends His Son to start off his human life, born in a stable, on the run to Egypt, and then back to years of isolation while he grew up in Nazareth. It is an obscure verse with a questionable background, but that is exactly how God set up His Son. Like the disciples (Mt 24:1), we get impressed by big buildings, big organisations, and important people, but God isn’t! Nazareth is like a signpost to the nature of the Son and his work. It’s like God is warning us, don’t make human standards the standard by which you measure my Son and his work. Those values are false; you need to think again, for this is foundational in understanding God and His Son.