Practicing the Better: Nazareth

​It is impossible to write about practicing the better in those people and places leading up to Jesus without noticing Nazareth. Jesus spent 90% of his life there, and was undoubtedly influenced by his home town.

In the larger context of Judaism, Nazareth was an obscure, nondescript, out-of-the-way village. “Peanuts” as far as the prominent and powerful of Israel were concerned, as seen in Natahaniel’s perjorative remark when Philip told him he had found the Messiah, who came from there (John 1:46).  From this we learn that practicing the better can happen even in allegedly insignificant locations. [1]

Nazareth was also the place of daily influence upon Jesus for thirty years!  Whatever he learned about practicing the better, he learned by watching his family and friends go about their business. I think it was in Nazareth where he learned “the holy value of one” (the phrase used by Michael Ramsey and featured in an early post in this series), and recognized the sacredness of little things.

I think Nazareth is the reason that Luke could summarize 90% of Jesus’ life in a natural, down-to-earth way, “The child grew up, and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him” (2:40).  It may well have been in Nazareth where Jesus learned, “Blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5)–the practice of the better.

[1] Teaching seminarians for over thirty years, I used Nazareth to remind them that there are no small churches or locations. There are only small clergy who fall prey to the “bigger is better” lie.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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