Jesus and Nazareth: A Prophet Without Honor In His Own Hometown
Updated: Jul 31, 2020
By Amir Tsarfati
We're standing, right now, overlooking Nazareth of today. It's important that you understand this is an Arab city today. It's actually the capital of the Arabs who live in Israel and their political parties are all located here. If you are one of the leaders of the Arab community which is about 20% of the Israeli population then Nazareth is, of course, a very important place. But one has to ask himself why Nazareth is even mentioned in the Bible and, certainly, when it was mentioned in the Bible it wasn't an Arab city.
As a side note, I will just tell you that just recently we found a stone, I just tweeted that today, we found a stone from the 1st century BC with the inscription in Hebrew “Yerushalayim”, Jerusalem. The reason why I'm saying that is because this country, these cities, and those names, were all Jewish and they were all part of the people of Israel way before Islam was born and Arabs even had anything to do with this place. In fact, I'll take you all the way to the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah, the Prophet, if you remember received from the king the decree and the approval to take material and some workers and go to rebuild what?
First, the city, the walls, and the temple, and may I say something? Who saw him on the way when he walked? The Ammonites and the Arabs. And what did they say? What are you doing? You can’t do it. Why are you going to that desolate place? Why? What is it that you're so much into this place? The Bible says in Nehemiah chapter 2 verse 19, “When Sanballat the Horinite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arabian, heard of it, they laughed at us to scorn and despised us and, they said What is this thing that you're doing? Will you rebel against the king?” They thought going to build Jerusalem is a rebellion against the king. They didn't understand that actually the King allowed Nehemiah because he realized this is part of Nehemiah’s DNA.
Nehemiah's face was so sad that the only thing that the king could do to help Nehemiah get back to his joy is what? All right, go and rebuild but just don't forget to come back. We need you here. Look at what Nehemiah said to the Arab, the Ammonite, and the Horinite, “Then I answered them and I said to them, The God of heaven himself will prosper us; therefore, we his servants will arise and build: but you, he says to the Arabs, you have no heritage, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.”
Wow, that's in the Bible. The Bible says that it is within the DNA of the Jewish people to return to their land. When they were away, look at Daniel he was longing, he was counting the hours. Look at Nehemiah, he was sad, his face was fallen. So, it's interesting how the Lord is bringing the people back to their land and all the people around are laughing at them thinking, hey, what are you doing? This is not legal. What is the legal paper that Nehemiah's is basically waving with? The Lord, the Lord, he's the one who will prosper us and you, you don't even care about this land.
You don't have any heritage, any memorial, any right, you have nothing. So, you'll never be able to understand our hearts. You'll never be able to understand why we're here. So, we put back Nehemiah’s verses right now. So, we understand, more or less, that the land was the land of Israel, of course, and the people of Israel had the longing to be here and live here. Now, we're looking at a very big and bustling city and by the way, this is the largest Arab city. You're talking about more than forty thousand people that live here. Now I know it's not that big in some terms of other cities around the world but it's very big here and that's a big metropolis. It's just ninety percent Muslim right now.
You see mosques everywhere. But I want you to know that at the time of Jesus it was a small, tiny, little, insignificant Jewish village. So insignificant that Josephus Flavius who wrote a list of all the important Galilean cities and villages he didn't even mention it. That is why we shouldn't be surprised that Nathaniel of Cana says, can anything good come out of Nazareth? That little place with few people? There's a little spring here by the way. The spring enabled the people to live here. But I want to take you back now to the things that Jesus said about himself. Jesus said that he came to fulfill all that was written in the law, the Psalms, and the prophets concerning him.
I want you to wet your finger right now and go all the way to the prophet Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah chapter 11and by the way chapter 11 of Isaiah is almost repeated, at least the beginning of it, later on in chapter 61. But I want you to know these are definitely messianic verses. Isaiah in chapter 11:1 says the following thing, listen to this, “And there shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” The Hebrew word for the branch is netzer, and in your Hebrew Bible, remember I gave each and every one of you a Hebrew English Bible?
If you open Isaiah 11, when you reach the word branch, you will find the word netzer which is the root for Nazareth, Hebrew Nezeret. Nazareth bore the name of the branch. The branch was Nazareth. In other words, he had to have been brought up, not born but brought up right here. He was called Jesus of Nazareth, not Jesus of Bethlehem. He had to be born in Bethlehem. Why? Because Micah said that Messiah should be born in Bethlehem. He had to be born there also because he was of, what right the tribe? The tribe of Judah. He had to return, they had to return to that place where they came from originally.
So, the Lion of the tribe of Judah was born in the tribe of Judah but he was from Nazareth. He grew up right here. At that time Nazareth was a small tiny little village but Isaiah the prophet said that from the family of Jesse, the father of David, from the house of David, there is going to come a branch. Now that branch is not just a branch of a plant, it's someone. By the way, the bible many times speaks of one thing that represents something different. Sometimes it's one thing that represents a human thing.
Can you give me an example of a thing that is not human that represents human? The Antichrist. Remember? Daniel says there will be a beast, there will be a big monster with ten horns. Remember? And one will grow out of the ten, 3 were plucked out, one will grow out. He will speak pompous words.
In other words, it's a human person that is being represented in that form. And that branch, look what the Bible says about the branch, “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. He delights in the fear of the Lord and he shall not judge by the sight of his eyes nor decide by the hearing of his ears but with righteousness he shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.”
And that's where we stop because regarding the second coming of Jesus, “He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.” That's his second coming, that's what he said. I came first, the first coming is to save the world. The second one will be for the judgment, of course.
So, Isaiah already gave us a hint that he had to come from a place and that place is Nazareth. Nazareth is bearing the word and the name: branch, netzer Nazareth. It’s this interesting thing because that's Isaiah 11. If you go all the way after that to Isaiah 61:1, the same exact words are now in first person, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; he sent me to heal the brokenhearted to proclaim liberty to the captives.”
We see that all which Isaiah said that Messiah is going to be, now in Isaiah 61, 50 chapters later, we see that it is in the first person. Now, why is it so critical? Because in the Gospel of Luke in chapter 4, look at what happened. So, Jesus, in verse 16, came to Nazareth and he grew up here. He worked here, he played here, he had his childhood here and then he started working as a carpenter with his dad. At the time there were other big cities that were built around such as Sepphoris and they worked probably there.
But then once he started his ministry, he left. Sometimes ministry takes you out. Sometimes following the Lord takes you away from your father and mother. I mean, think about Abraham that he had to be taken out of his land from a father and mother and everything to a place God was showing him.
But, in this case, Jesus returned. The Bible said, he came back to Nazareth and as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. So, when you stand up in the synagogue, you read; when you sit down, you teach. Remember that. So, he stood up to read and guess what he read from? They say that the attendant gave him the scroll. Nobody owned a Bible in those days. All the scrolls were inside a closet like some sort of an ark that was situated on the main wall facing Jerusalem.
The attendant gave him the scroll and Jesus opened the scroll. The Bible says, in the scroll of the book it is written about me. Not in a book that you have a leather cover like mine. So, Jesus opening, bang, he's reading from Isaiah 61.
Look, the Bible says, and when he had opened the book he found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because he had anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he had sent me to heal the brokenhearted to proclaim liberty to the captives; recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are ; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
He didn't stop, he didn't, excuse me, he did not continue here about the vengeance of the Lord and about him coming to destroy with the breath because that's not yet what he came for.
Look what happened after he closed the book. Closing the book in those days is not closing the book like this but it's taking the two sides of the scrolls and closing it back. He gave it back to the attendant and he sat down.
Now, what happens when Jesus sits down? He is expected to teach. So, the Bible says, “And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on him.” Can you imagine?
Now if it wasn't anything important after he was done reading, they would have gone back to do whatever they wanted, gossip, eat, and say what are you doing, my son is a doctor, my son is a professor, my son is a lawyer, da da da. No. Everybody was fascinated and their eyes were fixed on him.
Everybody knows he's about to say something and look at what he said. He said to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” What scripture? Messianic scripture. What is it? Fulfilled. When? Today. How? You just heard; I am the one of whom Isaiah was talking.
Now, many of you have the wrong understanding of why the Jews reject Jesus. In fact, 90% of you, maybe even more, believe that the Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah. This is not true. He just told them, I'm the Messiah and you would think that, right now, because he said “today these things are fulfilled in your hearing” what is the next thing that they should do? Grab him and execute him.
Look what they did, “So all bore witness to him and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth and they said is this not Joseph's son?” In other words, they didn't have a problem.
He was in one of those buildings, right here. Of course, the center was right over there where that church is today. See the church with the black cones over there? You see that's the Church of the Annunciation. Right here there's a big building with windows in the heart of the city and there's a church with black cones right there. This is the church dedicated to Mary, called the Church of Annunciation where the Archangel announced the birth of Christ to Mary before and that's the ancient part of this place.
We found the ancient part of Nazareth. We found a spring and we found a building which we suspect might have been the synagogue. But you can't tell it’s a synagogue anymore as today it’s a bustling marketplace.
But I want you to know that Jesus was not confronted by the people when he said, I am the one of whom Isaiah speaks. He actually was liked by them. Isn’t that interesting? Now, now comes the point of why they rejected him and what was it that bothered them with him.
I need you to hear it very carefully because it concerns almost all of you. Okay? So, Jesus is looking at them and you know Jesus knows what you think. I don't know if you know but he knows. Everything that runs through your mind right now, at this moment, even the bad thoughts that you just had right now about me, he knows.
Oh, he speaks too loud, oh, he speaks too much, oh, it too hot we're toasting here, whatever, he knows. He knew what ran through their minds right then and the thing that ran through their mind was: this is a nice guy but enough with the words, we want to see some miracles here.
So, Jesus says, “You will surely say this proverb to me, physician heal yourself. Whatever we've heard done in Capernaum do also here in your country.” In other words, I know what you think. If I heal the sick, the blind, and the lame and then resurrect someone, you probably want me to do it here. I'm jack-in-the-box.
Well, I've got bad news for you, that's not the point. The point is this and now, hear me carefully, “He said to them, I tell you truly,” when Jesus says, I tell you truly, you better listen. I'm about to tell you (in other words God is speaking to you right now because Jesus is God, okay?
So, God is speaking now. Will God ever use Confucius or Buddha's teachings? Will he ever use that? No. Don't ever use those people to try to explain God's Word. If you want to explain God's Word, use God's Word.
So, Jesus is telling them, “Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah when the heavens were shut up three years and six months and there was a great famine throughout all the land but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and then he was sent to a woman who was a widow and many lepers were in Israel at the time of Elisha, the prophet, but none of them was cleansed except Naman, the Assyrian.”
Okay, what is he basically saying? He's basically saying this, guys, salvation is not by affiliation. You can be part of Israel but it doesn't mean that God is only going to heal widows from Israel.
You can be part of Israel but it doesn't mean that God is only going to heal lepers from amongst Israel. There was a lady with faith in the area of Sidon and to her, Jesus went and to her, Elisha went if you remember.
There was a guy called name Naman, he was Assyrian and he was a leper and to him, Elisha went. In other words, your birth certificate with the word Jewish there means nothing regarding your salvation.
What I'm trying to tell you now, all of you everywhere, is if you were born to a family that bears the name Christian (I don’t know, Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal, whatever) it means nothing. You're not saved. Salvation is not by affiliation. You cannot go to heaven because your mom or dad belong to a specific clan.
We're not castes here and this is not India where they believe that there's nothing you can do.
I will go even further. Check very carefully some Christian teachings regarding election because I don't believe that God predestined people to hell. I don't believe that. I believe that God knows, in his foreknowledge, who will choose and who will not, yes. But everyone has free choice that’s what makes a man so special in the eyes of God.
He has the ability to choose; he's not a robot. So here, Jesus is telling proud and arrogant people, you're nice but I am not going to be your clown here. You are not going to see some show here. There are no tickets for a miracle night here today.
If you want to be saved, you have to believe. There's only one way, one truth, and one life. It's interesting because at that moment when they heard that they're not that special when they heard that salvation is not by affiliation, what happened? What did they do to him? They dragged him out of the synagogue. Listen, 15 families, everybody knows everyone. His best friends were part of it. They dragged him out of the city, up to the hill and they were about to execute him.
Do you understand what I am saying? Publicly execute one of their best friends. Why? Because he dared to expose the bitter truth that you cannot be born and born again. You have to be born again, to be a born again. That’s it. Birth in the flesh means nothing to the kingdom of God.
Your name, now I will say something that might sound weird to you. The minute you were conceived, not born (conceived because you know you were already alive when you were conceived) your name was what? Written in the Book of Life, that's it.
Every clinic that is killing anything that is not coming out of the womb is basically making an intervention in the way God intended things to be. They blot them out. They just erase them from the Book of Life.
Nobody on planet earth has the right to blot out somebody's name from the Book of Life, but God. But I want to tell you something, Jesus is telling them, okay, there is a Book of Life but for your own sake (and what I can tell you for your own sake) if you want to make it to eternity you need to have your name not just written in the Book of Life, it has to be written in the Lamb's Book of Life.
By the way, in the Lamb's Book of Life, I have a revelation for all of you, no one can ever blot out your name from it. Well, wait a minute, what if I'm dead? You'll resurrect. Death means nothing. The minute you decide to believe in Jesus and the minute you have been born again, your name is now moved to that agency that makes the passports for heaven.
Your name is now added to that database and that's it. It cannot be erased forever and ever. So, the fact that you were born and your name is in this Book of Life, doesn't mean necessarily that your name is going to be in the Lamb's Book of Life. There has to be another birth on the way to make it possible.
Right here, he told them to their face, it's not enough to just be a Jew. It's nice, you've got a lot of privileges. Paul says that to the Jews, many advantages, great. But it is to the Jews that Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life no one can come to the Father but through me.”
It is appointed upon man to once die but then comes the resurrection and then comes the trial and the judgment. The only way to escape the judgment is if your name is in the Book of the Lamb, the Lamb's Book of Life.
You know that in heaven there are many books. The Bible says that when John made it to heaven, the books were opened. I'm trying to think what books. How do they look? Are they scrolls? I wonder how my name looks like? I wonder what it has next to it?
By the way, you're hearing an F16 right now flying right above us. Right behind us is the airbase where we take off as we do stuff but we don't do anything right now. I talked to them so they know there's a Bible study.
The bottom line, folks, is this. (horn – thank you) The lesson we have is that you need to choose. By the way, they were about to execute Jesus. Could they? They could have. Did they? No, because he just walked through them.
By the way, he didn't accuse them nor punish them. He realized that they were blinded. They could not see it. Even to the point of the cross where he said on the cross, Father, forgive them. They really don't know what they're doing.
How sad it is that so many Gentiles go to church, they hear the truth, they hear the word of God, every day, every week, every month, every year. They know, they have the knowledge but they don't have the zeal whereas the Jews have the zeal but they don't have the knowledge.
As Romans says, they try to establish their own righteousness. So, today I pray with all of us together let us not try to establish our own righteousness. Yes, these are routine flights by the way. Let us not try to establish our own righteousness. It'll never work. We have to believe in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. We have to first acknowledge the fact that we are sinners, that we need a Savior, that being Jews is not enough, that being Catholics is not enough, that being Orthodox is not enough. Even if you were a Muslim, I have bad news or good news for you, it's not enough.
Any religion you may belong to will never be enough. You have to believe in Jesus. He's the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father but through him. Today I extend, once again, that invitation to all of you to accept him because you don't want to find out that your name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life.
The books will be opened and when the books are opened is to make sure, to see, whose name is there. When we come to heaven with our passports, it's because it's a matching name to what is already in the Lamb's Book of Life. We want to make it and we want to do it.
Time is short, the day is at hand and we are the generation that is seeing everything. I can't believe we're in Nazareth, the Israeli flag is flying, and the F16s are in the sky. You saw yesterday Syria and Lebanon, you're going to see Jerusalem, you're going to see Masada you're going to see the Dead Sea, and you're going to see so many places.
Israel is back in the land. Nehemiah was right. The God of heaven, he will prosper us and all the others, they have no right, they have no memorial, and they have no heritage in this land. They may claim to have but they don't. God, eventually, is the one who has the last word.
Father, we thank you for your Word. We thank you for being able to stand with hope and awe to see and behold the city of Nazareth and understand that it's not a coincidence that it's called Nazareth. It is related to the person who grew up here, the Netzer, the Branch, the one who came to set the captives free, to open the blind people’s eyes, to make the lame walk, the one who is the light of the world.
Today, we ask that if there is anything in our lives that is still stopping us from fully embracing him as our Lord and Savior, anything that is keeping us from having our name written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Today, Father, we ask because as we hear the airplanes and as we hear the things that are happening around the world, the days are short and we know that our gathering to be with you is very, very, near.
So, we ask in the name of Jesus to be found faithful all the way to the end, in Jesus's name. Amen.