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Nazareth: Growing Up a Carpenter’s Son

Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.

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“He went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ’He will be called a Nazarene’” (Matthew 2:23).

This is the second time Nazareth has been highlighted in our “Journeys with Jesus” series.

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There are a handful of places repeatedly mentioned in connection with Jesus’ life and ministry: Nazareth (where he grew up), Capernaum (the center of his Galilean ministry), Jericho (which he visited more than once), Bethany (where he loved to stay with his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus), Jerusalem (the center of Jewish life), and the temple itself (the center of Jewish worship). 

In this case we’re looking at Nazareth as Jesus’ boyhood home. It’s where he grew up as a carpenter’s son. The famous reading One Solitary Life begins this way:

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty

Nazareth was indeed an obscure village. Recently archeologists have discovered the remains of a home in Nazareth from the time of Jesus. Nazareth itself was evidently “a small hamlet with about 50 houses populated by poor Jews.”

One of those poor Jews was a carpenter named Joseph. He made his living with his hands, using tools like an ax, a chisel, and a saw. Most likely he was poor all his life. This means that Jesus grew up in a blue collar home. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. No doubt Joseph taught Jesus how spot a good piece of wood, how to measure it properly, how to make a good cut. I’m sure Jesus spent many hours learning at his father’s side. He knew what it was like to be raised in a poor family. It prepared him for later years when his message would spread like wildfire among the common people of Israel. They loved him because he was one of them. 

But his neighbors had no use for him.
They had him in the “Nazareth box,” but he wouldn’t stay there.

The people who said, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55) meant it as a slur, not compliment. Many of the people who knew Jesus best took him for granted.

The final tragedy is to know Jesus so well that you don’t know him at all. We must not make that mistake or we will be as guilty as the people of Nazareth who did not know that they had lived next door to the Savior of the world.

Lord Jesus, though you were rich beyond all imagination, you became poor so that you could live among us. Forgive me when I have taken you for granted. Open my eyes, Lord, to see you as you are, my Savior and my God. Amen.


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