Nazareth is a large, bustling city. Not at all the Nazareth of Jesus’ day. But to stand where Jesus might have stood; just to be in Nazareth was breathtaking. I stood on a 4th century byzantine tile floor and looked into the area where Mary very possibly could have been told of her calling to be the Mother of Jesus Christ – God in human form. I can’t help but think of Mary’s response of obedience in Luke 1. I look at the steps that she might have climbed many times and think how she could have paused on those very steps after the angel brought the news and wondered how her life was about to change.
In Nazareth I also sat in a small synagogue, much like the synagogue where Jesus may have been when He spoke to the people who had watched Him grow up. Read it in Luke 4:16-24. I always pictured in my mind a large synagogue and yet I learned something that has forever changed my thought process on this moment recorded in scripture and many others. Nazareth was a small town where people knew one another very well. Children played together in the streets, families worshipped together, and everyone knew each other’s business. When Jesus returned to His home town and began to read from the scroll of Isaiah, He would have been in a very small synagogue like the one we stood in. He could have looked every single person in the eye as He read the prophecy of Isaiah. He could have laid His hand on the shoulders of the friends of His earthly father Joseph as He closed the scroll and told them that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies. He could also easily feel the tension in such a small room as He sadly told them in vs 24 the “no prophet is welcome in their hometown”. I could feel the event in my very soul as we sat in that small rock synagogue.
So many things have come to my mind during this visit to Nazareth, but two things have pulled at my heart. First, Mary was so young and could have made the choice of unbelief or denial. She could have surrendered to fear or to anger at how God was changing the perfectly good plan she already had in motion for her life. There are so many choices Mary could have made but she chose to be obedient. Because of her choice, my faith system was born. She became a vital part of the light that changed the world. Luke 1:46-55 resonates in my soul. Even though this was actually when Mary visits Elizabeth and was not in this area at all, it opens Mary’s heart and soul to me. Oh how I want to have Mary’s attitude when I am called to do something for my God.
Second, the small town of Nazareth has become much more important to me and my understanding of myself. I get it, I grew up in a small town. The reality of this simple, heavy, beautiful stone synagogue continues to sink in even weeks after our return from this trip. Jesus was just the carpenter’s son. They had seen Him as a baby and watched Him grow. Just another kid in the neighborhood. When He returned to explain that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy it was certainly not received very positively. Sometimes the hardest people to witness to, to share Christ with, are the ones that I have known the longest. He gets me! Jesus understands because He experienced it too. God sacrificed to come to this earth in human form so that I could confidently come to Him knowing that He could relate to my frustrations and fears. He has walked in the shoes of human creation. He cheers us on. He guides from experience and love. I don’t have a Savior who is so holy and so separated from me that He cannot identify with me. I have a Savior who loved me so much that He became human and walked in my shoes so that our relationship could be real, true, identifiable, and honest. He guides me from experience and out of love. I could write words of praise for eternity and never say enough to express my gratitude for His love for me.