“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”John 1:46
For the last four days, we’ve looked at humility from a variety of angles, and most importantly, we’ve peered closely at the humility of Jesus. As we looked on Sunday and Monday, Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). A verse before Paul reminds us that Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6). I think many of us understand what Paul is saying conceptually, but we fail to understand what this actually looks like, even in the life of Jesus.
A “Thriving Metropolis”
As I reflected on the humility of Jesus, I turned to a statement out of the mouth of one of the disciples. In John 1:43–46, we read about Jesus calling Philip and Nathaniel. Jesus called Philip and then Philip found Nathaniel. Philip tells Nathaniel, “We have found him of who Moses in the Law and also the prophets, wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:43–45).
What an incredible discovery! Jews for generations had been waiting for their Messiah to come. And when he comes and he’s discovered by Philip, Nathaniel’s response is this: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The greatest possible news has reached you and you question whether anything good can come out of Nazareth. But Nathaniel’s not wrong to ask that question. You and I would probably ask a similar question. But why?
Nazareth was not a thriving metropolis. Nazareth was not a royal capital. Nazareth was what we would consider today something like a flyover state. You just wouldn’t go there unless you knew someone there, and no one who lived there would have been of significance. Yet Jesus was from Nazareth. That city is where he was raised and, up until the start of his ministry, where he lived and worked.
For almost all Jews, the expectation was for Jesus to reside in Jerusalem. Both the political and religious power resided there. But Jesus wasn’t looking for power; he already had it. As God, Jesus was and is omnipotent. However, he did not hold tight to the privilege of his divinity. Rather, he let go of the ability to exercise his omnipotence wholly. He emptied himself. He became like us.
The humility of Jesus is displayed in everything about him, including his hometown. Appearance suggests Jesus is a nobody from a nowhere town but notice what happens next: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’” (John 1:47–49).
Open Your Eyes
Jesus’ power, authority, and identity might be veiled to some because of his physical location, but upon encounter everything changes for Nathaniel. Jesus did something that only God could have done; he knew things about Nathaniel that no one else knew or could have known. In that encounter, the humble Jesus is revealed for who he truly is––the Messiah, the Son of God, God himself.
But the second coming will not be like the first coming. Jesus came in humility because he in fact is humble. But alongside his humble servanthood, he too is a divine king. While Jesus maintains his humility, he will come again in power and authority. The very attributes Israel was on the lookout for, Jesus will return with––“They will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26).
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Yes. Yes, it can. In humility, God himself came out of Nazareth. May we not miss what God has, is, and will do in, through, and around us . . . because it came out of Nazareth. Lift your head, open your eyes, and see the “Son of God” and “the King of Israel” (John 1:49). This Advent and Christmas season may we see the humble servant who came and anticipate the divine king who will return.