“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” That was the response of Nathanael when Philip told him that he, Andrew, and Peter had found the one of whom Moses and the prophets had written, Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:45-46). The one of whom Moses and the prophets had written would be the promised Messiah of God, and Nathanael could not believe that the Messiah could possibly come out of such an insignificant town as Nazareth. Nazareth is not even mentioned in the Old Testament. Surely the Messiah would come from a place of higher prominence, such as Jerusalem, and not from a place that not only was insignificant but also, in light of Nathanael’s question to Philip, did not possess a good reputation. The negative reputation of Nazareth is also confirmed later, in the book of Acts, where followers of Jesus are referred to derisively as Nazarenes (Acts 24:5).
So, why did Jesus come from Nazareth? Although His mother, Mary, and his earthly father, Joseph, were both from Nazareth, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But, early in Jesus’ life, Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt in order to escape the wrath of Herod, who had ordered the death of all male children two years old and younger (Matthew 2:13-14). When it was safe to return to Israel, Joseph did not go back to Bethlehem but traveled with his family to his hometown of Nazareth. According to Matthew, this was done to fulfill what the prophets had spoken, that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:19-23). But wait! Nazareth was not mentioned in the Old Testament. So, how is it that Jesus calling Nazareth His hometown was a fulfillment of prophecy?
In Isaiah 11:1, the Hebrew word neser appears. This word means “branch.” The prophecy states that a branch will appear from out of the shoot of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David, the shoot of Jesse. So, Isaiah was saying that the Messiah was to be a branch of Jesse’s tree, He would be from the family of David. Neser is also the root of the name Nazareth, which basically means “town of the branch.” So, Matthew is saying that Jesus’ residence in Nazareth is a fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1. But Nathanael did not have the benefit of Matthew’s gospel, so his question is understandable. Is there anything good that can possibly come out of Nazareth?
I love Philip’s response to Nathanael’s question: “Come and see.” Philip was asking a similar question to the one Jesus Himself asked Andrew and John the previous day. When they had asked Jesus where He was staying, Jesus said, “Come and you will see” (John 1:38-39). As followers of Jesus, we should always bear in mind that being a follower requires action on our part. We must come to Him with hearts that are open so that we can truly see all that He is and all that He has done for us. And then, like Philip, we must tell others about Jesus. And if we are asked what good can possibly come from following this Jesus of Nazareth, we can respond like Philip, “Come and see!”