Glory Glimpse: Misjudging Jesus, the Nazarene

James Emery

James Emery

Jesus of Nazareth, the Nazarene, is our focal point today.  Though the Old Testament does not mention the village of Nazareth, Matthew declares that Jesus dwelt in Nazareth “that the words of the prophets might be fulfilled.”  Jesus referred to Himself as ‘of Nazareth, demons used the title and the cross of our Lord bore the reference.  That Jesus was of Nazareth—was a Nazarene—has tremendous significance for us.

Nazareth was a small village in Galilee near the border of Samaria.  Passing by the village was a well-traveled trade route that would have brought the ‘world’ into view for residents.  In the eyes of those passer-bys, Nazareth was a community of backward, uncultured people.  Devout Jewish people looked down upon this village almost as much as they despised Samaritans.  In the eyes of the religious, Nazareth was a community of pagans.  Very few saw the truth of Nazareth from God’s view.  Even the people of Nazareth failed to recognize Truth—for they would reject the One who came from them.  The disciple Nathanel conveyed the sentiments of the day toward Nazareth with his question, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Indeed, we know great good came from this despised village!  As the Crusaders of the 12th century inscribed on a church erected in Nazareth, “Here the Word was made flesh.”  For centuries, the prophets proclaimed the coming Messiah.  Some prophesies revealed His Kingly nature—some His Suffering Servant role.  Our human tendency is to hear and see that which promises pleasure:  preferring power to persecution is human self-preservation.  It is comfortable for us to be blind to Truth when it does not fit our plans and pre-conceived ideas.  Our Jesus, the Nazarene, calls us to seek the Father’s perspective and His acceptance above all else.  Jesus of Nazareth reminds us that God’s ways our not our ways.

Just as man erroneously judged the village of Nazareth, so, too, man mis-judges Jesus.  As Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah, Jesus was ‘despised and rejected of men’.  The plans of man have no room for suffering.  Yet, God chose Nazareth as the hometown of the Savior because rejection of the world is the path to acceptance of God.  Embracing the Nazarene, the One the world rejects, is the only way of acceptance for each one of us.  Only in Him–the Beloved–can God accept us.  This world, though created, loved and redeemed by Him, received Him not.  The world prefers the darkness of its own plans above the Truth and Light of the Father’s plans.    Love of the world cuts us off from the love of the Father.  May our hearts rejoice that Jesus, our Savior, accepted the path of rejection that acceptance would be ours.

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Why do I need to “study” the Bible?

Do I need to eat well to live?  Technically, no.  We all eat poorly at least some of the time–and we don’t drop dead because of it.  But should we care about nutrition?  I sure think so.  What we eat matters to our physical life–and to our spiritual life.  Studying the Bible is not a legalistic discipline.  It does take discipline.  And it is worth it!

The idea that we do not need discipline in a our spiritual life is totally disproved by our natural lives.  A natural life without discipline is sad.  The damage can be extensive.  The motivation for discipline cannot be to ‘save ourselves’ or ‘make ourselves holy.’  The motivation must be Jesus gave everything for me–I want to know how to live well for Him!

John Piper is one of my favorite teacher authors.  He compiled this list of Scriptures that admonish discipline in a recent article that is well worth your time!

My motivation for writing and even sharing about my book comes from my belief in studying the Word.  It is the only source of Truth.  Without investing time in Scripture, you are subject to other people’s opinions and errors.  Go to God yourself.  Dig into His Word.  He promises to help you understand it.

Here’s the opening piece of Soul Training in the Barn to give you a flavor for the book…and a glimpse of me.

“It is in our weaknesses that the strength of Christ is made complete in us.  Sometimes what appears as a strength is simply a completed weakness.  My passion for the Word springs from a desperate desire to know Truth…to know and share how to live the abundant life.  The deep need grew out of painful mistakes and mis-steps.  God used the Word to cleanse me and make me whole as the song says.  I thank God for all my many weaknesses for they drive me to Him–the One to whom I owe it all.”

Can we use an Exacto Knife on the Bible?

If I believed in the ‘exacto-knife’ approach to reading the Word of God, this verse would have been eliminated years ago.

But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.  

Matthew 7:14

I wear the proverbial ‘rose-colored’ glasses whenever I can.  I detest arguing and can find a million things I would rather do than proclaim ‘my rightness’ or ‘your wrong-ness.’  Indeed, there are many shades of gray in my world.  And seeing ‘both sides’ is my natural bent.  I am maturing into one willing to stand on the lines of Scripture, though.

For God is not wishy-washy; nor does He have difficulty discerning lines.  His view is not blurry or variations of gray like mine.  Scripture is clear:  there is right and wrong, good and evil.  Scripture is clear:  there is a devil.  He hates believers, and it is his preferred mission to destroy those who sincerely call upon the name of Christ.

The devil loves cloudy thinking.  I thank God that my early years of faith placed me under the tutelage of solid, Bible-teaching pastors.  There is no room for exacto-knives when you study the Word of God.  All Scripture is written for learning, encouragement and chastening.

Christians must study the Word to know what is in it…God created and creates with the living Word.  There is no other source to know how to live. 

Not long after the verse about the narrow gate, there is another passage that chills my heart and shatters my rose-colored glasses.  It teaches us that on judgment day, many who thought they knew Jesus are told ‘depart from me–I never knew you.’

My heart aches to consider the multitudes who have, are and will miss life.  That sorrow presses me to know God more fully, to reveal Him with greater simplicity and clarity.  My heart cries for individuals to know the glory of God–and the privilege of living in the power of Christ.

To consider oneself a believer–a friend of God–is awe-inspiring, is it not?  To claim to be friends with one so powerful that their very words produce action, create substance and give life is quite a claim.  Are we worthy friends?

Friends don’t hang out with those who hate their friend.  Friends don’t walk all over their friend’s kindnesses.  Friends don’t change their friend’s words to be what they want the words to be.  Yet, many of us who call Jesus, ‘Friend,’ do all of those things.  Many who call Him Friend don‘t even know what He says.  Many simply go on their own thoughts and opinions, assuming what they think is what God thinks.

There can be no exacto-knives in studying Scripture.  If it isn’t all Truth, who determines what parts are Truth?

 Wouldn’t that make the person who decides their own god?

Heaven forbid!  Invest your time and mind in studying the Word of God.  Don’t go on what Granny taught you or the newspaper reports.  Read it, study it for yourself!  Your eternity depends on it!.

What is your favorite place to find quality Bible studies? Or why don’t you study the Word?

I’ll post some of my favorite links in coming days but I look forward to hearing yours too.