In the days of King Herod of Judea…
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” –Luke 1:5,26-27
Today we visited Caesarea and Nazareth. At Caesarea many of the remnants of that remarkable development are still evident. Nazareth today is a traffic choked small city with an uneasy mix of Jews, Moslems, and Christians. In Jesus’ time, the contrast between these two places could not have been much greater.
Caesarea was a wonder of Roman architecture and ingenuity. It was one of the gems built by Herod the Great. Caesarea had an aqueduct over three miles long serving a remarkably constructed port. Herod’s palace was on a peninsula into the Mediterranean that sported his fresh water swimming pool. For the community Herod built an amphitheater for drama and debates, a hippodrome for sporting events and public proceedings, and residential villas to house this bustling community. Herod the Great was a bad man who did remarkable projects.
Nazareth, on the other hand, was an out-of-the-way little Jewish village with just several hundred residents. When disciple Philip told his friend Nathanael he just had to meet this guy Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael responded, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) It was a fair question to ask.
So, what does that say about our God who chose to announce His eternal plans for saving us from sin and death in Nazareth (rather than Caesarea or Jerusalem or Rome)? For sure, it says a lot more than I could possibly put in this blog and infinitely more than I will ever understand. Yet, I do believe God has some good news here for you and me.
Our Lord shows up and works among common people in common places. The God who makes the final, eternal decisions about this world and each of us, is not impressed by architecture or ambition. Our Lord’s ways are not our ways. God was certainly just as present with you today, as He was when we visited the place where Gabriel announced to Mary and Jesus grew up (Luke 1-2) and St. Paul stood on trial (Acts 25-26). Hopefully both you and we were open to hearing that.