Nazareth Matthew 2:23

A city called Nazareth. - Matthew 2:23

When you try to realize that Jesus Christ once really lived on this earth, you feel that you would like to know how He lived and what His home was like when He was a little boy in the village of Nazareth.

Nazareth lies in that part of Palestine which is called Galilee. If you look at a map of Palestine you will see, near the middle of it, a large plain called the Plain of Esdraelon. Picture to yourself this plain stretching away into the distance for miles and miles. On the edge of the plain, as you look towards the north, you see some low hills, and beyond these higher hills, and beyond these again, and above them all, the mountain of Hermon, its top covered with snow and shining in the sun.

On one of the lower ranges of hills just above the plain is Nazareth. You cannot see it till you are close to it, for it lies in a nest among the hills. Think of a hollow shaped like a shallow basin, with hills rising up round it and shutting it in on every side. At the bottom, and on one side of the basin, is Nazareth.

The narrow, uneven streets climb up the slope. In some places there is a cliff on one side and houses on the other. The streets are so steep that you may walk off the path on to the flat roof of a house. These are not the very houses which were there when Jesus lived on earth, for they must have crumbled away long ago, but these are built in much the same way, and they stand on nearly the same spot.

Round the town lie fields of wheat and barley, and thousands of fruit trees - vines, figs, olives, and pomegranates. If you came to Nazareth in spring, you would find the hillsides green almost to the top, and a great many flowers everywhere. In April the crops grow ripe; in May they are all cut down. Then through the summer everything looks parched and brown, and the flowers are burnt up by the heat, for there is no rain in summer. In November the rain begins to fall, and soon the grass and flowers rush up again and the little hollow in the hills is green and bright once more.

In Jesus' day, as now, the houses were poor. Usually they had only one or two rooms. The roofs were flat. Sometimes there were no windows, and the light entered only by the door. If there were windows they were high up in the wall and had no glass. There was no chimney or fireplace. The people did not need fires so much as we do, and did not use much cooked food. When they had a fire it was lighted on the clay floor of the house and the smoke escaped through holes in the walls. There was barely any furniture. The beds were thin mattresses which were rolled up all day and spread on the floor at night. There were some stools, and boxes for keeping clothing, some cooking utensils, and large jars for water. A lamp burned night and day. Often the cows and donkeys and camels, etc., lived in the same room with the family, just as the pigs do in Ireland today. But the part where the family lived was raised two or three feet, and had a few steps up to it.

It was in this quiet spot that Jesus was brought up. Here He watched the lilies grow, and the sower go out to sow his seed. He noticed the fig tree putting out its leaves. He saw the sparrows hopping about, and the hen gathering her chickens under her wings. He watched the shepherd go out to the hills to look for a lost sheep. He went to the vineyards and saw useless branches cut off the vines to make the grapes grow better. And many other things He saw which He afterwards used in parables for His disciples.

Below the village there is a spring called the Virgin's Fountain. It is the only spring, so it must have been here that His mother went to draw water, as the women do still. They carry it in large earthenware pitchers on their heads. No doubt Jesus often went with Mary to the well when He was a little child. He watched her fill her pitcher, and then He climbed the steep street by her side. Very likely He carried the water for her when He grew stronger.

When He was old enough He would be sent to school. Every Jewish boy was sent to school at six. The school was in the synagogue (which was like our church), and the children sat on the floor round the teacher and learned their school work by repeating them aloud together. They learned reading, writing, and math, but what they studied most were the books of the Old Testament. So Jesus would read with the other children the stories of Moses and Isaac and Elijah, of the prophets and the kings - all the history of the children of Israel from the time they came from Egypt into the land of Canaan down to the time when He lived.

No doubt He played games too. He spoke of children playing in the market-place at weddings and funerals. He had played with them. And then He worked. When He was very tiny He would watch Joseph at work in his carpenter's shop, making wooden ploughs, and boxes, and doors, and other things; and later He Himself began to learn to be a carpenter. Every Jewish boy learned a trade, and most boys followed the trade of their father.

So Jesus lived in this quiet little place shut off from the world for thirty years, and all we are told about His life at that time is that He was obedient to

His parents - all except the story of the visit to Jerusalem at the Passover, when He was lost and found in the Temple.

It seems strange that for so long He should live unknown. But all these years He was doing God's will just as much as when everyone was wondering at His miracles. So when we are learning our lessons at school and helping our parents at home, when we are playing our games and making our friends, we too, if we do these things faithfully and well, are doing God's will and getting ready for the life-work He has chosen for us.

If you went to Nazareth today you would find, on a high hill behind the town, an English Orphanage for little orphans of Nazareth, and you would hear them sing this hymn -

We are little Nazareth children,
And our Savior placed our home
'Mid the olive-trees and vineyards
Where, as Child, He used to roam.

For the Lord, who loves the children,
And was glad to hear their praise,
Cares that Nazareth children know Him,
Do His will and choose His ways.

Cares that they should keep in memory
All that sacred life spent here;
Try in heart to walk beside Him,
Safe and happy in His fear.

And we know that He is coming,
Every knee to Him shall bow;
And the joyous shouts to greet Him
Shall begin in Nazareth now.

Jesus Savior, dwell within us,
Make a temple of each heart,
Pure and loving, true and holy,
For Thy service set apart.