The Branch

“When he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’ ”  Matthew 2:22–23

Matthew and Luke describe very different motivations for Joseph and Mary settling in Nazareth following Jesus’ birth. Luke, who makes no mention of Herod’s attempt to murder Jesus, lets us know that Nazareth was already Joseph and Mary’s hometown and makes it appear that returning there was always part of the plan. Matthew, on the other hand, definitely gives us reason to think that Joseph was seriously considering locating in Judea after their return from Egypt but that the presence of Herod’s son Archelaus as ruler there convinced him that they should return to Galilee. 

Matthew also makes it very clear that in choosing to settle in Nazareth of Galilee Joseph was fulfilling a somewhat obscure prophecy about the Messiah. 

To be clear, Old Testament, Messianic prophecy does not mention the village of Nazareth. It didn’t exist even when the last of the Old Testament prophets was writing.

So how does Jesus growing up in Nazareth fulfill prophecy?

Here’s how. At least three prophets: Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Zechariah, refer to the Messiah as “a branch” or “the branch”.  What does this have to do with the Messiah being from Nazareth?  Simply this. The name Nazareth means “branch” in hebrew. So while the village Nazareth may have never been mentioned in the Old Testament the fact that the Messiah was referred to as “the branch” several times does find a striking fulfillment in Jesus. 

Nathanael, later considering these prophecies about “the branch” must have felt a little foolish for having asked, “Can anything good come out of ‘the branch’?”  The apostle John must have appreciated the irony of the question, which was why, decades after the question was asked, he included it in his gospel. 

In truth, everything good comes to us from Jesus.  Forgiveness, restoration, the Holy Spirit and all the fruit he brings, these all come from him. Even those blessings of a practical nature are ours only because of his creative power still at work in this world thousands of years after he spoke it all into existence. 

We’ll find, if we let Jesus live and reign in our hearts, that he has the ability to do much more than fulfill prophecy. He can fulfill us as well. He can infuse today with all the purpose it has the potential of possessing for us, and he can give our whole live more fulfillment than we could have ever dreamed.

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