We might get the impression that the Gospel of John portrayed the man Jesus as a Judaean although the author was aware that His Master had come from Nazareth, in Galilee. That’s very different from how the Synoptic Gospels presented Jesus.
In the Synoptic Gospels, Galilee was the arena where Jesus’ public ministry thrived. His visits to Judea and Jerusalem are mentioned a few times. In John’s Gospel, it’s the other way round. Jesus, for the most part, is seen in Judea. He went to Galilee a few times. Jesus was at a wedding in Cana (2:1-11). Later, he journeyed from Judea via Samaria to Galilee (4:1-4). The Feeding of the Five Thousand happened in Galilee (ch 6). After he returned to Jerusalem to participate in the Feast of the Tabernacles (7:10ff) he remained in Judea till the end.
One of Jesus’ journeys to Galilee, recorded in John 4:43-54, is quite interesting. John emphasized that journey by mentioning it several times in that small passage (v 43, 45, 46, 47 and 54). That surely must have been a significant journey! More so because John appears to portray Judea as Jesus’ native province where He wasn’t honored. Notice how the Galileans welcomed Him!
After the two days he departed from there to Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him because they had seen all the things he had done in Jerusalem at the feast (for they themselves had gone to the feast). (v 43-45 NET)
But wasn’t Jesus a Galilean? Indeed, Jesus had grown up in his mother’s hometown, Nazareth of Galilee. His disciples knew Him as Jesus of Nazareth (1:45). Nathanael even wondered, out aloud, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
The Jews of that time did not know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, David’s town, as a rightful heir to David’s throne. They assumed that Jesus was a Galilean. John cites the words of some people in Jerusalem:
When they heard these words, some of the crowd began to say, “This really is the Prophet!”
Others said, “This is the Christ!”
But still others said, “No, for the Christ doesn’t come from Galilee, does he? Don’t the scriptures say that the Christ is a descendant of David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”
So there was a division in the crowd because of Jesus. (7:40-43 NET)
John did not feel a need to write a note of explanation. The irony of these statements is self-evident to readers. Jesus’ opponents’ statements, arising from their ignorance, reinforced John’s overall argument that Jesus was the Christ.
There were also people who believed that the true origin of the Messiah should be a mystery. John recorded their thoughts as well.
Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from. (7:26-27)
These men thought that they knew where Jesus was from! But they did not! Again, by leaving their claims uncontested, John lets the readers decide for themselves.
Where was Jesus from? From Galilee? Or, was he from Bethlehem? He was certainly born in Bethlehem. Thus, His birth fulfilled Micah’s prophecy (Micah 5:1-2) He was a Galilean, and thereby, he fulfilled another prophecy (Matt 2:23). He was also from Africa—Egypt, to be precise! (Hosea 11:1). All these facts are important.
I think Jesus’ reply to a few presumptive Jews points to a higher reality.
So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and Him you do not know. I know Him, for I come from Him, and He sent me.” (7:28-29)
“I know where I came from and where I am going. But you people do not know where I came from or where I am going.” (8:14)
Where was Jesus from? He was from heaven, where His Father has a mansion with many rooms (14:2). He existed from the beginning with God. He was before Abraham, the revered Patriarch (8:58). Jesus was always conscious of the fact that the Father had sent Him.
By consenting to be born as a human in Bethlehem, to be a refugee in Egypt, and to be known as a native of Nazareth, the glorious Son of God elevated various human conditions to a wholly new level. Those who reject Jesus can squabble about his real hometown.
On the other hand, those who believe in Jesus must learn to shun vainglory about their origins and circumstances. Why would any one who knows Jesus, the Heavenly One, ever take pride in fleeting earthly glory—their exclusive homes or space-age cities or high income countries? Even nationalism and extreme patriotism are forms of idolatry! Similarly, from now on, why should Christians from humble circumstances be ashamed of their homes, their lineage, their hometowns or their backward countries, when they know that the Lord Jesus hailed from despicable Nazareth?
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