But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
// Matthew 2:19-23
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, meaning “House of Bread”, which was the birthplace of David and his father, Jesse. But Jesus was raised in Nazareth, which means “the Branch” or “shoot/sprout." There is a prophecy in Isaiah 11:1 that says, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
Matthew places an emphasis on the geography of Jesus’ life because he wanted to show His Jewish readership how perfectly and completely Jesus fulfilled all that was prophesied, proving Him to be the Messiah: Jesus was born in Bethlehem – the stump and root of David’s family tree – but grew up as a Branch or Shoot in Nazareth. And God devised all the details of Jesus' life to help us all believe that Jesus really is the Promised One. God sent angels and dreams to Joseph to be sure that Jesus would be born in the right place, then exiled to Egypt just like the Hebrews had been, and then raised as a Branch from the lineage of Jesse in a town called “the Branch.” Isn’t our God so clever?
This very clever series of events demonstrates and assures us that God is committed to getting us where we need to be in life so that we’ll thrive and bear fruit. It will require living in humility and obscurity, at times, if our greatness and the greatness of His call is to be revealed in our lives – neither Bethlehem nor Nazareth were thriving metropolises of the ancient world, but rather obscure podunk towns. But if we will live according to God’s desire for us – lives lived in humility always, in obscurity sometimes – then our lives will be filled with the greatness of who He is.
When we follow His leading like Joseph did, our lives will fulfill the prophetic desires He has for us and we will grow great in faith before His eyes. In the world, we assume that great people do great things; but in Heaven’s eyes, those with great faith can do extraordinary things, and they can do them while living in quite obscure places.
True faith – childlike trust coupled with great humility – can do far more to fulfill the plan of God on earth than the world’s view of ‘greatness’ ever will. Great faith does great things.