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Religion Is A Set Of Empty Rules With No Power To Save

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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 2:23 ESV)


After being visited by an angel in a dream [Joseph] went and lived in a city called Nazareth. At first Joseph wanted to go back to the region of Judea (probably the city of Bethlehem) but was afraid to do so since the Jew-hating Archelaus was reigning there [Matthew 2:22]. So instead God directs him and his family to Nazareth.

Nazareth was a small town about 55 miles north of Jerusalem in the region of Galilee. The ruler in this region was Herod Antipas who was the brother of Archelaus but he was a much more gentle ruler than his brother. Nazareth was also Mary’s home town [Luke 1:26].

It’s interesting that Jesus did not end up growing up in Judea, which was a much more pious region than Galilee, which was filled with Gentiles. God didn’t want His Son to be associated with the religious establishment of the day. If He had been His message would not have resonated with the populace. He likely would have inherited the haughty and unloving reputation of the religious leaders.

Rather, Jesus was an outsider – a crusader for those who were held down by the religious elite [Matthew 9:12]. He constantly exposed religion for what it was – a set of man-made, empty rules with no power to save. In its place Jesus offered an alternative that was guaranteed to take people to heaven – forgiveness of sins by faith.

Matthew tells us that this all happened so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled. But its interesting to note that, unlike his previous prophetic references, Matthew here doesn’t refer to a single prophet here but to multiple. Nor does he quote any Scripture. To be sure, there is no Old Testament scripture that specifically states that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. So what is going on here?

It appears that Matthew is referring to the way Jesus would be viewed and treated during his lifetime. Nazareth housed a garrison for Roman soldiers and the people there were known for being very coarse. The population was a mix of Gentiles and Jews. For these reasons the Jews held Nazareth in contempt. Nathaniel’s reaction to hearing that the Messiah was from there sums up the attitude: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” [John 1:45-46].

Likewise, after starting His public ministry at about the age of 30 Jesus was despised and ridiculed [Matthew 12:24; John 9:22, 29 et. al]. Matthew is connecting this mistreatment to numerous prophetic statements in Scripture that foretell the experiences of the Messiah [Isaiah 53:3; Psalm 22:6-8 et. al].

Jesus turned the religious establishment upside-down. He exposed it for being a fraud. For this He was rejected by the religious leaders who were too self-absorbed to accept the truth.

Today many people still adhere to various religions thinking if they keep the rules, or convince themselves they keep them (or some of them), they will go to heaven. But Jesus made it clear that anyone who thinks this way will be eternally and severely disappointed when they come face-to-face with Him after they die [Matthew 7:21-23].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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