Written by David Lenehan
When you hear the phrase, “from the other side of the tracks,” what comes to your mind? That phrase is typically used to describe someone from a bad part of town or maybe from a low income section of a city. It’s definitely not a positive phrase. Did you know that the “other side of the tracks” idea is how many people saw Jesus in His day?
Jesus was from the town of Nazareth. Nazareth in the region of Galilee had a reputation of being insignificant. It was a small village. Apparently, not much happened there. Even Jesus himself seemed to run into issues in his hometown. Mark notes in his gospel that Jesus could perform few healings there. Maybe the insignificance was more than just being a small town. When Nathanael is told by Philip that he should come see this Jesus from Nazareth, Nathanael replies, “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46, ESV).
The ironic thing is that Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, often referred to himself or was identified by others as “Jesus of Nazareth.” The demons Jesus encountered in Mark 1:23-24 said, “…let us alone; what have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth?” When Paul encounters God on the road to Damascus, Christ identifies himself, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 22:8, ESV). Governor Pilate, to take one more jab at the Jewish religious leaders, wrote on the placard above Jesus’ head on the cross, “It read: Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews” (John 19:19, NIV).
Jesus didn’t shy away from his identity. He didn’t try to hide where he was from. He boldly proclaimed it so that no one would mistake who he was. What amazes me is that Jesus’ association with an unwanted town makes him all the more able to relate to me, to you – to us regular people. He indeed was and is the Son of God, no question. He is our only way to complete restoration and forgiveness. Yet he chose to become just like us, so that he could relate to us on our level. He didn’t shy away from the potentially negative label of someone from Nazareth.
So where does that leave you and me? As we head into the new semester, it really doesn’t matter where we come from, what titles or training we may have. What truly is going to make a difference in others’ lives is how much we show Jesus’ love, grace, mercy, and care to them. That approach should apply to everyone.