Can There Any Good Thing Come Out of Nazareth?

“Can There Any Good Thing Come Out of Nazareth?” Ensign, Oct. 1988, 2

First Presidency Message

“Can There Any Good Thing Come Out of Nazareth?”

Two thousand years ago the Son of Man was born into a world like ours—a world torn asunder by stress and sorrow. Sixty-three years had passed since Roman legions under Pompeii had conquered Palestine and taken Jerusalem. The helmets, broadswords, and eagles of the Roman legionary were everywhere to be seen. The oppressive yoke of the Caesars was universally felt.

Deep in depths of human hearts there dwelt a longing for the advent of the promised Messiah. When will he come? was the unanswered question on the lips of the righteous.

Generations had lived and died since the prophet Isaiah had declared: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son” and “the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 7:14; Isa. 9:6.)

With such a promise ringing in our ears, can you and I appreciate the supreme joy and overwhelming exultation that coursed through Philip when he heard the Savior of the world speak to him those immortal words, “Follow me”? The dawn of promise had dispelled the night of despair. The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords had come.

Such knowledge could not be hidden, nor could Philip of Bethsaida keep to himself such glad tidings: “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

“And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.” (John 1:45–46.)

Could Nazareth be so honored? Nazareth, the most disregarded valley in a despised province of a conquered land?

Let us join Nathanael. Let us come and see.

Nazareth, just eighty miles from Jerusalem, was situated on the main trade route that ran from Damascus through the Galilean cities to the Mediterranean coast at Acre. This, however, was not to be the village’s claim to fame. Nor was its glory to be found in the beauty of its environs. Nazareth was the scene of more lasting events of profound consequence than those which occurred along routes of trade or in landscapes of beauty.

To a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, came the angel Gabriel, sent from God. To a virgin whose name was Mary, he declared, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

“He … shall be called the Son of the Highest.” (Luke 1:30–32.)

After the birth of the Christ child and following the flight into Egypt, the sacred record reveals, “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.” (Matt. 2:23.)

In Nazareth, the boy Jesus grew “in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:52.)

From Nazareth came he who made blind men to see, lame beggars to walk—even the dead to live. He set before us an example to emulate. He lived the perfect life. He taught the glad tidings that changed the world. Let us examine more closely and individually these epochal events, that we may know for ourselves if any good thing came out of Nazareth.

First, let us turn to him of whom Jesus himself spoke: “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt. 11:11.) John, “the Baptist,” stands forth like a colossus from the bleakness and confusion—the “wilderness”—of his own age. Knowing that one “mightier than he” was coming, he threw himself with superhuman fervor into the task of “making straight the way.” His was the agony, and the distinction, of being both an end and a beginning.

Astride the watershed of time, he could look back on a long line of prophets—his spiritual forebears. Letting his eye range over the fertile plains ahead, he was the first to see that Light of whom he would bear witness.

“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.” (Mark 1:9.)

“And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. …

“He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

“And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32–34.)

From Nazareth came the Perfect One to be baptized—an example for all.

Second, let us turn to Judea and examine the testimony of one who was born blind—him for whom it was always night. No day—just night. But let him provide his own account of how darkness was turned to light. Astonished neighbors, noting his newly acquired vision, asked: “Is not this he that sat and begged? …

“Others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.

“Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?

“He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.” (John 9:8–11.)

When the disbelievers urged, “Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner,” he rejoined: “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:24–25.)

From Nazareth came sight.

Next, let us journey to Bethesda to inquire of him who now walks, but who for thirty-eight long years walked not. “When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?” The man’s reply of frustration, mingled with hope, was met with the gentle, yet divine command, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” (John 5:6, 8.)

From Nazareth came new strength to a withered body.

Jesus of Nazareth restored sight, removed lameness, but could it be true that he raised the dead to life?

In Capernaum, Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came to the Master, saying, “My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.” Then came the news from the ruler’s house—“Thy daughter is dead”—to which the Christ replied, “Be not afraid, only believe.” He came to the house, passed by the mourners, and said to them, “Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.”

And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, “Damsel, … arise.”

“And straightway the damsel arose, and walked. … And they were astonished.” (See Mark 5:23–43.)

From Nazareth came life where once there was death.

And with that miracle came the perfect pattern whereby our own lives may be made fruitful: “Be not afraid, only believe.” (Mark 5:36; italics added.)

Out of Nazareth and down through the generations of time come his excellent example, his welcome words, his divine deeds. They inspire patience to endure affliction, strength to bear grief, courage to face death, and confidence to meet life. In this world of chaos, of trial, of uncertainty, never has our need for such divine guidance been more desperate.

Lessons from Nazareth, Capernaum, Jerusalem, and Galilee transcend the barriers of distance, the passage of time, the limits of understanding, and bring to troubled hearts a light and a way.

With sorrow we have read of young men and those not so young who bravely die, who give their all upon the altar of freedom. In a hurried moment, one such took in hand a stubby pencil and a scrap of paper and wrote to anxious love: “Soon we go into battle. The enemy is well fortified; loss of life will be heavy. Mom, I hope I live, but I’m not afraid to die, for I’m square with God.”

His mother received the precious note. On the same day another message arrived: “We regret to inform you that your son has been killed in action.”

Friends visited, loved ones comforted, but peace came only from him who called Nazareth his home.

Not all battles are waged on foreign soil. Nor do the participants always bear arms, hurl grenades, or drop bombs. I witnessed such a conflict on the fourth floor of the Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital. There were no shrill sounds of mortar fire to be heard, no disarray of men and equipment to be seen. Yet a life or death struggle was in progress. Happy, handsome Paul Van Dusen, age fifteen, had just lost the first skirmish with the dreaded foe called cancer.

Paul loved life. He excelled in sports. He and his parents hoped, then prayed that the doctors’ fears would not be confirmed—that his precious right leg would not be amputated. Shattered and stunned, they accepted the sad news. To save his life, he must lose his leg.

The surgery completed, Paul rested. Entering the room after Paul’s surgery, I was attracted immediately by his cheerful and infectious grin. He breathed hope. He emanated goodness.

The crisp, white sheet lay noticeably flat where once there had been a leg. Flowers from friends bedecked his bedside. Parents, grateful for his life, stood close by.

I noticed a cord strung along the exercise bar stretching the length of the bed. Gaily colored cards covered the entire span. Paul invited me to read them. One carried the message: “We love you, Paul. We’re praying for you.” It was signed by members of his Sunday School class. Another expressed the wish, “May you get well soon. We think you’re great.” This from his classmates at high school. Still another from home teachers had the inscription, “May God bless you. Tomorrow we’ll visit you again.”

What did the Carpenter from Nazareth say of such? “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40.)

The spirit of prayer came easily that day. A perfect peace filled the room. Smiles of confidence crept across lips moist with tears. From distant Capernaum we seemed to hear the echo, “Be not afraid, only believe.” Then Paul said, “I’ll be all right.”

We beheld a faith-filled heart and a countenance that reflected gratitude. Faith in whom? Gratitude for what?

Jesus of Nazareth,

Savior and King!

Triumphant over death,

Life thou didst bring,

Leaving thy Father’s throne,

On earth to live,

Thy work to do alone,

Thy life to give.

(“Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King,” Hymns, 1985, no. 181.)

Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?

From Nazareth came example.

From Nazareth came sight.

From Nazareth came strength.

From Nazareth came life.

From Nazareth came faith.

From Nazareth came peace.

From Nazareth came courage.

From Nazareth came Christ.

To him Nathanael declared, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” (John 1:49.) I testify that he is Lord of Lords, King of Kings, precious Savior, dear Redeemer. Jesus Christ of Nazareth. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved.

May we live his teachings, may we emulate his example, may we follow in his footsteps to life eternal.

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:

  1. From Nazareth came the Perfect One to be baptized—an example for all.

  2. From Nazareth came the miracles of the Lord—among them sight to the blind, new strength to the weak, and life where once there was death.

  3. From Nazareth came faith and peace and courage—that which each of us needs to face life’s trials. As we live according to our Savior’s teachings and emulate his example, we will receive the rich treasures of heaven.

Discussion Helps

  1. Relate your feelings about the blessings our Lord Jesus Christ offers us. Ask family members to share their feelings about what the Lord has done for us.

  2. Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

  3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop?

Painting by Greg K. Olsen

Painting by Glen S. Hopkinson