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And He Came to Nazareth
Nazareth, about 15 A.D.
We see a carpenter's shop on a winding dusty road toward the edge of town - a shop that all week long bustles with the orderly, efficient production of ploughs, yokes, tables, chairs and other wooden articles made for farm and household use. Although situated in the slums, it is undoubtedly the best carpentry establishment in all Palestine, for He who designed and constructed the universe works there, albeit incognito for the present. Business is seldom slack. From the first day of the week onward, customers are seen going in and out of the shop. Many of them are dependent for their living on the prompt repair of broken farm implements or the speedy production of new ones. It's often nightfall before one hears the last strokes of the saw, hammer, and plane at that humble shop in Nazareth.
But lo, what do we see on the sixth day of the week? Work ends at mid-day. The shop is carefully swept and cleaned; all tools are placed in their proper receptacles. By early afternoon the shop is empty and still, for the Sabbath draws nigh, and it is the day of preparation. Joseph's family works cheerfully and diligently to prepare their household for God's ever-welcome holy day.
Arcing serenely toward the western horizon, the sun spreads its golden rays in genial profusion upon the green hills and valleys. Shadows lengthen as day dims into purple dusk. All afternoon the streets have grown gradually emptier of people. Herdsmen and farmers have come home early from the fields. Even children cease their play well before sunset. The poignant, beckoning bray of the ram's horn shofar* pierces the calm evening air, to hail the approach of the holy hours. Soon afterward melody breaks forth in every home. Captivatingly wistful songs of Zion, palpitant with longings for Paradise, welcome in the Sabbath. Lamps are lit and the light of sacred celebration, tinged with a life-time of hallowed memories, dances in every eye.
Conversation modulates into heavenly themes over the simple family meal. Rich and poor alike are free from their weekly toils for another blessed Sabbath day. God draws lovingly near to commune with His children in this sacred tabernacle of time. Evening dissolves into night, and all go sweetly to their slumbers, for the burdens of the week are laid down, and all care is cast upon Him who cares for His own (Ps.55:22).
The next morning the carpenter's shop remains closed. No customers try the door or even cast more than a casual glance at it, as the townspeople, streaming from mansions and hovels, all go afoot to the synagogue. Jesus and His family go too.
Nazareth, A.D. 27
Years later a bronze-faced young man, with a familiar, peaceful look, joins a streaming concourse of worshipers on an oft-trodden path. "And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.... And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth" Luke 4:16-19, 21, 22.
The Lord of the Sabbath, full of grace and truth, had come to usher in the ultimate Sabbath rest by humanity's restoration through the everlasting gospel. In His life and teachings He magnified the law and made it honorable, blamelessly keeping all His Father's commandments; and by His sacrifice He caused His righteousness to roll as a mighty stream from Calvary into every willing heart. He left also the legacy of His Spirit to guide His followers into all truth, and avowed, "I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done" (John 13:15). Christ demonstrated how to keep the Sabbath, the hallmark of His Creatorship, holy. And He taught His disciples, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). In both life and death He kept the Sabbath (Lk. 23:5-56). "There remaineth therefore a keeping of the Sabbath to the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9, margin).
By Brian Jones
*The shofar (pronounced show-far') is a ram's horn that was blown by the Jewish priests. It is still used in orthodox synaogues today.