This picture was taken from the Mount of the Precipice above Nazareth. This is the view Jesus could have had, had he wanted to get away from the tiny village of a 100-200 people. As we stood on this cliff, we wondered if Jesus ever went there and thought about the things his people had experienced there. In the valley he likely overlooked, the history of his people unfolded:
- There, Deborah and Barak defeated the chariot forces of Sisera
- From Mt. Moreh, Gideon drove the Midianites and Ishmaelites back to the Transjordan
- At En Dor, King Saul consulted a necromancer and was told by Samuel’s ghost that Saul and his family would die the next day
- The next day, on Mt. Gilboa (still part of the Jezreel Valley), King Saul and his son, Jonathan, were killed by the Philistines and their bodies hung on the walls of Beit She’an
- From a small city in the Jezreel, Jonah was told by God to take his words to the Assyrian city of Ninevah
- From the head of the valley, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel
- In the Valley, Elijah rebuked King Ahab for killing Naboth for his land
- From Shunem, in the Valley, Elisha raised a dead boy to life
- On the Carmel Mountain range, King Josiah lost his life during Pharaoh Necho’s march through the land
I wonder if Jesus looked out from those cliffs and thought about his people – about the leaders of his people. He was growing into the anointed king of Israel and looked over the repeated failures of the previous kings. I wonder if he remembered those events as the Word with God. Did he envision them and remember that he was no longer their first love? Did he remember the bite of their disloyalty? Did he remember the disappointment and anguish of watching his people leave him for foreign gods and peoples? Or I wonder if he remembered the hope of each new king, each new prophet, that they might remember God and love him in word and deed.
I wonder if he was challenged and his mission bolstered by their previous failings. Did the history held within his backyard light a fire of righteous determination within his heart to succeed where they all failed? Did he see the visions of the past and resolve to be the atonement for his broken people?
In Jesus’ time, that valley would be filled with Romans coming from the Mediterranean Sea. I wonder if he saw their hearts too. I wonder if his eyes held the depths of their broken souls and his resolved was ever-hardened, that he might bring them healing and redemption, too. When many of his Jewish brethren hated the Romans and called for their deaths (not without reason), I wonder if Jesus as a boy looked upon them with compassion and looked forward to the day he knew would come – the day when they would be called Children of God as well.
Or was he simply just a child then, gazing in wonderment at the battleground of ancient history, envisioning the tales of his parents, or those told to him from the teachers in the Synagogue? I wonder if he knew the Roman soldiers and played with them without animosity or care, like children easily do.
The question posed to us was, “How did Jesus’ childhood shape his identity?”
What do you think? What an incredible thing to imagine. I am overwhelmed at the opportunity to interact with him through the land of his childhood. Praise God for his lavish grace and goodness.
Shalom and grace to you.