A 2000 year old winepress made it happen. I stood there in awe at the thought that Jesus grew up there in Nazareth. There in that village set to look like the town at the time of Jesus the idea that I was in Israel traveled from my head 6 inches to my heart.
In Matthew 21: 33-42 Jesus tells a parable about the wicked tenants of a vineyard. In the parable Jesus tells of a master who “planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants.” On the hill where Nazareth village (the name of this recreation) is located there is a clear basin for a winepress with a deep pit to collect the wine slightly below. From pottery found in the pit, the winepress can be dated to the 1st century. Furthermore, just above it stands a recreated watchtower of which we told there were also indicators that this once existed as well.
Here then, in all possibility was the remains of a scene from Jesus’ childhood. Perhaps he himself pressed grapes into wine at this winepress. Such is speculation, but the power of this thought shoved into my imagination by this pit in the ground struck a chord in my heart. Here was Nazareth, the small and insignificant town of which one of Jesus’ followers would initially respond with “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)
Briefly then, here is the theological takeaway. Here in this small 1st century village, Jesus grew up in obscurity. The Son of God spent many years building with his hands fences, tables, even possibly houses and walls. He attended the synagogue on the Sabbath. Imagine that, the lawgiver himself attending readings from the law. Jesus lived for much of his life an ordinary but fully human life, living out in perfect obedience to God the Kingdom life which he pass on to his disciples. He lived out an obscure, ordinary, and difficult life in 1st century Nazareth until his ministry. God the Son lived an obscure, ordinary, and difficult life but now shares his life with us. On the terraces of Nazareth he loved his Father by “growing in wisdom and stature, and favor with God and man”
Following Jesus is not exceptional or extraordinary. It is, however, a narrow way and few find it. But it is an ordinary life, lived in the common way which God intended for our lives to be – in jobs, with family, with neighbors, with friends and with enemies.
What IS extraordinary is Jesus himself. It is extraordinary that he gives us his life in all humility from his birth to his death and resurrection; much of that life spent in ordinary Nazareth. That God was willing on our behalf to take up residence in our flesh to live in a small Jewish town presses us to regard this wondrous mystery.