Jesus was from the hill country, from Nazareth in Galilee.
In Mark 1, Mark contrasts two geographical areas from which people came to John the Baptist for baptism. In verse 5 we read of massive amounts of people coming north to the Jordan River area from Jerusalem and Judea. By contrast, in verse 9 we read of Jesus coming south from “Nazareth of Galilee” to meet and be baptized by his cousin John.
Unless you know the social milieu, you will miss the tension in these seemingly insignificant geographical notations. A mass of people come from “the developed” areas, the closer to God areas, the areas of Zion, the area of the Temple, and the area where there were some very wealthy Jews. Jerusalem was Ivy League, double-shot, mocha latte country. Hummers were not uncommon.
Jesus is from “Hicksville.” Can anything good come out of Nazareth? was asked later. Jesus was raised in Appalachian “hollers” (see below). He was poor and from a poor family, a country bumpkin. Nazareth was hand-plow and ox country, corn bread and beans country. Jesus was dumb as a stump according to the edgy-cated ones in Jerusalem, dangerously dumb.
Galilee was a region known to be disinterested in and ignorant of Torah. This was a stereotype, of course, but it stuck to Jesus. He was considered a “no name” (see John 9:29) from across the tracks, perhaps, even born out of wedlock. Well, he was conceived out of wedlock, for sure. One rabbi, Johanan ben Zakkai, once lamented, “Galilee, Galilee, you hate the Torah; your end will be seizure by Romans!”
Jerusalem. Judea. Nazareth. Galilee.
But of all the ones that John the Baptist baptized in the Jordan, only one saw the heavens ripped open, saw the Spirit gently floating down on him like a dove, and only one heard a voice from heaven saying, “You are My Son, whom I chose. With you I am outrageously delighted.”
Yep. It was the hick…from Nazareth…of Galilee.
So much for God favoring smart, cool, “white” people who live in gated communities and suburbs and who drive Hummers and other SUVs to latte-making cafes, read New Yorker and discuss Mozart.
God seems to dig mule-and-wagon types with missing teeth and tobacco breath and who read the Sears catalogue and drink black Folgers from cracked cups and say things like “Jeat yet,” which being interpreted means, “Did you eat, yet?” and who like country music that laments the loss of all that is precious…like my dog, my trailer, my pick ‘em up truck and my boot-scootin’ woman.
Don’t you just love God?
* A “holler”, a variant of “hollow,” is a small valley between hills in the rural South.
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