What did Jesus Leave Nazareth?

The Gospels provide some possible hints why Jesus left the village of his youth as he began his ministry.

Jesus Christ was associated with Nazareth through his entire ministry. Even at the end, Pilate placed above his cross a sign, “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (John 19:19; emphasis added). He is associated with Nazareth at some point.  Joseph and Mary (Jesus’ mother) moved to Nazareth, a small village in Galilee a few years after Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem in Judea (Matthew 2:19-23) where he apparently lived until he appeared on the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist.

Luke does indicate that Jesus Christ ventured beyond this village at least once, when he was twelve years old to travel with his parents, family, and friends to the Holy City of Jerusalem (Luke 2:42-51). The Gospels, as noted above, are silent on what happen next except that Jesus Christ “went down with [Joseph and Mary], and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. . . .And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:51-52).

More than fifteen years pass before the next event recorded about his life is mentioned (Luke 3:23). It was at the time that John preached in the wilderness of Judea and baptized at the Jordan River. Each Gospel notes that Jesus came to John and was baptized. The Synoptic Gospels also note that Jesus Christ was then lead by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was tempted.

Sometime after these events, Jesus Christ appeared once again in Nazareth—the village of his youth. Of course, the Gospels do not provide a day-by-day account of his ministry. As a result, reconstructing Jesus’ life is challenging, especially since the Gospels only preserve a few precious days and weeks of his life during what appears to have been a three-year period of his mortal ministry.Any arguments from silence are weak arguments, so caution is required.

Luke noted, “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 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, because he hath anointed 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 the sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16-19)

Jesus Christ then announced to family, friends and neighbors, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21). The people were shocked. As Jesus continued, the people grew angry and apparently took him out of the synagogue and out of the village with the intent to throw him down some cliff (Luke 4:2-27). Luke concludes, “But he passing through the midst of them went his way”—apparently, never to return again (Luke 4:30).

The Gospels agree that Jesus Christ moved to Capernaum, a much larger town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, about fourteen miles from Nazareth (see for example, Mark 1:14-21). All of the reasons for this move, if there were more than one, are not specifically addressed in any Gospel narrative. They may have included a desire to find a more convenient mission center that Capernaum could provide. Jesus may have been invited to move to Capernaum by Peter and Andrew or James and John—a move that provided some temporal support for his mission.

Certainly, the main reason why Jesus Christ left Nazareth was that he felt compelled to do so because the community, including some family and friends, rejected his Messianic claims and in angry threaten his life (see Luke 4:16-30).