For much of Israel’s history, the kingdom was divided into two regions and these two regions were about as different as you can get. They had different levels of education, different cultures and even often had different rulers. Judea, the southern region of the kingdom, was the heart of Israel's worship. Jerusalem was located in Judea and it was the center of religious practice. The temple- including its sacrificial practices- and priests were in Jerusalem. The Jewish feasts also took place there.
Galilee, the northern region of the kingdom, was the heart of Israel’s indifference. It was known as the region of the Gentiles (Matthew 4:15). For centuries, numerous empires from the north took their turn ruling Galilee. With each new foreign ruler, there were two realities. First, the most promising Jews were taken to the capital city to serve the king of the empire. Remember Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being taken to Babylon? Second, Gentiles from the empire would settle in and make Galilee their home. Jews eventually became the minority. As a result, Galileans weren't respected among the Jews in the southern region.
When people were debating whether Jesus was the Prophet, many in the crowd determined this was not possible since he was from Galilee (John 7:41). The Pharisees would then put the argument to rest with the statement that “no prophet arises from Galilee” (John 7:52). The prevailing thought was that if a prophet were to come out of Israel, he would definitely come out of Judea, the heart of Israel’s worship. Judea was where the religious leaders were being groomed and developed, not Galilee.
These low expectations of Galileans weren’t simply isolated to those from the outside. Galileans also had a low view of themselves. When Philip tried to convince Nathanael that he had found the Messiah, Nathanael’s response in John 1:46 was to ask, “Can anything good come from Nazareth (Galilee)?” Nathanael was a Galilean (John 21:2) and he didn’t have high expectations from his own people.
After Jesus finished speaking a series of parables in Nazareth, the Galileans were astonished and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:53-57). Once again, Galileans didn’t expect such wisdom and power to come from someone amongst their own people.
There was nothing special, in the mind of the average Jew, about Galilee. Yet, Jesus selects his disciples from here (John 1:43) and He carries on the vast majority of His ministry from here (Matthew 4:23). His first miracle of turning water to wine? At a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Sermon on the Mount? In Galilee. The teaching on the bread of life? In Galilee. The transfiguration? In Galilee. The vast majority of His parables? In Galilee. The vast majority of His miracles? Yes, you got it. In Galilee.
While Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, He was not reared in Judea. While the religious sacrifices and temple was in Jerusalem of Judea, Jesus chose not to grow into a man there. Rather, Jesus chose to associate himself with lowly Galilee, a place where He selects the leadership for His Church.
This gives me hope. God can raise leaders for His Church from neighborhoods with lowered expectations. The neighborhood I grew up in wasn’t supposed to produce anything meaningful, just more crime and poverty. Yet this is the kind of place from which God selects leaders. How many leaders are being passed up because we are looking in the wrong “region”? In addition, how many of us don’t feel that we are able to lead because we were born in the wrong “region”?
Not only did He, a rabbi, call the disciples from Galilee to come follow Him, but He promised to make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). No rabbi ever paid them attention before. Most assuredly, no rabbi would ever entrust them with a mission of such magnitude.
There is hope. Our God is a God of redemption who loves to use the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). God wants to show His power and He will not share His glory with any other (Isaiah 42:8). Find the powerless and there you will find God at work. God doesn’t fight with the strongest because he has no need for the strength of another.
Here’s one thing I’ve grown to understand: Not only can God save a remnant from the urban community, but the urban community is the hope of the 21st Century Church. God has always used the lowly things to shame the wise. Whenever God has moved, He has chosen to move via the unlikely. God will use anyone who will simply follow.
For consider your calling, brothers, not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
-Brian Dye Legacy Conference Director