Nazareth is the capital and the largest city in the Northern District of Israel. Nazareth is known as “the Arab capital of Israel”.
The population is made up predominantly of Israeli Arabs, almost all of whom are either Muslim (69%) or Christian (30.9%).
In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events.
If someone had the capacity to retain everything he read, of remembering every fact and date, of summoning to mind every particle of learning; if he could tell you the answer to every question on every exam and provide every statistic known to man, he still would have nothing valuable to say without one other component, experience.
That’s why we read 1 Peter with such interest. Simon Peter was one of our Lord’s original followers and he experienced every dimension of discipleship, both good and bad.
- He’d been on the mountaintop with Christ,
- Had walked to Him on the water,
- Had fled from Him at the cross, and
- Had served Him in the early Church.
In 1 Peter, the old fisherman drew from a lifetime of experience to tell us how to conduct ourselves as pilgrims and strangers in the world.
Peter hit several themes in his letter, including:
- Our conduct,
- The power of grace,
- The importance of submission and
- Separation, and the role of tribulation in life.
Much of his letter is written with suffering in mind, teaching us how to respond when grieved by various trials. We’re to commit ourselves to God, to follow in the footsteps of Christ, and to give others an answer for the hope within us.
Nazareth Illit (“Upper Nazareth”) is built alongside old Nazareth, and had a Jewish population of 40,312 in 2014.
In 1954, 1,200 dunams of Nazareth’s land, which had been slated for future urban expansion by the municipality, was confiscated by state authorities for the construction of government offices.
In 1957, for the construction of the Jewish town of Nazareth Illit. The latter was built as a way for the state to counterbalance the Arab majority in the region.
In 1958 May Day rally where marchers demanded that refugees be allowed to return to their villages, an end to land confiscations, and self-determination for Palestinians. Several young protesters were arrested for throwing stones at security forces. Martial law ended in 1966. As of the early 1990s, no city plans drafted by Nazareth Municipality have been approved by the government (both the British Mandate and later Israel) since 1942.
In the 1980s, the government began attempts to merge the nearby village of Ilut with Nazareth, although this move was opposed by residents from both localities and the Nazareth Municipality.
In 1991, Ilut was designated by the Interior Ministry as a separate local council.
In 1997, permission was granted to construct a paved plaza to handle the thousands of Christian pilgrims expected to arrive. A small group of Muslims protested and occupied the site. Government approval of plans for a large mosque on the property triggered protests from Christian leaders.
In 2002, a special government commission permanently halted construction of the mosque.
In March 2006, public protests followed the disruption of a prayer service by an Israeli Jew and his Christian wife and daughter, who detonated firecrackers inside the church. The family said it wanted to draw attention to their problems with the welfare authorities.
In July 2006 a rocket fired by Hezbollah as part of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict killed two children in Nazareth.
In March 2010, the Israeli government approved a $3 million plan to develop Nazareth’s tourism industry.
Peter’s letter is a reminder for Christian pilgrims to look at their passports occasionally so we’ll remember we’re citizens of another kingdom, purchased by the blood of Jesus, and headed toward an inheritance that can never fade away.
Suffering is an opportunity to walk in our Lord’s steps and live as pilgrims in a pagan world.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet 4:12-13).
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet 3:15).