Ever heard of Sepphoris? No, it’s not a disease, it’s a town. In its day, it was a pretty important place. Just off the main road between two important cities, it was full of government offices. There was a military base there, which made everyone feel a little more secure. Plus, it helped that more money flowed into Sepphoris than out.
Sepphoris had a boom time. Builders were busy trying to build enough housing to accommodate all the newcomers. The houses were upscale, with extra features you wouldn’t expect in a typical home. Naturally, there was some competition between the neighbors, a sort of comparison of your hot tub to my pool.
There was enough bustle in the town to make you feel like something was going on. One of the finest theater companies in the region was located there. The art scene was vibrant. Everyone wanted to have an original work in their home.
Oddly for such a prosperous town, Sepphoris had a strong religious vibe. There was strong attendance at religious gatherings to hear very educated people explain the ways of God to the crowd.
The city fathers of Sepphoris wanted to have an impressive main street, so they paved the road with material that would hold up over time and lined the street with an impressive colonnade. One guide book called Sepphoris “the gem of the region.” It was the kind of town that made all the “Best Places to Live” lists.
Ever noticed how every nice place to live has dumpy place to live nearby? Sepphoris had a neighboring village, about four miles away, that was that dumpy place. It wasn’t on the main road. Directions to this town included, “when the pavement runs out, go on two more miles…”
Nothing much ever happened in the dumpy town. There was no art community, no theater, no steady flow of travelers through town. Whoever founded the town forgot to investigate the water supply. There was only one well. Cisterns all over town had to catch every drop of rain and every trickle of dew. Water was always in short supply.
This dumpy town was located on the side of a hill, so farming was tough. Nobody made it big in agriculture. A significant number of workers left town every day, commuting to Sepphoris. They would do the jobs the Sepphorians didn’t want to do, and then would take their meager wages home.
If you grew up in the dumpy town you knew everyone. There were only about 500 people there. It was the kind of place people got stuck in. Some people were stuck there because it was their family home. As their parents aged, they had to stick around to make sure they were cared for. Other people came to work in Sepphoris and couldn’t afford the housing there. They had to move to the dumpy town and commute. Trapped in low wage jobs, they were stuck on the side of a mountain, dreaming of a better life.
It was tough to be young in the dumpy town. There was nothing to do. If you looked around and dreamed about marrying someone in town, there wasn’t much of a selection. There might be ten people in your age range. Five of those were off the table because they were first cousins. Second cousins were fair game. You chose a marriage partner less out of love and more out of availability.
There was one religious gathering place, but it was the kind of place you went to because you had to go, not because it all that interesting.
So, if you are God, and you need to do something, which place do you choose to work? Sepphoris, right? Best place to live, good religious environment, good economy, good roads for travel.
So why have you never heard of Sepphoris? God didn’t not show up there. Instead, God showed up in the dumpy town. You’ve heard of it – Nazareth. God appears to a young woman in a dumpy forgotten town, and says “You will give birth to a son. Call him Jesus, and he will be called the Son of the Most High.” Nazareth is where Jesus grows up, where he learns to do the work of a carpenter. He may have even worked in Sepphoris.
Interesting, Sepphoris is never mentioned in the New Testament. It had everything going for it, except God didn’t work there.
Maybe people who say “yes” to God are from the forgotten towns. Maybe it’s because God is all they have.