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He meant it as a mark of derision, but was there ever a mark of greater dignity. Nazareth! “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” was a proverbial question. Pontius Pilate had meant to increase the humiliation by giving instructions for the crucifixion crime-board to bear the following words: “Jesus of Nazareth. The King of the Jews.” And with the further instruction that the words be written in Latin – the language of the Empire, Greek – the language of the times, and Aramaic – the language of the locals.
Now another language is being used today to repeat the humiliation. An Arabic letter, the equivalent of the Roman ‘N’ is being used in the Middle East to mark the homes and churches of Christians for destruction and demolition, and to identify their occupants as followers of the Nazarene. Sadly lives are being lost. And atrocities committed by those who daub the paint and write the letter.
But what does all such writing achieve? An old church father famously put it this way: ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.’ And so it has always been, to the confounding of those who press their swords. The more they cut, the more the Church of God continues to increase in number and in strength. It’s the paradox that Pilate neither knew nor understood. And it’s the mystery that continues to marvel. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The answer has been given, and the Christian Church salutes those who love the name of the Nazarene more than life itself.
DM 21st October 2014