Chapter 4: Nazareth {Jesus: A Pilgrimage}


Welcome to our virtual book club! We’re reading Fr. James Martin’s bestseller, Jesus: A Pilgrimage. Each week we will tackle a chapter and look forward to a lively discussion together.

Jesus book conversation

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but this week’s reflection is the one that almost didn’t get written.

In the past two weeks, multiple circumstances conspired against my “to do” list and left me in a “Why ME, Lord?!!” kind of mood. The circumstances had everything to do with taking care of my family. There were both planned and sudden needs. And even with the planned situations, there were changes, frustrations, last minute detours and lots and lots of messes.

Each day, as I stared in desperation at my growing “to do” list and saw the words “Write about the Jesus chapter…” scribbled and left undone (along with countless other professional commitments), my frustration level grew. I was busy, so busy that some days I didn’t even find time for a shower (I know, yuck!). And yet I had the sense that I was getting absolutely nothing accomplished.

How could I be trying so hard and getting absolutely nothing done?

Finally, yesterday, I was back home after logging miles and miles of both air travel and driving. My family tasks had settled a bit. With the roar of the washer and dryer in the background I picked up my big green Jesus book and settled in my favorite reading spot. I’ve been listening to the book on Audible, but to write a proper reflection I felt the need to highlight, to scribble margin notes, and to journal my thoughts as I read. Reading the words on the page reminded me of the many times I’d spent with Father James Martin in the past few weeks — listening to this book while driving to a speaking engagement, while working in my mother’s garden, while sitting next to a loved one’s hospital bed as she slept… I had been listening in the context of my real, messy, unorganized life with Jesus as a companion, and Fr. Jim too!

Digging in to Nazareth in Chapter Four again yesterday in that quiet space of time reminded me not of the days I had spent a few years ago while traveling in the Holy Land. Surprisingly, reading these pages about the “Hidden Life” of Christ took me mentally not to the pew where I’d worshipped in the beautiful Basilica of the Annunciation nor to the ruins of the Church of St. Joseph. As much as I had loved seeing those places in person on my own Israel pilgrimage, Chapter Four’s emphasis on Jesus’ knowledge of the marginalized, on his understanding of human life or family life, or on his understanding of work as a “tekton” unlocked many more mysteries of this Son of God I love so dearly.

Who among us hasn’t wished for a time machine to venture back to a tiny home in Nazareth to watch Mary fix dinner for Jesus and Jospeh? Who hasn’t wondered what tools lined the walls of the carpentry shop or what Mary wore when she was laundering her blue robe (and was it really blue?) and Joseph and Jesus’s tunics? This remarkable chapter on the Hidden Life filled in many of those mental blanks for me.

But in the end, if my purpose in reading Fr. Jim’s book is to meet Jesus, to know him better in the context of both history and my own life, then the true genius of Chapter Four for me was found not in the remarkable historical details that unveiled those hidden years, but rather in the final few lines of the chapter:

Jesus shows us the inestimable value of ordinary time. As the Jesuit theologian John Haughey comments, during Jesus’s time in Nazareth God fashioned him into “the instrument God needed for the salvation of the world.” In Nazareth, Jesus speaks to the meaning and worth of our ordinary lives.

The meaning and worth of our ordinary lives

In the messiness of “real life”, in the hard work, the moments of patient companionship, and in the setting aside of my professional “to do” list in favor of the duties of Lisa Hendey’s own “hidden life”, Jesus awaits me. In the tasks and thankless work of my ordinary life, the moments know one sees or recognizes, the greatest opportunities for true grace quietly beckon me. It’s not that I’m “getting nothing done”, but rather that I haven’t been properly valuing the work that God has been placing in my path. Perhaps the most complete fulfillments of meaning and worth of my own ordinary life are the ones that lead me closer to both God, to my loved ones, and to those most greatly in need of whatever strength that God has placed within me.

Whether I fully know or understand every detail of his life, death and resurrection, Jesus is at my side — as role model, mentor, friend and savior. My ordinary life and the countless tiny and insignificant ways I find to better love Jesus by more fully loving and caring for those around me are a true blessing.

Jesus’ Hidden Life mattered. It prepared him for the path God had planned for him.

My hidden life matters, and yours does too.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. Early in Chapter Four Fr. Martin mentions that he wonders what Jesus’s actual voice sounds like. Do you ever do this in your personal prayer time? How do you listen for Jesus’s voice in your personal meditation?
  2. Charles de Foucauld hoped to found a religious order that lived out his devotion to the spirituality of the “Hidden Life”. In what ways do you see your life’s work — the “ordinary” tasks that fill your days — as a means of spreading the gospel in everyday circumstances?
  3. How does pondering the value of Jesus’ ordinary life help you to measure more fully the potential sanctity of your own ordinary life?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 5: Jordan. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Jesus Book Club page.

Copyright 2014 Lisa Hendey


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder of, a bestselling author and an international speaker. A frequent radio and television guest, Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and communications. Visit Lisa at or on social media @LisaHendey for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish, school or organization. Find Lisa’s books on her Amazon author page.


  1. Sandi Belleque on

    After the chapter I realized that I never thought of Jesus’s teachings as coming from his real life experience of living simply and with the poor and marginalized. But after reading your comments it brought to mind a musical drama that used to be in our area of Oregon years ago called Herstory. Two sisters showed Mary’s side of things and some of it was during the Hidden Years. We loved it! Thanks for writing today. I look forward to my Sunday morning prayer time.

  2. How appropriate as we head into Ordinary Time in the liturgical year to ponder the ordinary times of Jesus life in Nazareth.

  3. Lisa, beautiful reflection.
    Your #2 point to ponder – I often think about that. Brother Lawrence comes to mind – Practicing the presence of God in my everyday life. I need to ponder that more. And that ties into #3 as well.

  4. I loved this chapter. My prayer had me thinking how Jesus “increased in wisdom and in hares, and in divine and human favor”. Jesus grew in his understanding of his mission. Did he struggle with what this mission really meant? Did he ever wonder how in spite of his intimacy with his Father could he really be the Messiah? In the gospels Jesus’s pattern of hard work and then time in prayer is consistent. I have often thought that during this prayer time was when Jesus got in touch with his ‘Godliness’. I wonder when he was young if this communion with the Father was at times confusing. I also imagine Mary helping the young Jesus figure it all out. Mary, more than anyone else then, understood how truly special Jesus was. I think of how we all try to help out children sort out their uniqueness and what that means as they relate to others. Think of the grace Mary needed to work this through with a young boy who was truly God’s Son.

  5. What struck me the most was thinking of the Holy Family struggling to make ends meet just as many of us do. I often think, well, Jesus was divine so he could fix any situation, even poverty. Yes, but he was also fully human and lived fully human, so they struggled and worked hard. It’s a totally different view of Jesus living this way as a child. He really does understand our needs, our problems, our difficulties because he walked our walk.

  6. Ruth Hoerig on

    Two things in particular awakened an awareness that reminded me of the humanity of Jesus.
    1)The first was the struggle he had with understanding his own identity. I recalled the movie: “The Last Temptation of Christ, by Nikos Kazantzakis. Before I saw this movie I always thought that Jesus knew who he was –the Son of God-the Messiah. But the movie, especially the scene of the three temptations in the desert – showed how much Jesus struggled to know who he was and what it was that God was asking of him.
    2)The second thing that really hit home to me was the description of the extreme poverty of Jesus’ early years in Nazareth. I never thought about that before, but it’s true, that in the first century, life had to be very primitive, much like the poverty I witnessed when visiting a resettlement of returning refugees in a jungle area of Guatemala. The conditions there were very much the same. The fact that Jesus chose to be born and live among the peasant class speaks volumes to me

  7. I like your question of what do I think Jesus’s voice sounds like. I have never given that a thought before. It seems it’s always my voice talking and asking for guidance etc. I need to learn to listen more.

  8. Thanks everyone. I think this was my favorite chapter to write. I love thinking about the Hidden Life and enjoyed discovering all those facts about daily life in first-century Nazareth from all of those resources–particularly the archaeological discoveries. And yes, it is something to think about Jesus walking the 90 minutes (which would have been nothing in those days) and visiting or working in the wealthy town of Sepphoris, then being rebuilt by Herod, and then returning home to poor Nazareth. Surely his heart would have awakened in compassion, and would have been afire with pity for the poor with whom he lived. In any event, I hope you enjoy learning more and more about his Hidden Life and about how much it intersects with your own life.

  9. In Chapter 4, I reflected on Fr. Martin’s statement, “In Nazareth Jesus speaks to the meaning and worth of our ordinary lives.”

    It was interesting to learn that the homes in Nazareth were clustered together around an open courtyard allowing little privacy for families and neighbors. It is easy to understand how the community of Nazareth knew who Jesus was.

    Even though I am located close to my neighbors, I do enjoy the privacy of my own home however I do enjoy talking over the fence with my neighbor from time to time. I cannot say for sure if my community, outside the Church community, knows me well. Due to advanced technology, it almost seems that everyone owns their own individual cell phone. With that said, I do miss the communication with a number of my husband and son’s friends which the common family landline phone gave. Also, friends, who call on my twenty-six year old son, no longer come to the front door to ring the bell anymore. They just wait outside in the car and call the cell to let him know that they arrived at the house.

    On another note, there are many benefits which advanced technology has provided communication. It is easy to quickly communicate with my son and husband with a small text, whether it is a small note to say you love them or a reminder to pick up milk at the store. Due to social media, like Facebook, I am able to easily keep in touch with my out-of-state siblings, cousins, and friends (3 married brothers with children in Florida plus 1 married sister with children in New Jersey, not to mention several cousins throughout the states of NJ, Michigan, and FL). On Facebook, I watch my nieces and nephews grow up in ways that I would never have without it. It is very uplifting. Often times I feel blessed to be in close communication with my family and friends. Keeping closely connected to others is a sign of His love. Jesus truly touches me in my ordinary life.

  10. This chapter has help me to see how resourceful they must of been. I remember when I was a child my grandparents lived off their land and animals. They traded fruits, vegetables, eggs and my grandpas delicious tortillas. It was a beautiful community, everyone was always smiling, greeting each other. I remember they didn’t have much but that didn’t matter they were very happy,they were very faithful people. Everyone knew everyone in the community.
    I could see Jesus running over to the neighbors asking if they had something to trade or simply share. The people in Jesus community must of been very united.
    My son went to Ghana to do his internship and was staying at an orphanage and when he return he said “mom, there is so much poverty there, yet they are richer than we could ever be. There is so much Love, peace and their faith and prayer life I can’t begin to tell you how united they are with God. The way they surrender their whole being”
    I really enjoyed this chapter!

  11. Wayne Buse on

    Ordinary time, ordinary life. It makes Opus Dei seem even more relevant. That we find the work of God in the ordinary, every day tasks that make up our lives. That truly we can see God in every moment of the day.

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