A Family On A Journey
1. What we are given for today is the scriptural passage telling the story about the events continuing after the birth of the son. Mary and Joseph were the first ones permitted to live with Christ after Christmas. So, the representation of this first small holy family could be said to be an identification with the representation of the church. Their story is our story.
2. There is only a little bit of this year left. I would guess most people are busy with preparations to bring in the new year. But, first of all more than anything we should bring this year to a finish with God's word with us and we should prepare for the new year with God's word, too. With such a thought as this I would like us to carefully read this story of a small family while overlapping it with our very own [stories] and to pay attention to the message God is directing our way.
The Obedience Of Joseph
3. Let's begin by reading starting with verse thirteen. "As the scholars of astrology went back, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in dream and said, 'Get up, take along the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is seeking for this son and wants to kill him.' Joseph got up, taking along the baby and his mother in the middle of the night he departed for Egypt, and he was there until Herod died. This was done in order to fulfill what the Lord said through the prophet, 'I have called my son out of Egypt,'" (verses thirteen through fifteen).
4. Just before the passage we read today the story is recorded that the scholars of astrology, who had come from the east, had worshipped the infant Jesus. This scene is usually depicted along with the story of the shepherds who had come visiting in the stable. But, The Gospel Of Matthew does not say anything about a stable. As we look at verse eleven, there is no "stable" written about there, but "a house." It is generally held that when the scholars had visited was not immediately following the birth of the infant but was about when the infant had already grown to nearly two years of age. This is determined by the fact in verse sixteen that Herod had the boys two years old and under killed. Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus were residing in Bethlehem. That was the place of their everyday lives.
5. But, he informs [us] that their peaceful everyday lives had come to an end with a sudden word from God. God commanded Joseph, "Get up, take along the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you." He had to flee and stay in a foreign country where he had no friends and he knew absolutely nothing about. This couldn't have been just some easy thing for him to do. Yet, Joseph obeyed. His obedience is shown in the words, "he got up ... in the middle of the night."
6. The stories in Matthew about the birth of Jesus and the one right after say a lot about Joseph. But, strangely enough, not one word from Joseph is recorded. We can say this about the entire New Testament corpus. Joseph says not one single thing. Yet, he obeys. Silence and subjection. This is the strong impression given from the story of Joseph.
7. It seemed so even when Mary became pregnant. That was out of the blue for Joseph [or literally, "that was a thunderclap in a blue sky for Joseph"]. In a time when he had been thinking up thoughts of a happy marriage and family life, a dreadful event came where it [all] suddenly seemed to plop and pop with problems. Yet, he did not murmur. He received Mary according to God's instructions. However, the story did not end with that. Again, unexpectedly, their lives were thrown out of kilter. Still, he did not murmur. He obeyed.
8. The text says, Joseph "was a righteous man," (1:19). It seems like "the righteous man" we envision is quite different. Righteous persons often times murmur. They moan. They make complaints of discontent. They will complain, "Though I am living right, why must I have such a hard time!" Furthermore, they frequently murmur to God [himself]. But, Joseph was different. Even though he was a righteous man, he did not consider himself more righteous with God [than he should]. He kept quiet before God. Also, he sought for the leading of God and he went about living according to [that] leading. The words "an angel of the Lord appeared [to him] in a dream" are repeated. We are not very familiar ourselves with such an occurrence of things, but the important thing here is that the leading came from God and not from humankind. It means that [the guidance] was from a message from above and not from below, [that is] a message from humans. While we complain to God under our breath, we often walk looking for a word from [some] person. This is about how Joseph was exactly the opposite of that.
9. At the end of story after story Matthew tells [us] this was a fulfillment of what had been prophesied. The saying "I have called my son out of Egypt" is a quotation from Hosea 11:1. "My son" originally was Israel. So, what it is pointing to is the event of the Exodus which was headed up by Moses. By saying that this prophecy was fulfilled Matthew was probably trying to point to this baby Jesus as the second Moses while at the same time he was the son of God. We certainly are made to note that the story of Moses in the Exodus account and the story recorded here parallel each other on many counts.
10. Also, there is something else really interesting about Matthew's quote. It is that he is making a quote of "I have called my son out of Egypt" at the time they are fleeing to Egypt. It would seem better if originally this prophecy had been fulfilled at the time Joseph and the others had returned to their country from Egypt. But, he already saw a realization of the prophecy in [their] escape to Egypt. That is, he sees in it the plan of God and the work of his hands. We are informed that even this trip of a miserable flight to escape had been part of God's plan. God's plan became one with the obedience of a person who obeyed silently without murmuring. In this way we are shown within the narrative how the will of God comes to pass.
Jesus Was Left In A Sinful World
11. Well, on the other hand a big commotion was raised in Herod's palace. After Herod got mad because the scholars of astrology did not come back, he handed down a dreadful order. Please look at verse sixteen and following.
12. "Well, when Herod knew he was outdone by the scholars of astrology, he got really mad. Then, he sent a person based on the time period ascertained by the scholars and had the boys two years and under who lived in Bethlehem and in the entire region thereabouts killed leaving none behind. Thus, what had been said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
'A voice in Rama was heard
It was a voice that was groaning severely in pain.
Rachel was crying for her children,
She could not be comforted,
Because her children would be no more,'" (verses sixteen through eighteen).
13. Even when Moses was born it is written in the book of Exodus that Pharaoh commanded all the people to "throw the males born into the Nile leaving out no one." (Exodus 1:22) But, no matter how much authority Pharaoh had, he could not destroy Moses. Matthew was probably writing here with this event in mind. It is about how no matter what Herod did he was not able to wipe out the Lord Jesus.
14. But, the Bible has not put outside its view the many children who died. We have got to take a straight look at this very miserable incident recorded in it. Did God want the bodies of dear babies cut up by the soldiers' swords? Did God want the mothers to scream out crying? Did God want the happy families to be suddenly thrust down to the depths of sadness?
15. Matthew chose his words carefully. He does not say here that "it was done to fulfill what was said through the prophet." His way of saying it was "Thus ... it was fulfilled." It is so that the story cannot be read as if God wanted these things. What we must first see here is not "If God was there why did this happen like this?," but "What did the sin of the people in opposition to God cause to happen?"
16. Herod was desperate to preserve his own crown. He wanted to continue being king. For that reason, we are told he even executed his own wife and children. Therefore, the events as written here were no doubt possible. He had heard that the messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. But, he wanted to wipe out this messiah. It was so that he himself would continue being king. This was a war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Herod. It was a war between the sovereignty of God and the royalty of Herod, [between God's right to dominion and Herod's right to a kingdom]. Herod did not accept the rule of God. The results [of his rejection of God's rule] was a blood thirsty tragedy.
17. Nothing special at all was written here. This tragic image of humanity continues even to this day. It is a tragic representation of this world which is not about to accept the rule of God or accept the messiah. Humanity's sin wounds and kills people. Also, we cannot consider what happens in this world as the responsibility of others. What we will be held accountable for in this world is our sin and your sin.
18. But, God left the Lord Jesus in the midst of this kind of world. He left [him] as the one to save us from sin and death. The Lord was preserved from the hands of Herod. However, it meant that he was left as the one to go forward to the cross and as the one to walk the path of suffering.
19. Matthew quotes here from Jeremiah 31:15. Perhaps he must have known what kind of prophecy this was. This prophecy continued as follows: "Thus, says the Lord. You should stop crying. Wipe the tears from [your] eyes. Your sorrows will be rewarded, says the Lord. [Your] sons will return from the land of the enemy. There is hope in your future, says the Lord. [Your] sons will come back to their own land," (Jeremiah 31:16-17). When Israel experienced the collapse of its country and became captive, this was the message of consolation God had given through Jeremiah. The message of this prophecy was saying that humanity's sin and its effects are not the final thing left to us. God left the Lord Jesus on this earth. God's plan of salvation was not stopped by humanity's sin. The message of Jeremiah quoted in verse eighteen shows this. Therefore, based on God's salvation we can hear the words just before, "there is hope in your future."
Jesus And The Small Family On A Journey
20. Finally, let's get to reading from verse nineteen to verse twenty-three. "When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph who was in Egypt and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. Those who were plotting against the life of this child have died off.' So, Joseph got up, took the baby and his mother and returned to the land of Israel. But, he was afraid to go there when he heard that Archelaus succeeded in his father Herod's tracks and was ruling over Judea. However, since he got a revelation in a dream, he stayed within the region of Galilee and went to the town of Nazareth and lived there. It was so that what was said through the prophets would be fulfilled that 'He will be called a Nazarite,'" (verses nineteen through twenty-three).
21. The family making a trip with Jesus was truly weak and small, and was taunted by the powers of this world's system and was forced to move from country to country. On the other hand, Herod's authority was mighty before them. History seems to have been lead by the power of such strong persons. Such men of power seem to be the lords of history. But, Herod died. He had the authority only to set the entire country in motion to snatch away the life of the baby Jesus, but he [could] not put off the rule of his own death. The word, to die, is repeated in verse twenty as well. "Those who were plotting against the life of this son have died off."
22. While powerful persons come and go, the works of God soundly advance. This is represented in the words which were stated again, "it was so that what was said through the prophets would be fulfilled." The one who controlled and moved history was not Herod. On top of that, the Bible has told us there is one very great and powerful one. Though humans might not accept him, though some oppose him, though some fight against him, yet the rule of God exists moving solidly forward towards perfection at the end.
23. While in the midst of this rule of God, what is at center in the events is none other than the infant Jesus. In this story there is the infant Jesus completely powerless, without anything to say and without anything to perform. What can be seen in the future of the personage [or representation] of this infant is the cross of the Lord Jesus. It is the representation of the Lord Jesus still powerless and under the sin of humanity and crucified as a person unable to do anything anymore. Therefore, the representations of the infant and the holy family on a journey are also a representation of the church on a journey under the crucified Lord Jesus.
24. The decisive events in the plan of God's salvation began with the infant Jesus and one small and powerless family on a journey with him. What was necessary for God to fulfill his will on earth was not the powerful of this world. [What is necessary for God to fulfill his will on earth] is a spirit like Joseph's which follows the leading of God without murmuring but in obedience.