Fright and Flight: An Unlikely Welcome to the World's Savior

Matthew 2:13-23

By Daniel Mayfield

Introduction

 

The text today—Matthew 2:13-23— deals a great bit with the early days of Jesus’ life and the prophecies that outline those early days. Now, it would be the expectation of any righteous Jew to see a Messiah praised from the start of His days. And although this would be the expectation, this is not what we will see. In fact, the start of Jesus’ life is one marked by a harsh and unwelcoming world. 

 

So, today we are going to examine this text and ask three questions of it, and we will finish by looking at two practical lessons for the 21st century Christian. 

 

  1. Question 1—Why did God choose to send them down to Egypt?

    1. The first question to ask is, Does Egypt have any significance to the Jew Matthew is trying to reach? 

      1. Uh, yeah! It does. Why did God’s people enter the land of Egypt in the first place? 

        1. Well, there were two reasons for their entry into Egypt. One, the famine was so severe through all of the ancient world, and Egypt, because of Joseph, was the only country providing grain for food! So, to escape the harshness of the famine, Joseph’s brothers went down to Egypt to find food and ultimately protection. 

        2. Second, I want you to listen to the words to Jacob after God named him Israel: Genesis 46:3 says, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.”

        3. So, Israel went for protection from the famine, and because God commanded him to go, for there he would be made into a great nation. 

      2. Now, what words come to mind when you think of God bringing Israel out of Egypt? Deliverance, freedom, redemption! All of these words would fit!

    2. Another question—When looking at the broad history of Israel and their relationship with Egypt, what kinds of words come to your mind? Pleasant things? Probably not. When I think of Egypt, primarily, I think of Bondage. Enslavement. Oppression. Persecution. Mistreatment. 

    3. But I want you to notice something rather awesome. 

      1. There were three stages of Israel’s dealings with Egypt. First, they went to find an escape from the harshness of famine. So, Egypt was a place of protection. Second, Egypt was a place of bondage when Pharaoh mistreated God’s people. And third, Israel was rescued from Egypt. 

      2. The flight to Egypt commanded by the angel of the Lord in Matthew 2:13ff relates on many levels to Israel’s prior history with Egypt, only this time there would be no slavery. Christ would enter Egypt as a baby to find protection from the harshness of Herod, and He would leave Egypt as the prophecy said God would call out His Son, but not a fraction of slavery would ever be associated with the name of Christ. God placed Jesus in Egypt for temporary protection, and his exit would be a wonderful sign of deliverance, and redemption, all coming from this Jesus, the Christ. 

      3. And no, it wouldn’t be redemption from the Romans, or the Egyptian Pharaoh, or Babylon, or Assyria. It would be redemption from the most powerful enemy that has ever existed—Satan. Sin. Something that none of us could have ever freed ourselves from. Jesus was coming to rescue us from the oppressive bondage of sin.  

  2. Question 2—Why did God spare baby Jesus but do nothing about the children involved in Herod’s wrath? 

    1. One might say that God saved baby Jesus because he cares more about Him than the many other innocent children who died at the hand of Herod. Well, this couldn’t be true, because God showed the same mercy to the Gentile wisemen as he did to Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. Both groups were warned in a dream to flee from Herod. So, there has to be another reason for God’s allowance of the death of these innocent children. 

    2. First of all, Matthew makes it very clear that the death of these children was not the doing of God, despite His knowledge of the future event. I want you to notice the grammatical pattern Matthew uses when describing the fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew 1:22 says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” In other words, God worked these things together in order to fulfill what He willed. 2:15 says, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, and 21:4 all use the same pattern as these verses. In other words, something was done or accomplished TO fulfill what God had prophesied. This is important because Matthew changes the pattern with this particular prophesy. After Herod had killed many innocent children, it doesn’t say, “This was done to fulfill God’s prophesy.” Such a statement would lead the reader to believe that God was somehow involved in the process. Instead, the text says, “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet.” It wasn’t done to fulfill a prophesy of God’s will, but it was an occurrence that God knew would happen, yet had nothing to do with Him.

    3. So, why then did God allow Herod to do this? I believe that there are a couple of reasons. First, such an act of Herod would serve to contrast the workings of man with the workings of God. While Herod would kill a bunch of children not his own in order to save himself, God would give up His only Son in order to save all mankind. The contrast of Herod’s actions with God’s mission is absolutely striking. But secondly, an extremely important lesson is taught by the actions of Herod. Simply, those who have lives surrounding Jesus will be in danger to some extent. These innocent children were killed simply because they lived near the birthplace of Jesus. The message is clear. A life centralized near Jesus will face difficulty. In fact, as the story of Matthew’s gospel unfolds, several innocent lives will be lost because of their relation to Jesus.

  3. Question 3—Why did God choose Nazareth as the hometown (not birthplace) of Jesus? 

    1. In order to understand why Nazareth, we need to look closely at verse 23 again. The text says, “And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’”

      1. Now, you may have noticed a subtle difference between this prophecy and the others. Namely, Matthew is talking about the fulfillment of what was spoken by the prophets (plural). Every other prophecy thus far was spoken by a specific prophet—one that we can open our Old Testament Bibles and read. This prophecy, however, was not a quote of one man. In fact, there is no prophecy in Old Testament scripture that says, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” 

      2. So, Matthew is doing something else with this prophecy. He’s not speaking of a specific Old Testament quote, but he’s teaching a principle about Jesus—one that the Old Testament prophets all would have agreed upon. 

      3. Again, this writing was to Jews, not 21st century Gentile Christians in the Cayman Islands. So, let’s get into the mind frame of a Jew to understand what Matthew means by this. The question to ask is, What did Nazareth mean to the Jew? 

      4. In John 1:45-46, the text says, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” 

      5. To call one a Nazarene was to speak of them contemptuously. 

      6. So what do we learn about God intentionally placing Jesus to be raised in podunk Nazareth? 

    2. Well, simply, Jesus wasn’t going to be a flashy Savior. He didn’t come down to show off. He didn’t come to flex his muscles. He came to provide a perfect example for us of what we are to be for him. He was going to be a humble servant on the ground with a towel—A humble servant with humble beginnings, and if any wanted to see past Him, they’d be able to. Only the humble would ever see how high His lowly estate really was. 

    3. As the gospel needed to be foolish, so did the upbringing of Christ. Nothing good came out of Nazareth. This was a stumbling block to those who didn’t truly believe. 

  4. Lesson 1—Expect Opposition

    1. Opposition should come as no surprise to us, because it came as no surprise to God. Prophecy spoke of it! Often we react in shock at the opposition against Christians! We act shocked that the world would try and force a baker to pay a massive fine for not making a cake for a gay wedding. We believe we are experiencing something new because of the ISIS killings of Christians in the middle east and around the world. Should we be surprised by this? No! Opposition to the faithful has been the consistent theme through all of history. Jesus said in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” Has that not been the theme as you read your Bibles? Death, persecution, rejection, affliction—all coming upon those who are faithful? This ought not be a surprise!

    2. But we’ve got Joel O’steen preaching a gospel that promises constant peace, prosperity, and wealth to the faithful! And the world has always had the unbiblical belief that good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. Just read Job and you’ll see this isn’t the case. Jesus later on says in Matthew 10:24, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

 

  1. Lesson 2—Remain Faithful

    1. There was an immediacy to Joseph’s faithfulness in both instances

    2. Notice that the angel said “rise,” and Joseph rose. Notice also that the angel appeared to him in a dream, and dreams happen while we sleep. So, while it was nighttime and Joseph was sleeping, the angel came to him. What time do we see Joseph leaving for Egypt? Night! He didn’t wait around! He got up and left! The call of God demands immediacy and faithfulness. 

    3. What is it in your life that you’re holding off from doing? Have you been washed in the cleansing waters of baptism? Have you held off putting away a destructive sin in your life? What call of God have you dismissed? We’ve got to be faithful and we need to be immediate in our obedience to God. 

© Finding Canaan. All rights reserved. "Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another" -- Jeremiah 23:30​