Matthew Chapter 2
The beginning of the second chapter of Matthew introduces us to the mysterious wise men, who arrive in Jerusalem and go to Herod the Great in Jerusalem to inquire the location of the Christ, who had just been born. While the wise men were excited to seek Jesus because they saw Him as “king of the Jews” (verse 2), Herod was troubled by this news, probably because he saw Jesus as a threat to his throne of power. This was also the Pharisees misperception later on; the Messiah was mistakenly perceived as someone who would overthrow the established government during His first reign on earth. Herod summons his own priests and council and tries to determine where the Messiah had been born. By using ancient prophecy, the council correctly determines that Christ had been born in Bethlehem. “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (verse 6). The first part of the second stanza of that verse troubled Herod; he didn’t want there to be a ruler for Israel, because that would threaten his power. So he shrewdly brings the wise men to him and sends them to Bethlehem to find the child on the false pretense that he himself will later join them to worship the Messiah. The wise men go to Bethlehem, guided by a star which rests over the place of the Christ. I love verse 10. “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” This sentence may seem repetitive, but I think it’s very important because when we see Jesus, one of the simplest reactions we have is that of joy. Jesus is someone to be joyful about. And he is also, as verse 11 shows, someone to be worshiped. The wise men actually fall down and worship Jesus, who is with his mother Mary. If Mary had had any doubt left as to who her son was, it must have evaporated in the moment that total strangers brought expensive gifts to her infant son and were prostrate on the ground before Him. Why were they called wise men? To me, it was the recognition of a mighty King, which led to joy and worship. The wise men were led by God in a dream back to their own lands, so as not to go back to Herod with information that could lead him to try and harm the Christ. What a wonderful story those wise men must have had for their families. To be able to be guided by a star to a child written about in old prophecies, and then to be guided back home many miles away by a dream. These unnamed men had a great amount of faith. During the next part of the narrative, Joseph is once again visited in a dream by an angel (verse 13). The angel warns Joseph that Herod is going to search for Jesus in order to kill Him so that he may retain his throne. The angel tells Joseph to go to Egypt because “this is to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet “Out of Egypt I called my son” (verse 15). Something interesting about this entire story is how much it reflects on Israel’s history as a nation. The wise men visiting Jesus reminds me of when the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon to learn from him; she, like the wise men, traveled a great distance to see something she had heard of from others and needed to experience herself. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are sent into Egypt and will be brought back out again, just like the Exodus in the Old Testament. God’s covenant is shown as being continuous with Israel, because just as he brought them out of slavery, He will bring Jesus and his family back out in time to the land of Israel. Joseph heeds what the angel says in the dream, and moves his family to Egypt. After Joseph and his family move, Herod commits an atrocious act steeped in fear, killing all children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem, in order to kill off any child who might be the Christ. That is what the lust for the retention of power will do to men. After Herod dies, an angel visits Joseph for the third time, instructing him to move back to Israel because “those who sought the child’s life are dead” (verse 20). Unfortunately, the man who took the throne after Herod died was his son Archelaus. Joseph was afraid to be too close to a man who was just as bad as his father, which results in another dream. “Being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee” (verse 22). For those counting, this is the fourth time Joseph has been led by God in dreams, which goes to show Joseph’s faith. How frequently do we wait for God to convict us before we act? What if Joseph had shamed Mary and divorced her? Or if he decided that he didn’t want to move his young family all the way to Egypt? Joseph’s faith in God and patience in trying to do His will is a crucial element of faith in this story. I am not suggesting that you wait until an angel appears in a dream for you (though that isn’t outside the realm of possibility). Yet now that we have been given the Holy Spirit as a gift, it is quite practical to seek God in prayer and in Scripture in order to determine what He wants us to do before we choose to do something. And that may take time and it may end in a result in which God calls us to do something unexpected. We must have faith in His goodness as Joseph did that He cares for us and is concerned in our wellbeing through His grace. Chapter 2 ends with Joseph and his young family located in Galilee near Nazareth, “so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene” (verse 23). Now there isn’t a specific prophecy that speaks to Jesus being called a Nazarene. From my footnotes, Matthew was appealing to a general theme of how there would be contempt for the Christ. Nazareth, for whatever reason, was not a town where good people were thought to have come from; it was a town that was scorned (as referenced in the first chapter of John). How fitting of God to use Jesus from a town no one liked or cared for! He is always using to meek and small to teach lessons to the proud and established. From the first two chapters, we have already learned that even as a child, Jesus wasn’t welcomed by all into the world. He often inspires us to either act like wise men, who joyfully worship Him, or like mad rulers, who would seek to destroy His life in order to cling to our sinful desires. It is my hope that we show true wisdom, which is made evident by humbly presenting ourselves to Christ while being prostrate at His feet.