A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 2:1-23
In Matthew 13:52, Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Matthew is that scribe trained for the kingdom of heaven. He is like the master of the house, bringing out what is new and what is old. The new and the old are the colors that Matthew uses to paint his portrait of Jesus. Each color—the old and the new—was chosen with great care and purpose: to put on display the treasure that is in Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 2, Matthew continues the birth narrative of Jesus by using the old and the new to show that Jesus is the long-awaited King. Here, Matthew gives us a handful of scenes to describe the birth and early days of Jesus’s life.
In this chapter, Matthew, the scribe and artist, presents us with four different scenes that set out for us the new and the old. May we be captivated by what we see here.
Scene 1: Out of Bethlehem
[Read Matthew 2:1-12]
Matthew begins by setting the scene. Up to this point, even though Matthew has already spoken of the birth of Jesus, he never mentioned where it took place. And now, precisely to make his point, Matthew mentions the place: Bethlehem of Judea.
While Bethlehem was small, insignificant, and largely irrelevant, this city was the birthplace of David, Israel’s greatest king. And prophets had told that a new and eternal king would come from this place. This is the place Jesus is born.
Matthew’s narrative jumps right into the action by presenting a group of wise men who come to Jerusalem looking for a king. These wise men have traveled a great distance to meet the “king of the Jews.” They are looking for the one “born king,” not “born to be king.” They recognize a baby has been born who is king, not one who one day will be king. And in coming to Jerusalem searching, they very clearly do not intend to meet the man who actually thinks that he is at that moment the king of the Jews, king Herod.
When Herod hears about what they are seeking, Matthew describes both Herod and all of Jerusalem as “troubled.” So, Herod responds by bringing together his own wise men—all of them—the priests and the scribes, because he wants to know where this threat to his power is going to come from.
They respond by bringing out the old. The scribes of Jerusalem answer Herod by turning to Micah 5:2 and 4. Centuries earlier Micah spoke of Bethlehem, the small and unimportant city, from which a great ruler would come forth, who would shepherd God’s people in the strength of the Lord.
Take a step back from our scene for a moment. Matthew is presenting Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, the King. And here we have the wise men of Herod’s court—the priests and scribes of Jerusalem—tell Herod that the words they themselves recognize as God’s words speak of this coming king born in Bethlehem. Yet the only people interested in worshiping the new king are those who aren’t Jewish.
You see, it is not enough to know about God, to know about Jesus, if you do not worship him and give your whole life to him. The wise men of Herod’s court were not truly wise. True wisdom seeks out the one who is the Truth and worships him.
This is exactly what we see happen at the end of our scene. We’re not exactly sure how, but Matthew tells us that the star the wise men saw led them to the place where Jesus was and they were overjoyed. When they arrive, they bow down and worship him and offer him their treasures and gifts.
The light of the world has come in the person of Jesus Christ and the nations, represented by these wise men from the east, are coming announcing to Israel the good news of his birth, bearing gifts, and bringing him praise (see Isaiah 60:1-5).
Our scene finally closes with the wise men being warned in a dream not to return to Herod. And as the curtains close on scene 1, Matthew has presented the King Jesus, the promised one born in Bethlehem, who has come to rescue, redeem, and shepherd God’s people.
Scene 2: Out of Egypt
[Read Matthew 2:13-15]
Matthew brings out for us the old in verse 15. He writes, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”
Matthew quotes the prophet Hosea. In Hosea 11:1, he writes, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” In presenting Jesus as the King and Messiah, Matthew is also presenting Jesus as the new Israel. He is God’s chosen Son. Like Jacob and his sons who go to Egypt to be saved from the famine, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt to be saved from Herod.
Just as Israel came out of Egypt and were brought to the promised land, so Jesus takes this same journey. Matthew recognizes that God’s purposes are present on every page of the Bible and they all point to this climax, the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus is brought to Egypt because out of Egypt God calls his Son.
Scene 3: Out of Exile
[Read Matthew 2:16-18]
Herod was never interested in worshiping this king who has been prophesied about, he only wants to protect his own power. So, he orders that every boy under the age of two in Bethlehem be killed. While this is appalling, it is helpful to remember that this applied to only 1 or 2 dozen boys. But tragically in his rage Herod had them murdered. He knows that two kingdoms cannot coexist, so, he seeks to bring an end to the kingdom of Christ.
Matthew then sets out what is old in order to draw attention to what is new. He quotes from the prophet Jeremiah, which we can read in Jeremiah 31:15 – “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
This verse speaks of the tears shed as Israel is taken into exile. Rachel represents the mother of Israel. Matthew compares the grief and tears of Rachel to the grief and tears of the mothers of the sons of Bethlehem. There is no comfort for this grief.
But Matthew has more in mind here than just grief without comfort. His Jewish readers would have known Jeremiah 31. In Jeremiah, tears are shed for those who have gone out of Israel. In Matthew, the tears are for those who have been slaughtered and left behind.
But in Jeremiah 31, the tears shed in Israel come to an end. The very next verse, after the one Matthew quotes, says this, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears . . . There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country” (Jeremiah 31:16-17) .
Jeremiah 31 goes on to describe the new covenant God will establish with his people. This covenant is established through the person and work of Jesus Christ who sheds not just tears, but his own blood for the forgiveness of sins. This Jesus is the one who will ultimate restore all things, wiping every tear away.
Don Carson writes, “The tears begun in Jeremiah’s day are climaxed and ended by the tears of the mothers of Bethlehem. The heir to David’s throne has come, the exile is over, the true Son of God has arrived—and he will introduce the new covenant promised by Jeremiah.”
Thanks be to God, for the exile is over and the King has come.
Scene 4: Out of Nazareth
[Read Matthew 2:19-23]
Matthew sets out the old once again, but this time in an unusual way. He doesn’t quote a prophet or make his reference explicit, and instead he writes in Matthew 2:23, “He went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.”
To those of us who were not around in first century Palestine, this comment seems like no big deal. Of course, Jesus went there. He is “Jesus of Nazareth” after all. But we don’t know or we forget what a shock this would have been for Matthew’s readers.
This is Nazareth of Galilee. It was an area filled with non-Jews, or Gentiles. It was separated from Jewish territory by Samaria. It was governed by a different set of rulers. And it was an area that was marked by a distinct accent. To go to Jerusalem from Nazareth would be like going to San Francisco from Tuscaloosa.
Jesus was from Nazareth. Nothing good came out of Nazareth. Those from Nazareth were looked down upon. They were mocked and had no place in Jewish society. And this is exactly how God purposed for the Messiah King to come.
As Isaiah testifies in Isaiah 53:3
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
There are three brief lessons we should take from Matthew 2.
First, see how Jesus came to fulfill the Scriptures. All that we read, every page, is meant to lead us to him. Through the stories, through the genealogies, through the laws and poems and prophecies—all of Scripture points us to Christ.
Second, see how God purposes to be a blessing to all nations through Jesus. It can be easy to read Scripture and think of Jesus with only self-concern. But notice how the revelation of Jesus Christ is always on mission. His revelation is always drawing men to himself.
So, when Jesus arrives on the scene, the first thing we see are wise men from the east coming to worship him. God’s plan for salvation is broad and wonderful. And when you think of Jesus, when you read God’s Word, it’s not just for you or for our church. It’s for your neighbor down the street. Your coworker a few cubicles down. The family member who seems hopeless. Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. Let’s be a people who are ever-committed to making that hope known.
Third, see how God’s purposes cannot be thwarted. He cannot be stopped. At every point of Matthew 2, there is a tension because it seems like the life of this baby named Jesus is just hanging by a thread. As a baby, he seems powerless to do anything. The king wants to bring an end to his life. His parents seem to be running all over the Middle East out of fear. They go to the little town of Bethlehem, the wretched country of Egypt, and the despised town of Nazareth.
But God is sovereign over every detail. Just as he is sovereign over every detail of this narrative, he is sovereign over every detail of your life as well. His plans cannot be stopped. Take comfort in the sovereign and powerful God who works all things together for his glory and for the good of those who love and follow him.
His plan was laid out before the foundations of the world. It was testified to by the prophets and it has been realized in Jesus Christ. The despised one of Nazareth has come as the Messiah King, the Savior of the world.
Song of Response
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