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Matthew 2:13-23

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We come to a portion of scripture that we don’t read to our families on Christmas morning.
Christmas morning we’re focusing upon being filled with glad tidings of great joy right?
This is a dark episode. It’s here and God desires to teach us a few different ways in which He operates.
One immediate lessons we’re taught is that Christmas doesn’t mean the end of darkness.
Jesus comes into a very dark world, and there’s immediately violence, as we have read here.
Christmas doesn’t immediately mean the end of darkness, but it means a light in the darkness.
That’s extremely important for us to understand.
Let’s take a look and see what we’re supposed to learn from this passage.
It’s often called “the slaughter of the innocents” because Herod kills
all the children in Bethlehem under the age of 2, just to make sure he got the Messiah (or he hopes he did).
So let’s look together at the passage.
God’s PRESENCE PROVOKES the darkness. (vv16-18)
Then Herod, when he realized that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men. Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.
Herod, with all his craftiness, misses his mark.
So he flies into a rage. Not having exercised self-control for so many years, he is no longer able to control his passions.
Proud men are quick to imagine insults. He is furious: he must kill this newborn King lest he claim his crown;
and so he orders the death of every two-year-old child in Bethlehem, not wanting any to escape if he was in error because of the age.
Men will do anything to be rid of Jesus. Think of how you’re resisted when you first are born again.
People so resist His Kingdom, seeking to crush His holy cause in its infancy.
So he flies into a rage. Not having exercised self-control for so many years, he is no longer able to control his passions.
So he flies into a rage. Not having exercised self-control for so many years, he is no longer able to control his passions.
How sin enslaves men, and how inconsistent it makes them!
The order is carried out. Herod’s soldiers enter the homes and with their sharp daggers cut to death all these little ones.
How sin enslaves men, and how inconsistent it makes them!
Herod should have been angry with himself, for it was he who had practiced deception.
In doing so he may well have chuckled at the simplicity of the magi, who, so he thought, actually believed that he,
the great King Herod,
would go to Bethlehem and prostrate himself before a Jewish baby throne-pretender!
Now that his trick has boomeranged—the failure of the wise men to return being an injury to his pride—
the cruel tyrant is angry with those whom he himself had tried to trick.
He was a very brutal man.
In fact, we know if those kings in ancient times thought there was somebody who might be usurping them,
they just killed them,
the whole family, and every niece and nephew.
Just because it was typical doesn’t mean it’s not terrible, and just because he’s a tyrant doesn’t mean we shouldn’t see what Matthew is trying to get at.
The presence of Jesus into the world provokes the darkness hostility and pushback.
We shouldn’t look at Herod and say, “Well, he was a tyrant.”
Yes, but the Bible also says in the natural heart is enmity toward God.
That’s what the English says. It means, in your natural state, you hate God.
It’s not just that you don’t believe in God, but you hate Him.
Still, it was a great tragedy for those families and that town.
Herod was infamous for his violence.
God’s people have often suffered at the hands of such men.
Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.
In the context of , Rachel wept for the children of Israel who would die in exile.
But as Matthew certainly knew, is also full of hope.
The prophet declares that God loves His people “with an everlasting love” and that he will make a “new covenant” with them (, ).
Since citations of the Old Testament draw upon the wider context,
Matthew would have us understand that God yet loves the people of Bethlehem and will restore them,
But God’s PRESENCE in Christ PROVOKES the darkness.
and all who likewise suffer, even as He restored Israel after the exile.
Herod died a few years after these events, so that it seemed safe for Jesus and his family to return to Israel. Accordingly (vv19-20)
Matthew, Volumes 1 & 2 The Malice of Herod

In the context of Jeremiah 31, Rachel wept for the children of Israel who would die in exile. But as Matthew certainly knew, Jeremiah 31 is also full of hope. The prophet declares that God loves his people “with an everlasting love” and that he will make a “new covenant” with them (Jer. 31:3, 31–34). Since citations of the Old Testament draw upon the wider context, Matthew would have us understand that God yet loves the people of Bethlehem and will restore them, and all who likewise suffer, even as he restored Israel after the exile.

Herod died a few years after these events, so that it seemed safe for Jesus and his family to return to Israel. Accordingly

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, because those who intended to kill the child are dead.”
Doriani, D. M. (2008). Matthew & 2. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (Vol. 1, p. 39). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
Once it was safe to return to Israel, the family chose to go to Nazareth, a Galilean village of about 500 people.
Then notice these two words. “Israel” and “Judea” in vv21-22
So he got up, took the child and his mother, and entered the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the region of Galilee.
Doriani, D. M. (2008). Matthew & 2. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (Vol. 1, p. 39). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
Here Jesus is viewed as reuniting the once divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel!
God’s PECULIAR PROCESS through the darkness (vv17-23)
Matthew, repeating that this fulfills Scripture, says Jeremiah had already described this sorrow: (2:17-18)
Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.
In the context of , Rachel wept for the children of Israel who would die in exile.
But as Matthew certainly knew, is also full of hope.
The prophet declares that God loves His people “with an everlasting love” and that he will make a “new covenant” with them (, ).
So Matthew is telling us that, in spite of Herod’s cruelty and the sorrows of Bethlehem, God’s purpose of grace will be fulfilled.
Jesus, the Messiah, has come, and salvation and comfort will follow.
God’s kingdom involves suffering and sorrow, especially for the suffering Messiah, but His purpose for that kingdom is to bring blessing out of the sorrow.
Once again the suffering of the Messiah, as in , will bring salvation and hope. God will be victorious.
Since citations of the Old Testament draw upon the wider context,
Since citations of the Old Testament draw upon the wider context,
Matthew would have us understand that God yet loves the people of Bethlehem and will restore them,
and all who likewise suffer, even as He restored Israel after the exile.
God’s PECULIAR PROCESS through the darkness (v23)
Herod died a few years after these events, so that it seemed safe for Jesus and his family to return to Israel. Accordingly (vv19-20)
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, because those who intended to kill the child are dead.”
Once it was safe to return to Israel, the family chose to go to Nazareth, a Galilean village of about 500 people.
Then notice these two words. “Israel” and “Judea” in vv21-22
So he got up, took the child and his mother, and entered the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the region of Galilee.
Here Jesus is viewed as reuniting the once divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel!
v23 Then he went and settled in a town called Nazareth to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Jesus settled in a town called Nazareth.
All by itself, the fact that Jesus is from Nazareth is really interesting.
Here’s the Savior of the world, the most influential person in the history of the world, and He’s coming from Nazareth.
Nazareth was a nowhere place. It was back of beyond and backwater.
In , when Philip meets Jesus and is really impressed with him,
he grabs his friend Nathaniel and says, “Nathaniel, come on. I want you to meet Jesus. He’s this rabbi that might be the Messiah.”
Nathaniel says, “Where’s he from?”
Philip says, “Nazareth.”
Nathaniel says, “Nazareth? You think somebody important came out of Nazareth? No way!
We have Beverly Hills and parts of Manhattan, but I looked up the other end of the spectrum,
and we have a town called Oatmeal, Texas, that in 1990 had a population of 20.
You’re laughing right? Just like they laughed at Nazareth. It’s a laughingstock.
Nothing important happens there, and nothing that would change the world would come out of a place like that.
They had Jerusalem and at the other end of the spectrum was Nazareth.
Right here, in the very beginning of Jesus’ life, God is serving notice:
“I don’t do things the way the world thinks they should be done.”
“I do things almost upside down and counter-intuitively. I love that, and you should love it too.”
In an age in which the oldest son got everything (the birthright, all the money, all the power, all the estate),
and everybody else got just a little bit, God works through
Abel, not Cain;
Isaac, not Ishmael;
Jacob, not Esau;
Ephraim, not Manasseh; and
David, not his older brothers.
When God wants to bring His salvation into the world through a woman,
Rebekah, the mother of Jacob;
Samson’s mother;
Hannah, the mother of Samuel; and
Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist
weren’t supposed to have children.
God always chooses the infertile, unloved, or socially shamed woman.
It’s old Sarah, not fertile Hagar.
It’s unloved Leah, not beautiful Rachel.
God always chooses Nazareth, not Rome, Athens, or Jerusalem.
The girl nobody wanted is the one he chooses.
The boy everyone else forgot is the one he chooses.
That’s how he does it.
This is God’s Peculiar Process.
When we talk about God’s work we’re talking about his salvation,
to say that God’s salvation works in a counterintuitive way,
upside down from the way the world would expect.
Jesus comes from Nazareth because the salvation that Jesus brings is almost the opposite of what people would think.
Jesus comes and goes to the cross. He says, “I have come in weakness, and I only save those who know they’re weak.”
It’s completely opposite.
He comes from Nazareth.
He works in unexpected ways.
His presences doesn’t just provoke the darkness,
but He confounds their expectations and shatters their categories.
God’s PLAIN PURPOSE (OF THE OT) reveals the One who would dispel the darkness.
God’s PLAIN PURPOSE (OF THE OT) reveals the One who would dispel the darkness. (v15)
God’s PLAIN PURPOSE (OF THE OT) reveals the One who would dispel the darkness. (v15)
Jesus, Joseph, and Mary went down into Egypt to get away from Herod.
When Herod died, they came up out of Egypt and went back to Judea, then to Galilee and Nazareth.
It says in (v15) He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called my Son.
Keller, T. J. (2014). The World and Jesus. In The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, 2014–2015 (). New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church. (v15)
When you see that, you say,
He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called my Son.
“Okay …”
The reason you probably did not pick this up and why I didn’t pick it up for many, many years is because you say,
“Oh, okay, in the Old Testament, there must be a prophecy about the Messiah spending time in Egypt and coming to Judea and Galilee.”
No. If you go back to and actually read it, you’ll immediately see it’s not a prophecy at all.
When you first read it, you’ll say, “Huh?”
In the Old Testament, when God spoke to Israel, he often called the nation of Israel “my son.”
If you go to , all you have is the story of Israel.
Israel was exiled in Egypt, but God brought his son out of Egypt, took them to Mount Sinai, gave them the Ten Commandments, and sent them to Judea.
In other words, they were in trouble, and he brought them out of Egypt, gives them the law, and says,
“Obey me, and I will bless you,” and he sends them to the Promised Land.
“I’ve rescued you. Obey me and I’ll bless you. Go to the Promised Land.” They don’t.
As you’re reading the bible, and you know when you get to 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and
I read the Bible through every year, and the last part of the year, I’m reading 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and ’m in 2 Chronicles right now.
It’s the story of God saying, over and over and over again, “Here’s my law. Obey me, and I will bless you,” and they don’t.
He gets them out of trouble in Egypt. “Obey me, and I will bless you,” and they don’t.
Eventually, they’re in exile in Babylon, and he brings them home and says, “Obey me, and I will bless you,” and they don’t.
Over and over, that’s the story of Israel.
As soon as we Gentiles start to say, “Oh, yeah, that’s the story of Israel …” You’d better not think ill of them, because, essentially,
Israel is a microcosm of the human race.
If you scroll out enough to see the whole Bible, and you see Adam and Eve, who, of course,
were the representatives of the entire human race, we see the same thing.
God puts them in the garden and says, “Obey me, and I will bless you,” and they don’t.
It’s the reason the world is such a dark place this morning.
It’s the reason we have so much stuff we’re dealing with.
God says to the human race,
“Obey me. Love me with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself, and I will bless you and give you peace and shalom,” but we don’t.
Is there any hope? Yeah.
What if God’s true, real Son came to earth?
He comes to earth and is immediately in trouble, and he goes to Egypt to get out of trouble.
When he’s brought out of Egypt, he goes to Judea, but unlike anyone else, the Bible says he does obey his Father.
He loved God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind.
He loved his neighbor as himself.
Read about it in the New Testament.
It was an incomparable life, a life of justice, love, and wisdom.
It was an astounding life.
He was the only person who ever actually obeyed the Father.
He was the only true Son, Israelite, and human being.
All other sons, Israelites, and human beings have been called to obey and be blessed, and we haven’t obeyed.
Now, one comes along, the only true Son, human being, and Israelite, and he obeys fully and completely.
He’s the only one who’s ever earned the blessing of God for perfect obedience, but when He gets to the end of His life, He doesn’t get it.
What happens? There’s no pomp and circumstance.
There’s no gold crown. There’s only a crown of thorns.
There are no royal robes, except the robe they put on him in mockery so they could
beat and pummel and
spit on him and
then torture and kill him.
Why? He was getting the curse for disobedience.
All other sons, Israelites, human beings, were told, “Obey me, and I will bless you.”
We didn’t obey. We deserve a curse for disobedience,
but He got the curse for our disobedience, so if we repent & trust in Him we get the blessing for His obedience, the blessing He deserved.
Here’s what’s so wonderful about this verse.
Matthew can look at this passage in the Old Testament, which is actually about Israel and how they’re supposed to obey the Ten Commandments.
And yet, Matthew reads that as if it’s about Jesus.
Matthew can read the entire Old Testament and see it’s all about Jesus.
He can read about Israel coming out and say, “Jesus did that.”
He can read about every prophet, priest, king, and deliverer
priest,
king, and
deliverer
and say, “Jesus is the
“Jesus is the
true prophet,
true priest,
true deliverer,
true temple, and
true tabernacle.
He’s the true altar and the
true sacrifice.
It’s all about him.”
Once you understand you can be saved by grace and that the Bible is really about him,
then you understand why the world’s understanding of salvation is turned upside down.
And why man centered preaching is so dangerous. Because our lives were meant to be about Him and not ourselves!
So we should be encouraged by this account.
In spite of the opposition of Satan, persecution by ungodly authorities and the scorn of the world, God’s kingdom will come.
The offspring of Eve, the true Son of God, will defeat the devil and his kingdom will be established.
We must not fear, or despair, or slip into worldliness, but be confident and encouraged.
The Gentiles will be called; the kingdom will spread to all nations; and Satan is unable to prevent it ().
At the end of the prologue to his Gospel, Matthew has announced many of its major themes:
the Lord’s unfailing purpose to bring salvation for His people, both Jews and Gentiles,
grace which
overcomes sin,
suffering,
protection and
victory,
His overruling providence and the
responsibility of man to seek the Lord.
Legg, J. (2004). The King and His Kingdom: The Gospel of Matthew Simply Explained (p. 35). Darlington, England: Evangelical Press.
Right from the beginning of his Gospel, Matthew calls us to decide where we stand.
Are we like the Magi—ready to make every effort to come to find the Savior and worship and serve Him?
Or are we like Herod and His advisers—in possession of the facts, knowing the Scriptures,
but unwilling to make any effort to enter the kingdom?
Take notice of Christ’s exhortation: ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door’ ().
Or are we actually in opposition to it?
Be assured that
God’s kingdom will prosper;
it will overcome all opposition,
turn despair to hope and
one day be manifest in all its glory, when the victorious Messiah comes again!
Keller, T. J. (2014). The World and Jesus. In The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, 2014–2015 (). New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
Keller, T. J. (2014). The World and Jesus. In The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, 2014–2015 (). New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
Keller, T. J. (2014). The World and Jesus. In The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, 2014–2015 (). New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
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