Gospel Thoughts: Matthew 2
|1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.||8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.|
Visit of the Wise Men
Christ is born King of the Jews. He was born during the reign of King Herod the Great, who ruled over Judaea. Bethlehem of Judaea is written to distinguish Christ’s birthplace from Bethlehem in the tribe of Zabulon. The birthplace of our Lord and Saviour happened according to prophecy.
Certain wise men came to visit Jesus, who was likely an infant given the fact that Herod was still King. We learn later in the passage that Herod ordered the deaths of all children under two years. Herod was deeply troubled as he felt his throne and reign over Jerusalem would be challenged. The people of Jerusalem feared political unrest.
It is worth noting that there is no mention in the Bible of the “three wise men” that many say came to visit the infant Jesus. It is amused there were three wise men due to the three gifts the men gave to Jesus. There may have been more than three, but one thing is sure it was more that one as the plural men is mentioned. The names of these men are not recorded in Scripture.
The wise men saw a star in the East that proclaimed the coming of the King of the Jews. The men travelled a great distance to worship the Christ child. Men and women still worship Jesus today, for He is Prophet, Priest and King. The Holy Bible says in Num. 24:17, “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.” The star may have been a supernatural sign pointing to the birth of Christ. The fact that the Scriptures says “his star” indicates that the wise men knew that this star is significant with the King of the Jews.
Herod called a council of the most learned of the city to try to resolve this matter. Herod requested them to find the location of Christ. This would have entailed looking up and reading the prophecies to attain where the Christ was expected to be born. It is clear to see that Herod’s true intent was to know where Christ was in order to destroy him. The men of the council would have been only those who were educated in the law. They knew how to both explain and apply the law. Notice how the Jewish leaders, Chief Priest and Scribes did not follow the wise men.
Matthew writes with the authority of God who wrote through the prophets of old, thus it is written by the prophet. The Prophet Micah is being referred to here. Mic. 5:2 says, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Bethlehem may have been little in Micah’s day, but at the time of Matthew, the city was not a small and unimportant place.
Christ came to save “my people Israel.” In the context of the New Testament, the Church is the true Israel of God. The Church is made up of men and women from every tongue, tribe and nation. The Church is the people of God. The promises that God made to Abraham and to Israel in the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament Church. See the following Matt. 22:43, Rom. 9:6, II Cor. 1:20, and Gal 3:16. Also, read ‘The True Israel of God’ by L. R. Shelton Jr.
Herod sent his men to Bethlehem to carefully search for the infant Jesus. The wise men were sent on the authority of Herod on the grounds that he would worship the Messiah, nothing could be further from the truth. Herod used his men as a means to find the Messiah so he could execute his murderous plans. Herod secretly called the wise men. He wanted with as much accuracy the exact time that the star appeared to them. This information was important as Herod needed to know the age of Jesus to carry out his desire to destroy the Saviour of sinners.
To their great joy and surprise, the star leads them and directed them, thus the star moved. The mention of “young child” indicates that Christ was no longer a baby. He was likely an infant at this time. The star must have been very bright and clearly seen. When the wise men arrived, they gave Christ humble reverence. They worshipped him as only he deserves to be, as King, Saviour and Lord.
|13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great||mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.|
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him that Herod sought to destroy Jesus. Joseph was told to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus until further instruction. Egypt was outside of Herod’s jurisdiction. When the time was right Jesus returned to Israel, he did not stay in the land of Egypt.
It is important to state that Joseph took his family to the nearest safe point, he did not flee for economic gain nor did he seek personal profit from his time in Egypt. The Bible tells us that this journey into Egypt was by night which was the safest way to travel. This was also best due to the heat of the desert during the day. Some Jewish people and historians have stated that Christ dwelt in Alexandria in Northern Egypt.
In verse 15 we read that it was now safe for Joseph and his family to return to the land of Israel. Out of Egypt, I have called my son is a reference to Num. 24:8 and Hos. 11:1. To make sure that Jesus Christ, King of the Jews was no more Herod ordered the deaths of every child under the age of two years. Jeremiah predicted this horrific event in Jer. 31:15. The son of Herod, Archelaus took the place as King when his father died.
We can take great comfort from this chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel. The overriding message in this passage of Scripture is that God is in control. We live in times of uncertainty which can cause us to be afraid. Christian, you can still trust and obey God. The promises of God are sure. The times are evil, but God is good. Remember that our lives are in the hands of God, who promised to never leave nor forsake his people. Christ walks beside his people in times of great blessing and in times of great testing. We can trust Christ in the midst of fearful times. The rulers of the world care not for the things of God. At heart, all earthly rulers seek the same thing as Herod, the ruin and destruction of Jesus Christ and his Church (Matt. 16:18).
The departure of Herod from this world was in God’s timing. The times and events of the earth are in God’s timing. This ought to cause us to trust ever more in God’s grace. There is so much to thank God for and much more to be said on the topic of trusting in God’s grace.