As I have been reading through Matthew chapter two, I am brought to a new realization that I perhaps hadn’t discovered before. My typical take from this passage of Scripture is the birth of Jesus and the amazing celebration of his birth as the Magi travel by star to find him to worship their newborn King. We have pictures of what this may have looked like with the manger scene of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus and the three wise men with their gifts, and even some barn animals on our Christmas displays we put out during the holiday season.
But this time I see something new – still all the same details that I’ve read hundreds of times before – but as Scripture does and as God speaks to us when we pray and lean in to listen to His voice, it continues to open our eyes and hearts to how truly awesome our God is.
Here is my paraphrase of the chapter:
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod.
Magi from the east came to Jerusalem seeking the Messiah who was born King of the Jews. They saw his star and came to worship him.
King Herod called the Magi to send them to go and search for the child “so that he too could go and worship him.” King Herod was jealous. In his jealousy and fear of a new King that would threaten his throne, he lied to the Magi because he truly had them go seek out the King who was born because he wanted to kill him.
The Magi followed the star until they came to the place where the child was, and they were overjoyed and presented him with gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense.
An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him, “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So, Joseph took Mary and baby Jesus and left for Egypt, where they stayed until the death of Herod.
Once Herod discovered the Magi outwitted him, he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and nearby ages two years and under. Then what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled: there was great weeping and mourning because the children were no more.
Once Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt telling him to take the child and his mother to the land of Israel. So he went, but when he heard Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. He was again warned in a dream, and so withdrew to the district of Galilee, and went to live in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
My New Takeaways:
1. The God of the universe sent His only son down from Heaven to earth to humble Himself to be born as a man – in human likeness – leaving His perfect place on High – and not for Himself – but FOR US, because He LOVES US.
This in and of itself is enough. His love for us is far greater than we can or ever will truly fathom. What a loving God we serve.
2. God, being all powerful, all knowing, ever-present, and the one and only true King and Creator of the universe chose to come in the most unique, specific, interesting way. He could have come a million different ways – and He chose to come in a place where there were so many events that we would not consider to be the way of a “King.” We would expect velvet purple robes, gold crowns, mass crowds of people longing to see Him, every door open to cater to Him and every ruler and authority bowing to Him. Instead, what do we find?
a. A baby in a manger where there was no room in for them in the Inn
b. A time in history when the man in Kingship was a jealous and manipulative ruler – even to the point of murdering children to try to kill him to keep his status
c. His family was put in danger of their lives and had to escape for their safety and that of their newborn son.
d. Though there may have been a larger crowd, those recorded in Scripture are the three wise men who sought after Him to worship Him.
3. God intentionally placed His Son on earth in the exact time and exact place for a reason. He did not come as a show-off or as a dictator. He did not come to represent His authority and His power to rule over us and conquer us – He does not force us to follow Him or even to bow and worship Him – as many rulers and dictators have done so. He did not manipulate mankind or come as a popular guy to follow. Quite the opposite in fact.
This was just the beginning act – the opening scene, if you will, that would set the stage for His life and ministry here on earth. He came as a gentle, humble King who placed Himself as a servant to us. He loved, He healed, He brought hope to the lost. He didn’t hang out with a bunch of “Christians” and talk about all the sinners behind their backs. In fact, He was ridiculed for hanging out with some of the “worst of sinners.” Do you get that?
The King, Creator of the Universe, the ONE who created YOU came to earth to submit Himself to being made in human likeness, so that we could serve a God who we know understands us because He has experienced pain, betrayal, ridicule, mocking, beatings. He has experienced far worse pain and trauma than any of us could ever imagine, and yet, He could have put an end to it at any given moment. Except that He chose to remain in obedience to His Father and fulfill His cup to come be born to die for our sins to provide us salvation – the ONE and ONLY bridge to cover over us that we may be made right with God.
I think of all the times I have heard people say, and even had the question in my own mind at times: “How can a good God allow such terrible things to happen?”
That question is not addressed in this chapter, so that is a conversation to dive deeper into another time. However, the short of it is that sin entered the world, and ALL have fallen short, and because of sin - bad, even terrible, unspeakable things continue to happen today. And could God stop it all and end it with the snap of His fingers? I have no doubt He could.
But then that would undo His character and who we know Him to be – gentle, kind, loving, a God who allows us to choose Him or to deny Him. He did not come to be a dictator or a popular guy to follow. Scripture tells me that I will be hated because of Him. The Bible pretty much assures me that if I choose to follow Him, the world will hate me and ridicule me. And ya know? I’m okay with that. I love Him, and I love that He let me choose Him. He didn’t force me. He won’t force you. And He won’t force those who do the unspeakable things that we don’t understand how He can allow them to happen. But if He did the choosing, then we would complain that we were forced into our serving Him. Seems to me mankind would find a way to hate Him no matter which way it went.
I love the revelation this chapter brings that not only do we have the beautiful manger scene that we display in our homes at Christmas, but we have the knowledge that our God intentionally chose to show His tenderness and His loving kindness right as He set the stage of His entering the world as a baby boy through the virgin Mary.
I also have to think if King Herod were alive today to speak to us, I have no doubt he would be warning us not to miss our opportunity to serve the King. The Bible is very clear that if you do not know Jesus and accept Him as Savior, there is no seat for you in Heaven for eternity. An eternity kept away from your maker. I could not even think a greater life sentence than eternity apart from God, my King. If given a place of authority and a voice over a population of people here on earth, are we going to use it to serve our King? Or will we use our voice and our influence to win our own self-gain? And if so, for what? For money? For popularity? For people to like us? This world and all that is in it will fade, but our relationship with our Maker, our Friend, our Savior… that is something that will never end and never be taken away.
Come, let us worship the King and bring Him gifts of praise! Let us lift our voices up to speak love, kindness and gentleness into the world – as our Savior, Jesus Christ did for us.
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Be blessed my brothers and sisters!
Your beloved sister in Christ,