In Matthew 2:1-12, wise men visit the newborn Christ. They come to Herod, asking where Jesus is supposed to be born. The Jewish leaders, upon examining Micah 5:2, point them in the direction of Bethlehem. Before long, the wise men joyfully discover Christ and give Him gifts. Then, they depart.
“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (Matt. 2:13-15 ESV).
The Christmas narrative is full of angels. In these verses, we find an angel of the Lord intervening on behalf of baby Jesus. The sovereign Father is protecting His Son from Herod’s evil scheme. So, Joseph obeys and takes his family to Egypt.
Throughout the Old Testament, Egypt is often understood to be a place of oppression. The Bible talks about the Exodus of God’s people from Egypt. Under Pharaoh’s rule, they experience great trouble. And that’s why God raises a leader named Moses to get His people out of Egypt.
Now, at the start of the New Testament, God calls His Son to Egypt. The Israelites have become like the Egyptians in such a way that now refuge must be sought elsewhere. King Herod, like Pharaoh, is up to no good.
Matthew quotes the prophet Hosea (11:1) to emphasize the prophetic fulfillment of Christ escaping to Egypt. Scholars debate the real significance of Jesus going to Egypt, but here’s the deal: God is protecting His Son from Herod’s massacre.
Herod “… sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (v. 16 ESV).
Matthew, again, quotes a prophet. This time it’s Jeremiah (31:15). He writes, “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more’” (vv. 17-18 ESV).
Rachel is the wife of Jacob (see Gen. 29), so Jeremiah is referring to her as the mother of God’s people, the children of Israel.
But it’s important to note something else about Jeremiah 31. Despite the pain of Israel’s oppression, Jeremiah looks forward to a new covenant.
“‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah’” (v. 31 ESV).
Indeed, this new covenant comes through Jesus Christ who is divinely protected from Herod’s plot. God is preserving His Son for a purpose.
“But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel” (vv. 19-21 ESV).
Herod’s son now reigns in Judea. So, the Lord leads Joseph to the district of Galilee (v. 22).
“And 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” (v. 23 ESV).
Christ is raised in Nazareth. But why is that significant?
Well, Matthew says it fulfills the words of the prophets. But it’s interesting to note that Matthew doesn’t allude to any particular prophet or passage. As D.A. Carson notes, “He [Matthew] is not saying that a particular OT prophet foretold that the Messiah would live in Nazareth; he is saying that the OT prophets foretold that the Messiah would be despised.”
Remember what Nathanael says when Philip tells him about Christ? He says, “‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’” (John 1:46 ESV).
This isn’t a prestigious hometown for a king. But the origins of Christ are full of humble beginnings. Christmas is about God becoming man. Born as a baby. In a manger. Walking the roads of our broken world.
Christ is raised in this humble, mundane town. Where He is later rejected (see Matt. 13). And before long, He humbles Himself to the point of death on a cross (see Phil. 2:8) for the sins of the world.
I pray this series on the origins of Christ helps you delight in the humble Savior. I mean, Christ is raised in Nazareth of all places! But now He reigns forever.
Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at www.isaiahpauley.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.