An unknown from nowhere (Matthew 2:17-23)

The baby of Bethlehem becomes the nobody of Nazareth. The rescued becomes the rescuer.

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Open Matthew 2:17-23 and Jeremiah 31:15.

Grief had always been at home in Bethlehem. Rachel died there, giving birth to Israel’s final son (Genesis 35:19). Maybe a parent would give her life so her children could live. But Rachel’s hopes were dashed as empires invaded, killing her children. Assyria decimated the tribes of her older son Joseph. Babylon crushed the remnant of Benjamin.

Jeremiah imagined Rachel weeping inconsolably as God’s promises fell apart:

Jeremiah 31:15 (NIV)
This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Continue reading “An unknown from nowhere (Matthew 2:17-23)”

God as asylum seeker (Matthew 2:16)

How can God’s kingdom ever be established when rulers like Herod will do anything go keep their power?

Open Matthew 2:16.

Beautiful. Tender. Vulnerable. Helpless. Disarming. How can anyone hate a newborn? How can an infant seem like a threat? You’d have to be power-crazed to kill a baby. Herod is. He executes all the baby boys in Bethlehem. There can be no rival “king of the Jews” (2:16).

Herod’s acts are treason: he attempts to assassinate of the heavenly king’s heir. It’s part of the long-standing war over who rules the earth. On one side of this battle is the oppressor of God’s people, bearing down on them with the military might of Rome. On the other side is an infant bearing the promise of restoring heaven’s rule on earth. But how can a toddler stand up to a tyrant? Continue reading “God as asylum seeker (Matthew 2:16)”

Jesus fulfils what? (Matthew 2:13-15)

How can Matthew say that Jesus’ flight to Egypt fulfils Hosea 11:1? Hosea was talking about Israel’s exodus.

Open Matthew 2:13-15 and Hosea 11.

Matthew says Jesus fulfilled many Scriptures (1:22; 2:15,17, 23; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 21:4; 26:54, 56; 27:9). But please read these before you claim that this proves Jesus was the Messiah. Some of these seem odd to us. Matthew 2:15 might be the most problematic:

Matthew 2:14–15 (NIV)
14
He got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Matthew seems to say that Jesus went to Egypt to escape Herod, and then returned because Hosea predicted it. But when Hosea spoke of God’s son, he meant the nation of Israel: Continue reading “Jesus fulfils what? (Matthew 2:13-15)”

How did the magi find Jesus? (Matthew 2:1-12)

Persian astrologers came looking for Jesus? What do you make of that?

Open Matthew 2:1-12.

You’ve seen the Christmas cards. Three wise men. On camels. Following a star. Balthasar, Caspar, and Melchior — three kings of orient according to western tradition. So we build nativity scenes with a manger and kings and camels and shepherds and sheep and the donkey that carried the very pregnant Mary. There probably weren’t three wise men: their caravan would have been larger for safety’s sake. The Bible doesn’t say they rode camels either. We made up the bit about the donkey too.

And they weren’t “wise men.” Magi were originally a class of Persian priests who practiced astrology and other magic arts. In Daniel 2 (LXX) they’re bundled with enchanters and sorcerers as advisors to the king of Babylon. In Acts 13:6-8, a Cypriot ruler had a magos advising him, and Paul despised him. The word usually has negative connotations in Jewish literature—a trickster/deceiver. Matthew hints at that when he says that Herod was “tricked” by the magi (2:16). Continue reading “How did the magi find Jesus? (Matthew 2:1-12)”

King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-10)

Who was king of the Jews — Jesus, or Herod?

herodiumandmasada
Models: Masada and Herodium

Open Matthew 2:1-12.

Mary, Joseph, wise men, shepherds, and perhaps angels. Ask people to name the key players in the Christmas story, and that’s probably what you’ll get. There’s someone else who doesn’t make our Christmas lists. That’s because we don’t read the Bible as a kingdom story. Continue reading “King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-10)”

Our king among us (Matthew 1:22-23)

Immanuel — the whole scope of the Bible’s story is in that word.

Open Matthew 1:22-23.

How do you understand Immanuel? Matthew explains it means, God with us.

What does that mean to you? A warm and fuzzy feeling that you’re not alone? A comfort? Assurance of safety? Yes, God’s presence does make a huge difference to us individually, but there’s so much more than that going on in Matthew’s story. In fact, what Matthew has in mind is pretty close to the core of the Bible’s whole story. Continue reading “Our king among us (Matthew 1:22-23)”

Immanuel (Matthew 1:18-25)

In what sense is Jesus the Immanuel child spoken of in Isaiah 7:14?

Open Matthew 1:18-25.

Matthew 1:22–23 (NIV)
22
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Continue reading “Immanuel (Matthew 1:18-25)”

Why ancestry.com? (Matthew 1:1-17)

Slow down! There’s a significant message in that list of names at the start of Matthew’s Gospel.

Open Matthew 1:1-17.

Matthew would never win a creative writer’s award. His first chapter is about as interesting as a Jewish telephone book. Why would he start with a list of largely unfamiliar names? Continue reading “Why ancestry.com? (Matthew 1:1-17)”

Matthew’s main message

The New Testament is not a stand-alone story. It’s the surprising plot twist that resolves the old kingdom struggle in a new way.

We’ve spend six months reading the first book of the Bible, showing the kingdom of God is the theme that binds the story together. We’ve seen why Jesus thought God-as-king was the central plot line. So I’ve been bursting to bring that understanding of the kingdom over from the OT into the New. Today we’re starting with Matthew’s account of the Gospel. Continue reading “Matthew’s main message”