Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

I see we have a number of parents here today. Just for a minute, I want you to imagine what your life would be like if instead of the child or children you currently have, God instead gave you a perfect child. I mean, literally, a child who never sinned. Can you imagine how different your parenting experience would be? You would never tell your child to “Come here,” only to have him run the other way. No temper tantrums, no back talking, no fighting to get them to put on their pajamas or clean their room or do their homework. Instead just a perfectly respectful, kind, helpful and obedient child. Talk about a dream job for a parent. It doesn’t get much easier than that, right?

Well, not necessarily. You realize, there are only two parents in history who had the privilege of raising a sinless child. And while it’s true that Jesus would have been perfectly obedient to his parents throughout his life, that doesn’t mean that Mary and Joseph had an easy life because of that. You already saw that play out in the time before Jesus was born, right? Mary and Joseph didn’t get any special privileges for bringing into the world the son of God. It wasn’t like Mary wasn’t wearing this banner that read, “Mother of God,” where everyone stepped aside to bow the knee to her. There was no motorcade accompanying her from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It wasn’t like Mary and Joseph showed up at the Bethlehem Hilton and flashed their “Family of God” credit card and were given the honeymoon suite. No, quite the opposite. Even though Mary was carrying her in her womb the creator of the universe, she still ended up having to deliver that child to the sights and sounds and smells of common livestock. That’s the perks she got for giving birth to the perfect Son of God.

But that all changed after Jesus was born, right? Then lives of Mary and Joseph got so much easier. When the Wisemen delivered their super expensive gifts to Jesus, Mary and Joseph may have thought, “Now we’ve got it made.  We’re going to live here in the town of David with our perfect child for the rest of our lives.” What Joseph expected was not what God had planned.  God had a plan that would fulfill the promises he had made in the Old Testament.  A plan that would not only benefit Mary and Joseph, but benefit all mankind.  Our sermon theme for today is simply this:

God carries out his plan.

I For his Son

but also II. For his Children

Our text for today picks up at some point after the Magi had had made their visit to the Christ child. Mary and Joseph were probably still admiring all the gifts they had received when their world was suddenly turned upside down. In the middle of the night, an angel of the Lord came to Joseph and basically said, “Pack your bags, Joseph. You got to hit the road like right now.” Why?  What was it that prompted such unexpected travel plans? Well, Matthew records the scene with these words. When they (namely, the Magi) had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you (why?) for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Whoa! So much for this idyllic life as the parents of a perfect child! Put yourself in their sandals.  Suddenly having to run for your life because some deranged man was trying to kill your child?  How’s that for a little postpartum trauma! And understand, this wasn’t just some kind of senseless paranoia on the part of these new parents. No, this was a very real threat. This is King Herod were talking about. The same King would already killed his own wife and children when he thought they were a threat to his throne. This is the king who actually carried out his dragnet to catch the little King of the Jews by killing all the baby boys 2 years and younger in and around Bethlehem.  It was that massacre of those innocent children that the prophet Jeremiah was referring to when he wrote, “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great morning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15).

But you see, even though the most powerful man in Judea was determined to snuff out the life of the Christ child, the most powerful God in the universe at a different plan. God was determined to rescue Jesus from the imminent danger he faced. That’s why God sent the angel to tell Joseph to basically, “Get out of Dodge!” And that’s exactly what Joseph did.  Matthew tells us, He [Joseph] got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. (Matthew 2:14-15).

Certainly, one of the reasons that God had Joseph take Jesus to Egypt was to get him out of harm’s way. But there was a second reason that God sent Joseph on this flight to Egypt. Matthew tells us here in our text, And so was fulfilled what the Lord said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Those words, recorded in Hosea, chapter 11, were originally spoken by God, not about Jesus, but rather about the nation of Israel. When a famine struck the land of Canaan, God sent Joseph’s family to Egypt to preserve their lives. Then, at a later date, then God called “his son”, that is, the nation of Israel) out of Egypt. That event, recorded in the book of Exodus, was simply a foreshadowing of this event when the family of a different Joseph had to flee to Egypt so that God could once again call his son, in this case, his only begotten son, out of Egypt.

I find it interesting to see how God’s first son, the nation of Israel, which proved itself to be imperfect in so many ways, was replaced by God’s true Son, who was perfect in every way. That was foreshadowing how Jesus would ultimately be the substitute not just for one nation, but for all mankind. You see, that was all part of God’s plan for his son, a plan that would ultimately benefit you and me as God’s children.

Now, after Mary and Joseph and Jesus spent some time in Egypt, what happened?  Matthew tells us. After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother to the land of Israel, for those who we’re trying to take the child’s life are dead.” In other words, “Green light. All clear now.  C’mon home.” So that’s what Joseph did.

Matthew tells us, So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. Just as an aside, did you notice that Matthew never refers to Jesus as the son of Joseph?  It’s always, “the child and his mother.” Just further proof that Jesus was not Joseph’s biological son.  Jesus was the son of God. But notice also that when Joseph brings his family back from Egypt, he apparently did not plan to move back to Nazareth where he and Mary had originally come from. It seems that Joseph was planning to live in Judea, likely in Bethlehem where his ancestors were from. Why would Joseph do that? Well, could it be that that’s where Joseph figured the Messiah was supposed to come from? I mean, remember, when Herod asked the chief priests where the Christ was to be born, they all pointed to the words of the prophet Micah: “In Bethlehem Ephrathah…out of you will come a ruler.” It’s not hard to see why Joseph might have thought, “The prophet says Jesus was supposed to come from Bethlehem. So that better be where we raise him.”  But once again, what Joseph expected is not what God had planned.

And so how did God carry out his plan? Matthew tells us. When Joseph heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. So what did he do? Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. Now we might say, “Well, that makes sense. Why wouldn’t Mary and Joseph go back to the town where they had originally come from?  They probably had all kinds of friends and family back there. Maybe they could move into their old house.”

Maybe that’s all true.  But it’s not why they moved back.  You see, God had a different plan.  What does the gospel writer say about Jesus being brought back to Nazareth? So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.” Now, you maybe noticed that this is the third time that Matthew says that something that had happened in Jesus’ life was a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy. And usually it’s pretty easy to find what prophet Matthew is quoting. But not in this case. You can look all through the Old Testament and you will not find the words, “He will be called a Nazarene.” Believe me, I tried.  I got out my chain reference Bible. “C’mon those words have to be in there somewhere.”  Nope.  So what is the significance of those words, “He will be called a Nazarene”?  How was Jesus’ coming to Nazareth a fulfillment of those words?

To answer that, we need to understand the connotation of the word “Nazarene.”  In Jesus’ day, people from Nazareth were considered to be uneducated and uncultured. The Jewish elites in Jerusalem and Judea looked down on those farmers and fishermen from the backwaters of Galilee. You catch a little of that in the words of the servant girl in the courtyard when she accused Peter of “being with Jesus of Nazareth” and that “his accent gives him away.”  Or you think of how the chief priests later accused the Apostle Paul of being “a ringleader of the Nazarene sect.” (Acts 24:5). Even one of Jesus’ disciples, when he was first told about Jesus of Nazareth, expressed the popular opinion of his day: “Nazareth, can anything good come from Nazareth? (John 1:46)     

In other words, in Jesus’ day, to be called a Nazarene, was a term of contempt.  It’s how the Jews ridiculed people from Galilee.  Tell me, is that what the Old Testament prophets said the people would say about the Messiah? Absolutely. You think of Isaiah’s words in reference to the coming savior, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. (Isaiah 53:5), or the words of Psalm 22 where the Messiah is depicted as scorned by men and despised by the people (Psalm 22:6), or Isaiah 49 that says the Redeemer would be despised and abhorred by the nation. (Isaiah 49:7). You see, all those passages find at least partial fulfillment in the fact that Jesus would be called a Nazarene.

So what’s the point of this whole section of Scripture? The point is simply this. Everything that happened in Jesus’ life, including this relatively thin slice of his life, his flight to Egypt, and his return to Nazareth, are all part of God’s plan.  The fact that so many of the things that happened in Jesus’ life were foretold by the prophets is just further proof that it was all a part of God’s master plan—a plan that would ultimately serve one main purpose.  And that is, to rescue us from the guilt, the shame, the punishment that our sins deserve.  God carried out that plan perfectly through the life and death and resurrection of his Son.

But there is something else we can take home from this biblical account. It’s simply this:  Just because a person belongs to the very family of God, doesn’t mean that person’s life will be easy. There are going to be times when we may find ourselves in a situation similar to Mary and Joseph.  Times when things don’t happen the way we expected them to.  Times when we feel like saying, “God, why are you putting me through this? Why do I have to make this major change in my life?  Why is someone trying to hurt my family?  God, I thought you were on my side.  Why do I have to go through this?”

Those are the times when we need to look back to this account and say, “Wait a minute.  God has a plan here.”  Now, don’t misunderstand.  It’s never God’s plan to have people sin.  It was not God’s plan to have Herod kill all those children in Bethlehem. But the fact is, God can use even other people’s sin, God can use even then tough times in our lives, to carry out his perfect plan for our lives.  His plan to keep us close to himself in life, and to take us to himself in the day of our death.  Because God perfectly carried out his plan for his Son, you can be sure that he’ll also carry out his perfect plan for you and me, his children.  God grant it, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.