Matthew 2:13-3:12 is today’s reading. It picks up with the Christmas narrative and shows Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fleeing from Herod into Egypt. Why Egypt?
This is fun, because there is both an eminently practical answer to that question and a spiritual answer. Practically, there had been a Jewish community in Egypt since at least the time of the prophet Jeremiah, so about 6 centuries at the time of Jesus’ birth. Egypt was a different Roman governing unit, so Herod could not just send his guys down to kill the baby. Roman senior leaders tended to help each other out, but you couldn’t just send armed troops into each other’s territory, and if you wanted a baby dead you would have to seriously explain the situation. Egypt, then, is practical and safe.
There was another reason, though. Hosea 11:1 refers to God summoning His Son out of Egypt. The Israelites would have long associated that to their own Exodus and deliverance, but Matthew connects it to Lord Jesus being brought back into Israel after the family’s flight to Egypt. This is often how God works: we see practical, He is working out promises.
Then we see the great tragedy of Christmas, the slaughter of the baby boys of Bethlehem. Some would minimize it, noting that Bethlehem did not have that many babies since it was a small town. Certainly the traditional image of 1,000s is overstated, but how many does it take? One child is one child too many--let us never underplay a tragedy because, since it didn’t impact us, it was too small.
Joseph, Mary, and Jesus then return to Israel and move to Nazareth. Here, Jesus would have been to grow up in the family business of construction/carpentry/stonework. It’s very likely Joseph work with all these materials, not just one or the other.
There’s a story here about how our culture affects our understanding: we mainly get the ‘carpenter’ image from the Reformation Era when Martin Luther, in the midst of a German forest, translated the word in Greek that usually means “builder.” What did they build with in Germany? Wood. So...that influenced his translation.
The rest of the section picks up John the Baptist as he declares his message of repentance. I’d lean hard on Matthew 3:8 and remember that we should bear fruit that shows repentance. That does not negate salvation by grace through faith. It just involves faith that results in action.
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