As we continue this week in Matthew chapter 2, we read that Jesus’ birth causes quite a stir in Jerusalem.
(If you are now joining in this study you are welcome to read Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 1 here ).
From the outset, wise men arrive in Jerusalem inquiring about the birth of the awaited Messiah.
So they go to ask King Herod about this child’s whereabouts, longing to worship Him…and this just sets Herod off. Verse 3 says that King Herod was “troubled” at this along with all of Jerusalem. So Herod assembles all of the chief priests and all of the scribes to find out where the Christ could possibly be born… because he wants to find Him and destroy Him, as we will come to see in this chapter. The fact that Herod would stop what he was doing to gather up all of the chief priests and scribes, which would take a lot of time to do it seems to me, indicates that he was pretty worried about this news. News about a random baby. Who he shouldn’t even know about.
To me it seems pretty strange that Jesus’ birth was made known to the highest authority in the land at that time, King Herod. The king of Judea.
I’ve always heard that Jesus was born into obscurity. That He was almost invisible. Unknown and unheard of. Maybe that could be somewhat true of his family and social status… but what I’m reading here in chapter 2 says quite the opposite.
I mean, if the King of all Judea suddenly was made aware of a random baby’s birth out of all the babies in Judea, shouldn’t that indicate to us that His birth was pretty significant and at least recognized? Even if it was forgotten about once Joseph took his family to Egypt to escape the death-scheming of Herod, it’s pretty clear that Herod, the chief priests and the scribes all knew about His birth…even if they couldn’t manage to find Him. They knew that there was a baby who had been born in the place that it was prophesied about who was said to be the Messiah because of the wise men that just suddenly appeared to find Him. His birth was anything but anonymous. He was not born into obscurity.
Rather, we see right from the get-go that Jesus’ entry into the world initiated controversy.
Jesus initiated controversy because Herod and all of Jerusalem were “troubled” by the wise men’s inquiry regarding the Messiah. It’s not that Jesus did anything to create a problem. He was only an infant anyways. They just didn’t want Him. But then this seems odd to me. It makes me ask…why would they be troubled by the possibility of the Messiah being born? Weren’t they waiting for Him to come along and restore their nation?
Reading along in this chapter specifically, we don’t really know why yet…but we will see this unfold in the story.
Keep these questions in mind as we progress in this book. What we will continue to see throughout Matthew is that the Jews keep rejecting Jesus as the Messiah even though He fulfills every prophecy and every hope that they know to be true. And Jesus will continue to be the object of antagonism and debate throughout His life and ministry, mainly from all of the religious elite. Their hearts have been hardened and they just won’t accept Him. Their entire religion is in vain because the very One they profess to believe in has just come down from the Father to manifest Himself to them in the flesh but they reject Him and despise Him. What a strange phenomenon.
It doesn’t make much sense right now. It especially doesn’t make sense here in chapter 2 where I would have expected King Herod and all of Jerusalem to be so happy that the Messiah was finally showing up.
But as we keep reading, we will start to see the reason and understand God’s purpose.
We will see in Matthew’s gospel both 1) why this response from the Jews has been allowed and orchestrated by God, and 2) how it plays out in the rest of Matthew for the sake of extending faith to the Gentiles.
So as we continue reading in chapter 2 of Matthew, we see how Matthew is starting to point out to the reader that Jesus has been hated by some, even undeservingly, ever since His birth. Jesus was hated by some before He ever spoke a word or a parable. Jesus was despised by some before He ever worked a miracle. Jesus was loathed by some before He was ever seen. His mere existence threatened Herod. It made Herod want to kill Him. But Jesus being hated just points to the inevitable reality that there are some who just aren’t on God’s side. The ones who align themselves with God and who wait for the promised One to come, rejoice at the Messiah’s birth like the wise men do in this chapter. But the ones who align themselves with the devil, despise the promised one like King Herod does.
Therefore, the story continues in chapter 2 to identify Jesus coming on the scene as the Messiah and to identify the 2 opposing forces that now exist: the ones who rejoice in Christ’s coming and the ones who do not. The ones on God’s side and the ones who are not.
We will continue to see this tension play out in the story as we progress in the gospel narrative. Let us pay attention to these two opposing forces that are being identified so that we might be aware of them when they show up again and understand what God is doing overall.
As we read this chapter, let us keep all these things in mind while feasting on the character of Christ as initially manifested in this second chapter of Matthew’s gospel. Granted we don’t yet have any words from Jesus as He is only a baby here in this chapter, we can still learn from the text we are given. I pray that we will appreciate this Word of God in chapter 2 for what it says and that we will fall more in love with Jesus. A Jesus surrounded by controversy yet worshiped and treasured by those who see Him for who He really is. May we do the same. May we worship Him. May we treasure Him. And may our hearts be open and receptive to His Word.
Summary of Matthew 2
Jesus is born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod; the wise men inquire about Jesus’ birth to Herod; Herod assembles all the chief priests and scribes to find out where the Christ was prophesied about in regards to his birth; Herod summons the wise men to find out where the Christ is; the wise men go to find Jesus by way of a star that appears to them resting over where He was at; the wise men find Jesus and worship Him while bestowing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh; the wise men are warned in a dream to not go back to Herod so they leave on another route and go home to their own country; an angel appears to Joseph telling him to flee to Egypt because Herod is going to search for Jesus to kill him; Joseph and Mary take Jesus and go to Egypt until Herod dies; meanwhile Herod kills all the children in Bethlehem 2 years old and under when he realizes that the wise men didn’t come back to give him the information about Jesus; an angel appears to Joseph telling him it is okay to go back to the land of Israel; Joseph is afraid to go back because Herod’s son, Archelaus, is ruling in his place; Joseph has a dream where he is told to go to Galilee; Joseph and Mary take Jesus to settle in Nazareth.
Jesus in Matthew 2
Jesus is born in Bethlehem of Judea (v. 1)
Jesus is born during the time that Herod ruled as king (v. 1)
Jesus’ birth is anticipated by wise men from the east,
Jesus is asked about by the wise men, who inquire about him as being the Messiah (v. 2)
Jesus is desired to be found by the wise men (v. 2)
Jesus is desired to be worshipped by these wise men (v. 2)
Jesus’ star, indicating where He is at, is only seen by the wise men (v. 2)
Jesus’ birth troubles Herod (v. 3)
Jesus’ birth troubles all of Jerusalem (v. 3)
Jesus’ birth location is investigated by Herod through his chief priests and scribes (v. 4)
Jesus’ birth location is indicated as Bethlehem (v. 5)
Jesus’ birthplace was prophesied about in the Old Testament in Micah 5:2 (v. 6)
Jesus was prophesied to be Israel’s ruler (v. 6)
Jesus was prophesied to shepherd God’s people, Israel (v. 6)
Jesus is the object of Herod’s plotting, as he questions the wise men about the star they had seen (v. 7-8)
Jesus is sought out by the wise men, as Herod wants them to find out where He is (v. 8)
Jesus is desired to be found by King Herod (v. 8)
Jesus’ location was indicated by a star in the sky over where He was, so that the wise men knew where to travel (v. 9)
Jesus’ location and star brings joy to the wise men (v. 10)
Jesus is with His mother inside a house (v. 11)
Jesus is worshiped by the wise men (v. 11)
Jesus is offered gifts by the wise men (v. 11)
Jesus is worthy of worship (v. 11)
Jesus is honored (v. 11)
Jesus is not reported about back to Herod by the wise men, as they were warned in a dream (v. 12)
Jesus’ father is met by an angel telling him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt (v. 13)
Jesus is plotted against by Herod to be destroyed (v. 13)
Jesus’ family departs to Egypt that night (v. 14)
Jesus’ family remains in Egypt until Herod dies (v. 15)
Jesus’ departure to Egypt fulfills the prophecy found in Hosea 11:1 (v. 15)
Jesus’ father is met by an angel telling them it was safe to return home to the land of Israel (v. 19-20)
Jesus’ family returns to Israel (v. 21)
Jesus’ father was fearful about the current ruler, Archelaus, who was ruler over Judea (v. 22)
Jesus’ father was warned in a dream to settle in Galilee (v. 22)
Jesus’ family went to live in Nazareth (v. 23)
Jesus would fulfill what was said by the prophets that he would be called a Nazarene (v. 23)
“…wise men from the east came saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” -Matthew:1b-2-
Questions for Today:
- How is the controversy regarding Jesus’ birth relevant in the story?
- Why is it significant that Jesus’ birth was made known to King Herod?
- What is Matthew trying to introduce here in chapter 2 that will be helpful as we continue studying this book?
- What are the two opposing forces that Matthew has now identified in this gospel?
- How am I learning more about Jesus in Matthew chapter 2?
“Jesus We Love You” by Bethel Worship ft Paul McClure