My five-year-old daughter has been asking a lot of good, thoughtful questions about God in the past year. She is not yet born again, but she is asking the deep types of questions about Christianity that often trip up older students and even adults. This fall, she asked me during one of our car ride theological conversations, “Why doesn’t everyone pray to Jesus?” I gave her the most simple, biblical answer I could: “They don’t want to.” (See Romans 1:18-32 for the long version of this response.)
When we read about Herod’s slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem in his attempt to kill the baby Jesus, we shudder and think, “How could anyone be filled with such hatred against God’s Son?” But we must remember that as Christians, our hearts have been supernaturally changed to love Jesus. Without God’s intervening grace, we could have been hardened against the Lord like those who despised Him in the gospels and throughout church history, and like those around us who continue to reject Him today. I have watched students and adults become uncomfortable and even visibly angry during gospel preaching and teaching and small group witnessing. That’s because, like Herod, we are all born wanting to be the kings of our own lives. We are all born with sinful, selfish hearts that do not naturally want to love and follow Jesus. When we first hear the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection for our sins, a sacrifice that we must accept by turning and looking to Him in faith, we feel threatened and challenged. As I often explain to my daughter, we are all born wanting to be our own boss, but being a Christian is about letting Jesus be our boss. Not everyone is happy about the thought of surrendering control of their lives to Christ.
Herod failed to destroy the baby Jesus. Instead, he killed a dozen or more innocent children before dying as a miserable soul bound for hell. He could not hold onto his throne or life for even a few months, let alone eternity. But Jesus survived every attempt by man and Satan to kill Him until He was ready to willingly lay down His life for our sins on the cross, to finish accomplishing His father’s plan of salvation for rebels like us. Now He reigns again by His Father’s side in heaven. He waits for the appointed time when He will return in full power to rule His kingdom in the new heavens and new earth forever and ever. The question is: Are we willing to let Him be our King? Or will we go the tragic way of Herod and all those who despise the Lord Jesus to their eternal hurt and sorrow? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. How about you?
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”
19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Questions to Think About
- How did you react to the gospel message when you first began to understand it? Did you experience any anger or stubborn resistance in your heart before giving up control of your life to Christ?
- Are there any areas of your life where you are currently resisting God’s call to repent and change? Ask the Lord to help you to want to change so that you can enjoy the sweet fellowship with Him that He wants you to experience.
- Do you have any friends or family who are still resisting the gospel like Herod did in today’s passage? Instead of getting angry and frustrated, commit yourself to praying for God to change the hearts of these lost loved ones the way that He changed your heart. And keep showing them the love of Christ whenever you can!
- Three times in today’s text we see that God guided Joseph with dreams to escape the threats against His family. There are actually a total of five dreams recorded in Matthew’s account of the Christmas story, all given from God to protect humble, godly people from harm. Four times the Lord speaks to Joseph, and once to the magi. Matthew wants us to see the personal nature of our Lord’s care for His servants. In the same way, God still guides Christians today through His Word, His Spirit, our circumstances, and the counsel of other believers. If we ask God for wisdom, He will give it (see James 1:5).
- No prophecies in the Old Testament specifically refer to Nazareth as the home of Jesus. Matthew’s reference to a prediction that Jesus would be “called a Nazarene” (verse 23) is probably talking about prophecies like Isaiah 53, which describe the humble appearance and reputation of the coming Messiah. Nazareth was known in Jesus’ day as a rustic, backwater type of place; not a likely town for the upbringing of anyone important. This is why Nathanael in John 1:46 is shocked that someone from a place like Nazareth could be the Messiah, asking, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This should remind us that the call to follow Christ is a call to be humble and be willing to be rejected by others because of our faith.