18 September 2013

Matthew 2:13-23

“He made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’” (v. 23)


Given the extraordinary names that Jesus has been given in the opening to Matthew's Gospel, it comes as a shock to read today's verses. However exalted the Messiah, king and saviour of the world is, Jesus needs to be taken by Mary and Joseph to Egypt as a refugee, in order to escape the Massacre of the Innocents that Herod decrees. Jesus may be God's chosen one, but in his human vulnerability needs the care and quick thinking of his parents in order to survive.

 Today's passage does not introduce any new names or ideas about Jesus as such, but it reinforces Matthew's Gospel's emphasis on the fulfilling of the Jewish Scriptures. The passage is significant for the way it demonstrates that the hand of history is upon this little boy, as he is first taken to Egypt and then returns via Israel to settle further north  in Nazareth, in Galilee. For Matthew the flight to Egypt is necessary if Hosea 11:1 is to be fulfilled, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." Without over-emphasising the point, Jesus is seen as the new Israel, and even the new Moses. Secondly, the mother figure of Israel, Rachel, weeping for her children in verse 18, fulfils the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15 and is clearly linked to Herod's massacre. Thirdly, the last historical link in this passage concerns the return of Mary and Joseph to Nazareth. The actual reference to Nazareth in the prophets is not conclusive, and Nazareth does not seem to have been highly regarded (eg John 1:46 where Nathanael asks "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" ). This passage therefore shows that, however unlikely, Jesus was indeed destined to live in Galilee, but that although he lived and grew up in Nazareth, it did not mean that he could not have been born in Bethlehem.

Jesus was a leader with the hand of history upon him. The Old Testament was being fulfilled in him, in person.

To Ponder

  • What refugee situations are on your heart at the moment? Please remember them in your prayers.
  • Strangers amongst us can bring great blessings. Is your church or fellowship a place where 'outsiders' can find welcome, hospitality, and true sharing?

Bible notes author

Michael King

Michael King is a Methodist local preacher. From 2000-2011, he was leader of the Methodist Church's World Church Relationships team, and was the vice-president of the Methodist Conference in 2012/2013.