Matthew 2 = Threats and Safe Refuge
Bible Background: Matthew alone tells of the visit of the Wise Men and the threat posed by King Herod to the baby Jesus. Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt with their son, until King Herod is no more. But other families are not so fortunate, as Herod orders the massacre of infants in and around Bethlehem. December 28 on the church year calendar commemorates the Holy Innocents; the innocent victims of Herod’s rage.
Digging Deeper: 1. King Herod (appointed by the Romans, but nominally “King of the Jews”) got wind of a ‘new king on the block’ when the Wise Men stop in Jerusalem to ask “Where is the one born to be King of the Jews?” Herod reportedly had his own son killed to prevent him from usurping the throne. He’s paranoid-as many desperate rulers are. The Wise Men have been warned in a dream, not to return to Herod. Joseph is warned in a dream, to “take the child and his mother” and flee to Egypt. Baby Jesus is safe-for now. Other babies are not!
2. Matthew-writing to a Jewish audience-sees this drama as the fulfillment of scripture. He portrays Jesus as “The New Moses”. Moses’ life as a baby was at risk because of Pharaoh’s brutal order to kill male babies. As an adult, he also had to flee Egypt. Then, as leader of the people, he brings the people out of Egypt. Matthew notes the lament written in Jeremiah 31, of mothers weeping for their children. But for now, Jesus is ‘safe’.
3. In Bible times and throughout history, migration has been a key part of the human story. God’s protection for widows, orphans, refugees, and aliens is a common theme in scripture. Today’s world has more refugees than at any time since WWII. The political climate in our country has put refugees (people who have had to flee for safety) and migrants (people seeking to move between countries) in the spotlight. Fear drives many of them to take extreme risks and move! Fear is also what drives much of the political speech. What antidotes do people of faith have for such fear? What does the compassion of Christ require of us with regards to migrant children, families, and immigration/border control policies in our land?
4. www.lirs.org is the website for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, founded in 1939 to aid people displaced at the start of WWII. Visit this site if you’d like to learn more about God’s people who are migrants or refugees, and how we as God’s people can help.
Next Sunday, January 6, is Epiphany, when we celebrate the Wise Men’s journey and the revealing of baby Jesus to the world. Read the opening of Matthew 2.