Matthew 2:13-23 (ESV)

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” 19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

After the wise men from the East left the young Jesus, an angel appeared to Joseph, alerting him that Herod planned to kill the child. The wise men were warned in a dream not to report back to Herod, and when Herod discovered he’d been outwitted, he grew furious. He wiped out all the boys two years and younger in the small village of Bethlehem. According to Herod’s logic, it would be safer to get rid of all the town’s young boys than to let this new king survive. But Joseph got out before Herod realized what had happened, and Jesus and his parents ended up in Egypt. Later, when the angel let Joseph know that Herod had died, the young family returned to Israel to their hometown of Nazareth in the region of Galilee. Most Jews despised the city of Nazareth because many Roman troops were stationed and living there. Remember, at this time, the Romans were in political control of Israel, and as a result, the Jews despised them. Because of this tension, Jews sought to avoid Nazareth at all costs as part of the great lengths to which they went to keep from defiling themselves with non-Jewish or pagan contacts. Because the residents of Nazareth lived in the same city as the “bad guys,” many Jews even judged them to be compromisers who rejected doing the right thing for their own personal gain and convenience.

 

It’s worth pausing here to consider how strange it was that God led Jesus and his family to live in Nazareth. Why would God do this? Why would he want his own Son to live in a “questionable” town? God purposely placed Jesus and his family in Nazareth to foreshadow Jesus’ coming rejection by his people. Those soon to encounter Jesus would misunderstand him. God’s people sought social and political deliverance, and Jesus just didn’t show up in the package the Jewish people were waiting for. Jesus brought spiritual healing, freedom, and release from the penalty of sin. This wasn’t the Messiah they had in mind. In the same way, we can reject and even despise God’s provision for us because it doesn’t come in the packaging we are expecting or hoping for. Let’s determine to be open to God’s plan for our lives today, even if it looks different from what we anticipated. Remember, he is God and we are not. And he certainly knows what he’s doing, even when things seem confusing to us.