Matthew 2:13-23: Herod’s Futile Rage

The journey began in haste, prompted by an unexpected influx of light and song. Gladsome tidings echo through the countryside as mighty angels appear, heralding Jesus’ arrival as the world’s Savior. So, humble shepherds pay homage to their newborn Lord, falling before Him in worship.

Not long after, wise travelers from afar follow the splendor of a guiding star. Except, as fast as everything starts, the joyous moment soon departs. An angel’s warning disturbs their reverie. “Hurry, from Herod, from his deceptions, flee. Return home another way.”

Nightfall again descends, and the Lord’s messenger visits Joseph in a whisper of grace, a message within a dream. “Rise, take the Boy and His mother, and escape to Egypt’s land. Stay until I tell you, for Herod will search for the Child to destroy Him.”

Fearful of Herod and wise to heed God, Joseph arises and flees into the night, bearing Mary and her Son away to safety. The holy family finds refuge in unknown terrain through divine decree and prophecy, their flight fulfilling what heaven had foretold. “Out of Egypt, I called My Son.”

An angel met Jesus’ stepfather in his sleep—as if centuries before God ordained another Joseph for a pivotal journey, likewise, in a dream. From Israel’s famine, a rising light shatters the famished night for this other Joseph and his family. Under a distant horizon, life springs anew beneath Egyptian skies, where they greet the grain they need, now free from privation and want. The once-betrayed brother, with his many-colored coat, ensures a nation’s survival to bring forth the foretold Messiah.

Over three hundred years pass. A formidable and brutal Pharaoh seeks to secure his dominion through destruction. So, He commands the death of every newborn Israelite male, for he fears their numbers might, one day, subdue him.

A baby survives, Moses. Later, the angel of the Lord descends and delivers a word of vast consequence to him. Through Moses, God will free His people from the irons of bondage into their destiny of a promised land.

So young is Moses, with his life under threat. A mother’s devotion compels her to protect him, concealing him inside a reed basket. The infant Jesus is, likewise, in danger. Parental love moves our Lord to a foreign country until divine providence calls Him home. In ancient days, Moses led the Hebrews from enslavement into the promised place of freedom. Incarnate to save, Jesus will rescue humanity from spiritual slavery to welcome us into His Kingdom of grace.

The birth of Christ is here, not beyond a distant, far-flung horizon. Another exodus is coming, not by frog, lice, or plague, but by thorn, nail, and cross. Not one nation freed. No, Christ descends to liberate every tribe and people to enjoy redemption’s release in His forgiveness.

From bondage and pain, God sets forth His Israel to be free, previewing our Savior’s advent and our freedom from sin, death, and the devil. Pharaoh’s armies suffer destruction in the Red Sea, pointing to Satan’s defeat. Through this, God foretells a future triumph by His flesh-born Son.

So, away from us, you wicked bonds of sin’s oppression. Remember, we are God’s own, liberated by His redemption, living under His divine protection! Yes, Jesus is the better Moses!

No one can alter our Lord’s plan of salvation. Oh, the Israelites of old tried. In their story of unbelief, they didn’t accept what their Lord desired. By Moses’ hand, He delivered them from the depths of a hostile land. Freed from Egypt’s yoke, led by fire and smoke, their hearts remained entrenched in Egypt. Enslaved, they ate their fill and wish, leeks and onions flavoring each dish. So they savored and reminisced.

Despite miraculous signs and wonders, they longed to return, not chancing on God’s plan crafted for them. Regardless of what God did, they preferred to stay in servitude’s safety, rejecting liberation for the shackles of slavery! Living by faith is challenging, requiring trust in God. Will He sustain them through Moses, whom He sent?

The Jewish people of Jesus’ time rejected God’s rescue plan as well. Content in their ways, clinging to their traditions, they turned away from His path. Blinded by their unbelief, they are overconfident, refusing the forgiveness He offered. Anchored to their self-created rules and laws, they deemed themselves adequate, spurning what the Messiah gave—hearts closed off, entrapped in their sins.

Today, people reject God’s saving plan and how He works His salvation in us. Many don’t believe baptism is a means God uses to create faith and grant eternal life. Can you number those who won’t recognize Christ’s body and blood to be present in His Supper for our forgiveness?

Here, this day, we still carry brokenness in our hearts. So, people turn their backs on God, rejecting redemption and the boundless blessings He brings. Too many consider baptism, which Scripture teaches “saves you,” not as a conduit of restoring mercy. So sad, for baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, baptism becomes:

A blessed rite, God’s gift of grace;
In water, power to save and place
Us in the fold of His embrace.

The Lord’s Supper is, likewise, diminished. Not Jesus’ body and blood for the acquittal of our sins, as His words say, but only a mere symbol. Again, most sorrowful, since:

In body, blood, Christ’s sacred Feast,
We find forgiveness and release,
Salvation in our time of need.

On Easter evening, Jesus appeared to His disciples, ordaining them as His Apostles and pastors of His Church. “Receive the Holy Spirit—if you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven” (John 20:22-23). Many refuse to believe Jesus authorizes someone to speak our Savior’s absolution to another, doubting He forgives our trespasses, as He says, through someone’s mouth.

By Christ’s own Word and His decree,
A pastor speaks forgiveness, free,
For us and for eternity.

Eager as the Pharisees of yesteryear, people crave to retreat, returning to what they understand—requiring more. Except more of us means less of God, forsaking how He creates faith, forgives sin, and accomplishes His redemption within us. To do so is to turn away from His divine designs, little different from Israel denying Moses’ orders or the Jews rejecting Jesus himself! Undaunted, God still calls His Son to return from Egypt at the proper time.

Earth-born misery can bring our faith to its knees as we question why God lets evil be. Do we not despair, demanding why our Lord doesn’t intervene when pain, anguish, and tragedy ensue? Aghast, our minds roam, straining to make sense of events, challenging God. “Why do You allow such hardship? Do You bother taking time to spare us a glance?” How bewildering, unable to comprehend a God who lets us strive and toil so?

This day’s Gospel text is a struggle to receive. After Christmas’ joyous night, Matthew tells us of Herod’s cruel and dark plight. No cause or crime by any infant is done, yet the evil despot will still slaughter Bethlehem’s sons.

Too soon, Herod realizes the Magi’s deception. The tyrant’s mind boils in rage, ordering his soldiers to search throughout Bethlehem and beyond, killing every boy two years old and younger. A malicious act, though he fulfills Jeremiah’s prophecy, “Cries of agony echo in the night, Rachel weeping for her children. No hope of comfort. Grief clings to her as a cloak, mourning for sons no more here.”

Amid the bustling of Christmas, we can forget Jesus’ birth and its life-changing importance. Didn’t He come to bridge the divide between God and man, to deliver heavenly peace into this chaos-consumed world? Yes, yet He spoke of His teachings, causing schism and people stumbling because of Him. Old-Testament Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife, perished in labor with her last son, Benjamin. Later, other sons of the Promise lose their lives, cut short by wicked Herod, while their mothers weep.

Oh, we cannot fault God for Herod’s murderous blight. Those sins are his, but God shall work His will despite those deeds of our darkest night. The King of kings perceived our wickedness while still operating inside human history, weaving our redemption. Here’s the miracle—God uses our sin-created doings and darkness to create salvation’s everlasting light.

Not yet Jesus’ time to die, God’s angel sweeps over the land, protecting Him from the depravity of King Herod. By divine intervention, Joseph brings his family to Egypt’s distant shore, where Israel once lived before. Why? So His precious Son will pay for our sin, by grace, who comes to perish in our place.

Today, God is still with His people, directing us through the trials and afflictions life throws our way. Through His baptismal waters, His shepherding hand leads infants and adults into the shelter of His holy Church. Divine forgiveness pours forth through His Supper as He nourishes us in His love and grace. Rejoice, since Jesus is with us, always present, guiding, and faithful.

In the beginning, God spoke life into existence. The stars, planets, and galaxies shimmer in His presence, and the farthest reaches of the cosmos form in their celestial perfection. Wanting more, we disobey God, and sin’s ugliness corrupts our hearts.

Oh, but we aren’t undone, for our Lord is steadfast, and everything He promises shall come to pass! At the right time, God steps out of eternity and comes to us as man, fulfilling our redemption and God’s perfect plan. One day, He will return, raising every believer to Himself, not as His heavenly guest but as His family blest, forever amen!