"The Failure of Evil Schemes."
February 11, 2022, 11:36 AM

“The Failure of Evil Schemes.”

Matthew 2:13-23

The reading for today is the last bit of information we have from the Gospel of Matthew regarding Jesus’ early life. This Scripture breaks down into three sections: The Flight to Egypt, Herod’s Terrible Plot, and the Return to Nazareth. We will look at each section individually and then conclude with how this text informs our faith life.

The Flight to Egypt

After the magi leave, Joseph is warned in a dream to flee to Egypt for safety from Herod who intends to kill Jesus. Herod was a brutal maniac. He was not looked upon favorably as king. Upon coming to power, he had half the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of the Jews, like our Supreme Court) killed. He executed 300 court officers. He executed his wife and mother-in-law and three of his own sons. On the day of his death, knowing everyone would rejoice, he had all the notable men in Jerusalem rounded up and killed when his own death was announced. If Herod felt threatened, people suffered. An angel warned Joseph, and they fled to Egypt. There was a large population of Jews in Egypt, and so while they likely didn’t know anyone, they would have found a place among fellow Jews to be safe. It is also likely that the expensive gifts from the magi (the wise men) helped fund their trip. Matthew sees this flight to Egypt as fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. This whole chapter of Hosea is referring to Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Matthew saw a pattern in the history of Israel, and saw that Jesus identified with the history of Israel. Echoes of exodus are throughout our reading today. Like Moses, Jesus was protected from being killed as a child. We see the triumph of God’s plan over evil in both this story as well as the exodus. We also see the deliverance of God’s son in both the exodus and here in Jesus’ early life.

Jesus identifies himself with Israel and its calling from God. There are many places in Jesus’ life that He faithfully obeys where Israel failed. Take for instance the testing in the wilderness. Israel was tested in the wilderness for 40 years and gave into temptation throughout that time. Jesus was tested in the wilderness for 40 days, and obeyed God perfectly. Israel broke God’s covenant throughout their history. Jesus upheld and obeyed God’s law perfectly. Jesus, as God’s Son, is coming out of Egypt and will bring a new exodus for His people. This time, the exodus will be freedom from sin and death.

Herod’s Terrible Plot

We have already seen that Herod the Great was a murderous, paranoid, maniac, so his killing of children that could threaten his throne should come as no surprise. It is a heartbreaking scene. Although Bethlehem was small at the time, this murder of the children was atrocious. Scholars estimate that between 10 and 20 children were likely killed. Why? Because Herod thought one of them could threaten his throne. Herod was a truly evil person. The grief was so strong in Bethlehem that Matthew quotes another Old Testament prophet. This time he quotes Jeremiah 31:15. This text from Jeremiah talks about Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She died after giving birth to Benjamin and was buried near Bethlehem. Jeremiah records the exile of Israelites under the nation of Babylon. He said that as the exiles were taken away from their home, Rachel (even though she was in the grave) wept for the nation. Here, Matthew sees the death of the children in Bethlehem as bad enough to awaken Rachel’s grief once again.

Jeremiah 31 begins with grief over the exile and punishment of sinful Israel, but it ends with hope. God says, through Jeremiah, that He will bring Israel back to the land they lost and restore them. Not only will He restore Israel, but He will make a new covenant with them. This new covenant is the covenant that Jesus Himself initiated on the night of His arrest at the Last Supper. Even in grief and suffering, hope and life can be found in Jesus.

The Return to Nazareth

After Herod the Great died, Joseph was instructed (once again by an angel) to return to the land of Israel. Herod died in 4 B.C. so we know that this must have taken place after 4 B.C. We also know that Archelaus ruled over Judea from 4 B.C. until 6 A.D., so we know that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned from Egypt before 6 A.D. Honestly, we don’t know how long they were in Egypt. But who was Archelaus? He was a son of Herod the Great. When Herod died, his kingdom was divided among his sons. Unfortunately for the people, Archelaus was as cruel as his father. He only ruled until 6 A.D. because Caesar Augustus removed Archelaus and banished him because he feared that the people would start a rebellion. Because of Archelaus, Joseph was warned in a dream to go to Nazareth instead. It was in Nazareth that Jesus grew up.

Throughout the Bible we see wicked people plot against God, against His people, and even against His Messiah (read Psalm 2). The wicked scheme to interrupt or even destroy God’s plan. Herod thought He could kill the infant Messiah. We know however, that the Lord will always be victorious. The Bible attests that God is sovereign. Think of the crucifixion. To the enemies of Jesus, it looked like victory over Jesus. To the disciples it looked like utter failure and defeat. Yet, it was God’s plan to secure salvation for His people through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

By quoting all the Scripture, Matthew wants us to see that God is sovereign, but also that God’s Word is trustworthy. God always keeps His promises. This means that we can have confidence in God’s Word. God has the power to bring His promises to fruition. This means that God’s plan for the salvation of His people cannot be thwarted by the evil schemes of Satan or sinful human beings. Our salvation is secure because our salvation depends on God and His power.

These truths should lead us to a deeper trust of God. They should lead us into a deeper relationship with God. They should also lead us to a bolder confidence in proclaiming the love of God to others.