As we finish our study of Matthew 2, note how the evangelist has taught us about God’s providence. First, we should see that Herod’s hatred of Jesus and slaughter of the young boys in Bethlehem (vv. 16–18) parallel Pharaoh’s attempt to kill Moses (Ex. 1:8–2:10). Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, and in ordaining the circumstances of the birth of Christ to be so similar to Moses’ birth, our Father has prepared His people to receive Jesus as a new and greater Moses, the mediator of a new and better covenant (Heb. 7:22).
Secondly, the dreams of warning that Joseph and the magi experience (Matt. 2:12–13, 19–20, 22) show that God has sovereignly overruled man’s attempt to destroy His Son. Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus has been unsuccessful. In fact, it is Herod who dies (in 4 b.c., dating the Savior’s birth therefore between 6 and 4 b.c.), enabling Joseph and his family to return to Palestine (v. 21).
After learning that Archelaus is ruling in Judea, Joseph takes Jesus and Mary to Nazareth in Galilee (v. 22). This is wise, for Archelaus can be as ruthless as his father Herod and might very well be a threat to Jesus.
Matthew tells us the move to Nazareth fulfills prophecy, and yet verse 23 does not quote the Old Testament directly. The use of “prophets” and not “prophet” helps explains why this is so. Jerome, a famous biblical scholar from the early church, said Matthew, “in speaking of the prophets in general…has shown that he has not taken the specific words but rather the sense from the Scriptures” (Commentary on Matthew 1.2.23). The evangelist is giving us a general teaching about the Messiah found throughout the Old Testament.
In Jesus’ day, Nazareth is considered a backwater village from which nothing good can come (John 1:46). To be from Nazareth brings scorn and ridicule, and many people question Jesus’ validity because of His hometown (7:40–44). However, there are many passages in Scripture that tell us the Messiah will be despised and afflicted (Isa. 53:1–3; Dan. 9:26a). Many would find reason for hating our Savior once they learn He is a Nazarene, and so in settling in Nazareth, Jesus begins to fulfill His work as Messiah.
Understanding how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament means that we have to look at more than just isolated verses and proof-texts. As Matthew 2:23 indicates, the apostles teach that Jesus fulfills the broad themes, ideas, and stories found throughout the Old Testament. If we are to understand the vocation Jesus fulfills, we must be well-versed in the Old Testament. Take time this week to study the Old Testament sacrificial system or the exile.
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