My son was reading our morning devotion this morning from the book of Matthew in the New Testament. We read one chapter every morning from the Bible before he goes to school as a way to honor God and learn more about His word. Something really struck me during this morning’s reading, take a look!
Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.”
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:16-23, (New American Standard Bible or NASB).
Before Christ could even speak there were already people trying to kill Him. King Herod was not a good man but to order his soldiers to kill innocent male babies is simply beyond my comprehension. Can you imagine how you would have felt if one of your infant/toddler boys was ripped from your arms and murdered by the palace police? I don’t know about you but I would be devastated and angry. I don’t think I would ever forget such an evil deed, would you? This makes me wonder just how many little boys were killed, there must have been quite a few. I mean Bethlehem and all the small communities that surrounded it would have been a number of baby boys, wouldn’t you think? It boggles my mind. It also made me think of something else I have read in scripture.
When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? “And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:53-58, (NASB).
I grew up in a small town in a rural area of Nebraska. I often think that where I grew up was not all that different from where Jesus grew up. He was the hometown boy that everyone knew and they knew His earthly family as well. They also would have known much of His family history and that is where the difficulties began. Everyone would have known that Jesus was born under suspicious circumstances. I mean, Mary and Joseph should have been stoned to death for having sex before marriage…everyone in the town would know that Mary conceived before her marriage to Joseph. Everyone would have known the shame attached to this family. They all were probably wondering what was so special about these two that they were spared from the long arm of the law! And everyone would have known that they spent some time in Egypt. So do you think they would have also remember what had happened thirty years earlier when soldiers came to Bethlehem and the surrounding communities and killed all male babies two years of age and under? Would they have made the connection that the family of Mary and Joseph lived in Bethlehem but left moments before the soldiers came and did the dirty deeds under orders from King Herod? I think some of the people in Nazareth probably knew all this background and they would have been suspicious of Joseph the Carpenter and his family. I mean that is how small towns anywhere in the world operate. Newcomers are checked out as to what their reputation is and then they are watched suspiciously for a while to see if they are a good family or not!
Most of us when we go back to where we were reared up to adulthood will find people who remember every little and big thing we did whether good or bad. My brother was always remembered as a good football player and a crazy driver. I was always remembered as a good singer and a happy smile. Some of my friends are remembered as being in trouble with the law but getting their life together and becoming a solid citizen as the years passed. But it took time for the suspicions planted in people’s minds to be satisfied that my friends were acceptable and some of those friends will never be able to go back home again because of their shameful behavior as teenagers. In other words it is hard to change people’s opinion about you if you have a bad reputation in a small town. I think that is why Jesus said what He did about not being honored in His hometown. He had a bad reputation there, a shadow of suspicion cast upon His family revolving around His birth and His escape from death while in Egypt.
Before we decide that the people in Jesus hometown were stupid for not having any faith in Him I think it is a good idea to look into our own lives. Metaphorically speaking what babies have we killed? Whose reputation are we suspicious of? Who are we judging as not fit for our friendship? Babies died because of Jesus being born on this earth but that was not His fault nor was it His earthly parents fault. Let’s put the blame where it truly belongs, on a paranoid and angry King who ordered the death of those baby boys. One man who allowed Satan to manipulate him into trying to kill the Son of God was to blame. But notice that I said Satan manipulated King Herod. Satan does that with selfish, power-hungry, paranoid, and evil people. We need to see evil and recognize that there is an age-old battle between God and Satan that is played out on the battle field of human existence. Babies died. But that wasn’t the first time nor will it be the last time that babies are killed. Evil deeds are perpetrated upon innocent people every day and yet we don’t really notice. We can be thankful that God warned Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt. We can be thankful that God warns us today as well, through His word we learn to navigate through the evil battlefield of life and live on into eternity. I love that hope, don’t you?