The Messiah Has Come
(the second of three studies on Matthew 1-2)
“And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet”
Matthew 2:15 (NIV UK)
Matthew draws inferences from the Old Testament prophets that would have otherwise been lost to us. His desire is to solidify in the minds of his readers that Jesus is the Messiah through whom and about whom all prophecies of deliverance and hope are fulfilled.
Hosea saw Israel’s deliverance and exodus from Egypt in terms of God the Father calling his son out of bondage. Matthew explains that, similarly, Jesus, the one and only son of God, and his family, who were effectively refugees in Egypt because of Herod, were also rescued from Egypt (Compare Hosea 11:1 to Matthew 2:15 – “Out of Egypt I called my son”). Of course, by analogy, we know that Christians too are rescued from spiritual Egypt through participation in Christ’s salvation for them.
As well as seeing different layers of prophetic fulfilment, Matthew compares past harsh experiences to the events of Christ’s birth. This points once again to the identification of Christ as the Messiah. When the Jews were exiled to Babylon, Jeremiah 31:15 referred to their plight: “A voice was heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more”. Ramah was like a concentration camp where the Jews were gathered before the arduous and long walk to Babylon. Jeremiah himself had been found “bound in chains among the captives” there (40:1). Rachel, Israel’s favourite wife and regarded as one of the mothers of the nation,had been buried in Ramah, and thus she is seen to wake up and cry for her children in their suffering. Matthew interprets this as a forecast of the slaughter of the innocents at Bethlehem. Worse than any of the Babylonians was Herod, whose cruelty and ambition is now legendary. “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under…Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled” (Matthew 2:16-17).
Conceived out of wedlock, his father Joseph not his natural father, a refugee from persecution, what more could happen to Jesus? He was to experience so much more as he identified with both our sufferings and our joys.
Matthew understood the relevance of Jesus’ birth, and, as he related the rest of his story, would continue to connect events to messianic prophecies. After all, Jesus was the Messiah. He is the Christ.
Father, Jesus experienced so much for us. Thank you that he relates to our humanity, and that we have a Saviour who knows how hard life can be.
Study by James Henderson