Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Volume 7 No. 3xx January z, 2017
IV. Featured Articles On Flight To/From Egypt

The Return of Christ to Israel

by Jimmy Snowden

Gospel: Matthew 2:19-23

[Editor's Note:

Gospel of Luke is the prime reference for the infant narratives of Jesus. But the Gospel of Matthew does provide some missing links in the story, especially that deals with Joseph.

Matthew chapter 2 is rich in this respect.

Matthew 2 can be broken up into two sections. Both sections tell the story of a trip.

In vss. 1-12 we learn about the Magi. The account of the Magi focuses on their trip to and from Bethlehem. These Babylonian (or Persian) royal officials came to do one thing, to worship the one who was to be born King of the Jews.

Then in vss. 13-23 we learn about the trip of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to Egypt and back. This trip of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to Egypt can be broken up into three parts:

1. Jesus is taken to Egypt to avoid the violence of Herod against Him (vss. 13-15)
2. Herod kills all children 2 and under in Bethlehem (vss. 16-18)
3. Jesus is brought back to Israel after Herod dies (vss. 19-23).

This week's Lectionary Reading for the Syriac Orthodox Church deals with Part 3 of the story. We covered parts 1 and 2 last week under the Massacre of Innocents.]

In part three of this story we see the return of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus back to Israel.

[19] But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, [20] saying, "Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead." [21] And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. [22] But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. [23] And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Matthew 2:19-23)

I want you to see 4 things in these verses.

1. The fourth angelic visitation. The word "behold." This is now the fourth angelic visitation that we have seen in the Gospel of Matthew. Each time an angel appears with a message from God we see this word, "behold." The reason this word keeps popping up is because an angelic visitation is a big deal. It is a heavenly messenger sent from the very throne of God to deliver a message from God.

2. The message of the angel. Joseph and Mary finally get the word that they have been waiting for. Remember back up in Matthew 2:13 that the angel tells Joseph to go to Egypt "until I tell you." They were to go to Egypt until the angel visited them again to give them the go ahead to go back to Israel. How great this news must've been. They can finally go home.

There's no place like home. Whenever Kristal and I have to spend days up at the hospital there is nothing like these words, "The doctors have said that you can now go home. We will begin your discharge papers." What a great sound those words are! There is nothing like the thought of pulling up in your own driveway, walking in your own door, sleeping in your own bed.

But this news would have been even more significant for Joseph and Mary, because they were not merely pent up in a hospital. They were refugees in a foreign land. Kristal and I went to the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon. We had a great time. But let me tell you that there is nothing like getting your feet back on American soil where everyone speaks your language and everything is familiar.

Joseph and Mary would have rejoiced at this news. It is now safe for them to come home because the man who was seeking to kill their son was dead. And so we see in vs. 21 that they did just that-they packed up and went home.

3. Further complications.

But what we see in vss. 22-23 is that the news of Herod’s death was not necessarily ideal. Sometimes a transition in leadership is good news. Sometimes it is bad news. The death of evil King Herod meant that evil Herod’s more evil son, Archelaus, was now reigning in Judea. In fact, just before Herod died, he changed his will and decided that he would break his kingdom up into three parts. His three sons would reign over the three parts of his kingdom.

Archelaus was given Judea (southern Israel), where Jerusalem and Bethlehem were located. But Archelaus was known to be just as violent and evil as King Herod. So Joseph’s fears were not empty. He had a legitimate reason to be afraid. If Herod would kill all the children under 2 years of age to secure the death of Jesus, to what length would Archelaus go?

So God sent His heavenly messenger to Joseph again. Isn’t it amazing how God continues to protect the life of Christ through this heavenly means of communication. This angel came bearing instructions to go to Galilee. Archelaus only ruled in Judea. Herod’s other less violent son, Herod Antipas, ruled in Galilee. And so we are told that Joseph and Mary did as the angel spoke and moved up to Galilee, which you will remember was their hometown (Luke 2:1-7).

4. More fulfilled Scripture. In vs. 23 we see that their settling in Nazareth fulfilled yet more Scripture. But notice that the fulfillment here is different than before. Can anyone think of the passage in the Old Testament which tells us that the messiah was to be called a Nazarene? Well… that isn’t a fair question, because there isn't a passage in the Old Testament that tells us that Jesus was to be called a Nazarene.

How do we make sense of this? A few things can be said.

Notice the difference between this fulfillment passage and the rest of the fulfillment passages in Matthew 1 and 2. Look at 1:22-23, 2:5-6; 2:15; 2:17-18. All of these passages say, "this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet"; "for so it is written by the prophet." Notice the singular word, "prophet." Then in each instance a specific passage from a prophet from the Old Testament is quoted.

But in Matthew 2:23 we see a difference. Matthew doesn't say that this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, singular, but by the prophets, plural. So Matthew makes it very clear that he is not quoting a specific passage from one of the prophets. Rather, he is pointing to a certain truth about the promised messiah that is emphasized by all the prophets.

So what truth is he emphasizing? To answer that we have to ask what it means to be called a "Nazarene." To be called a Nazarene doesn’t mean that Jesus took the Nazarite vow. He is to be called, not a Nazarite, but a Nazarene. A Nazarene is one who lives in the town of Nazareth. And it was used as a slang word to speak of someone of low reputation. If you go to the Midwest and you see someone who seems a bit backwards, you can be confident that you will hear someone say, "He must’ve been born in Arkansas." This is a classic Midwestern dis. Those from Arkansas are a bit backwards.

The term ‘Nazarene’ is a bit like this. Do you remember what Nathanael said when he heard that Jesus was from Nazareth? "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). Nazareth was known as the backwater town where simple, behind the times, lowly people come from. To be called a Nazarene is to called a country bumpkin from the sticks without a hope of making it far in life.

If Jesus was called a Bethlehemite, you would expect Him to be seen as a King. King David was from Bethlehem. And everyone knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. And of course, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But He wasn’t called a Bethlehemite. He was called a Nazarene. But why? So that the prophets might be fulfilled!

One of the most consistent themes in the Old Testament was that the Messiah was to be despised and rejected, just like the prophets of old. No one would receive a Nazarene as their king. No one would look to a Nazarene as the long awaited Messiah. Jesus was despised and rejected, just as the prophets foretold.

[6] But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. [7] All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; [8] "He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!" (Psalm 22:6-8)

[1] Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? [2] For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. [3] He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:1-3)

So Jesus did not come to earth with the pomp and circumstance of an earthly king. No. Although He was born in Bethlehem, He was known as a 'hick from the sticks.' Jesus was the King who was despised and rejected. And He did it all for us, to liberate us, for the glory of His Father.

Do you see how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament in his being born in Bethlehem, in his flight to Egypt, in the slaughter of the infants, and in his growing up in Nazareth? Take note, God is faithful to do all that He said He will do! His word is trustworthy.

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
"Full atonement!" can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
"It is finished!" was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Meditation on Matthew 2:19-23

"An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt"

Scripture: Matthew 2:19-23

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 20 "Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead." 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in Place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."


Like all godly parents, Joseph and Mary raised the child Jesus in the fear and wisdom of the Lord. Joseph was given a unique task as the guardian and protector of Mary and of Jesus. What can we learn from the example and witness of Joseph?

Joseph is a man of God, a man of unquestioning obedience and willing service. He is a man of prayer and a man of God's word. Through faith he recognized the hand of God in the mystery of the Incarnation - the Son of God taking flesh as the son of Mary.

Joseph is a man of action, diligent in the care of his family and ready to do the Lord's bidding. Joseph fearlessly set aside his own plans when God called him to "take to the road" and to leave his familiar surroundings - his home, friends and relatives, and the security of his livelihood in order to pursue a hidden mission God entrusted to him as the guardian of the newborn King.

God has a plan for each of us. With the plan God gives grace and the assurance of his guiding hand and care.
Do you trust Him for his plan for your life?
Are you willing to sacrifice your own plans for God's plan?
Are you willing to give God unquestioning service and to pursue whatever mission he gives you?


"Lord, make me a faithful servant and guardian of your truth and your word. Help me to obey you willingly, like Joseph, with unquestioning trust and with joyful hope."

(c) 2002 Don Schwager

Jesus of Nazareth, The King of The Jews

by Dr. Harold Buls

Gospel: Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23


Often on crucifixes you see the letters I.N.R.I., the Latin abbreviation for "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." This is found at John 19:19. The Jews did not object to "Jesus of Nazareth" but they did object to "King of the Jews."

Jesus admitted to Pilate that He was a King and that for this reason He had come into the world. (John 19:37).

The Jews resented this deeply.
(John 19:12; John 19:21; Matthew 27:42. )

But Christians love Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
(Luke 19:38; I Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; John 18:37. )

The Bible had foretold that Jesus would be a King, (Psalm 45), and that He would be from Nazareth. (Isaiah 11:1).

Our text introduces these ideas and shows how the world and the church differ on the words "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."


A. Jesus of Nazareth

It is clear from the book of Acts that, at the time of Jesus, people knew Him by the title "Jesus of Nazareth." (See Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 10:38; 22:8; 26:9).

Jesus even identified Himself to the Apostle Paul by this title. (Acts 22:8.)

Philip told Nathanael that he had found Jesus of Nazareth. (John 1:45.)

But Nathanael said: "Can any good come out of Nazareth?" which means "How could the Savior come from such a little unknown town?"

Even the evil spirits addressed Him as Jesus of Nazareth. (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). They were saying that Jesus came to destroy mankind. ("Us" very likely means "us people" not "us demons"). To the unbelieving Jews "Jesus of Nazareth" meant that Jesus was a mere man, not the Savior of the world.

B. The King of the Jews

The wisemen asked Herod: "Where is He Who is born King of the Jews?" Herod and Jerusalem were disturbed by this realized that he had been deceived by the wisemen, he tried his best to have Jesus killed. In his unbelief he misunderstood the term "King of the Jews."

At John 6:15 the people who had been brought Jesus to Pilate for trial they said: "We found this man disturbing the people, preventing to give tribute to Caesar and saying that He is Christ, a king." They hated him.

Pilate asked Him: "Are you the King of the Jews?" He said: "You say I am a King," which means: "Most certainly I am." Pilate taunted the Jews by having the words: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews" placed on the cross. The Jews tried to change this but Pilate would not change it. John 19:19-22.


A. Jesus of Nazareth

Our text tells us that the prophets said that Jesus would be called the Nazarene. And, as we showed above, He was called and known as the Nazarene. But where in the Old Testament is this said? Very Likely, Matthew is referring to Isaiah 11:1 where, in the Hebrew, the word "Branch" is "nazar" which is very similar to "Nazarene." The great tree of the family of David had disappeared from history.

Jesus was descended from David. But he did not come as a great earthly king like David but lowly, insignificant, from a very small town in Galilee. Read Isaiah 53: 2-3. This is a prophecy of Jesus. It says that people found no beauty in Him. He was despised and rejected by people. He was despised and we did not esteem Him. At Psalm 22:6 He calls Himself a worm and no man, one at whom the people laugh. But Christians love this despised man who took their place, who took their sins away.

B. The King of the Jews

But this Jesus, chased from Bethlehem to Nazareth, is THE King. When Pilate asked Him: "Are you, then, a King?" He answered: "Of course I am a King. For this purpose I was born and came into the world in order that I might testify to the Truth. Everyone who is of the truth, hears My voice." Jesus is the King of Truth. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. Paul calls Him the King eternal and King of kings. I Timothy 1:17; 6:15, the Savior.

Poem - Out of Egypt
The Angel spoke in Joseph's dream
Not long after Jesus' birth,
"Take the mother and the Child
For Herod seeks the infant's life."

In secrecy they stole away.
Nor the wise men there remained,
Herod's scheming they had sensed;
More guidance from God's unseen hand.

The children of that fateful land,
Those that lived near Bethlehem,
While their mothers' shrieking cried,
Died at hand of royal felon

Toward the west the parents fled
out of sight of everyone;
Egypt had been long foretold
For from that land "I called My Son."

Yet still King Herod grabs a child
that mother thought safe at home,
stabbing with the sword of sin;
eternal peril to the soul.

If only fathers still could hear
God's clear message of alarm,
that the powers of the earth
are focused on their children's harm

And would those fathers also taught,
Jesus is the hiding place;
Safe e'en when He sends them forth
To share the message of His grace


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