We are more than 2000 years out from the life of Jesus and a lot has changed in that time. The readings for today show us that a lot has remained the same too.
More than the other gospel books, the book of Matthew is concerned with linking Jesus to ancient prophecies. It’s as if the writer is saying, “Yes… it really is him.” In today’s short reading the writer offers us three proofs:
v. 15, “…This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
v. 18 ff, “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah…”
v. 23, “So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”
So, three times the writer tells us that Jesus really is the one we’ve waited for. These prophetic proofs would have had more meaning to first century readers than they do for us. In a way, they are counter-intuitive: Egypt was not a traditional place of refuge for the Israelites, the massacre of the innocents was not what they were expecting either, and everybody knows that no good things comes out of Nazareth. Yet these are the events in the early life of Jesus that correspond with the prophecies.
It is natural for the writer of Matthew to make these connections. People want signs, after all.
But what of us? What signs are there for us in this passage? Like the earliest Christians, we are looking too. We also want to know if Jesus has really come, and whether or not he is somehow with us today. Remarkably, what I see in the text, I can see around me today:
Families fleeing violence
Jesus’s family fled to Egypt to escape the murders of Herod, and…
Over 100,000 Rohyngia have fled their homes in Myanmar this year,
Over 100,000 Christians have fled their homes in Iraq this year,
Over 100,000 Bororo people have fled their homes in the Central African Republic.
Herod had all male children under the age of two murdered, and…
In December 2014, 132 school children were massacred in Peshawar, Pakistan
In April 1993, 62 children were killed in the elementary school in Srebrenica, Bosnia
In December 2012, 20 children were massacred in Newtown, in Connecticut in the United States.
A hero rising from a backwater little town
Jesus was from Nazareth, and…
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was from Klerksdorp, South Africa
The Dali Llama was born in Taktser, in the Tibetian state of Amdo
Admired US president Abraham Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky in the United States.
It’s not all good news, is it?
But it tells us that the story of vulnerability, brutality, and surprises from which spring the Christian faith is not over. It is being played out every day in our own lives and we are invited to take part!
Jesus comes to us as the fleeing migrant, the displaced family.
He is there in the blood of the innocent killed by a powerful government.
And, look, there he is… coming out of Nazareth.
As this ancient and modern story plays out around you, where will you be?
What is required of us in these changeless times?