Sermon – Matthew 2.13-23 (Christmas 2 – 2021)

Let us pray: O Lord God, heavenly Father, You allowed Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, to become a stranger and a sojourner in Egypt for our sakes, and led Him safely home to His fatherland: Mercifully grant that we poor sinners, who are strangers and sojourners in this perilous world, may soon be called home to our true fatherland, the kingdom of heaven, where we shall live in eternal joy and glory; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,

 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:

 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”

 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”

 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.

 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

These are Your Words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

When God came to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after their fall into sin, they fled from God’s presence, because they feared God’s punishment for their act of rebellion against Him. They sought cover hiding behind the trees of the garden.

When the glory of the Lord covered Mt. Sinai in fire and smoke and caused it to tremble, the Israelites dreaded the glory of God, feared His Law which condemned them, and they wanted to flee and get far from the mountain for fear of death.

When Peter dropped the fishing net as Jesus commanded and caught that miraculous draught of fish, Peter wanted to be far from Him. Peter said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). Peter, the sinner, feared being in the presence of the righteous God.

And Revelation speaks about how many will flee at Christ’s return in Judgment. “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave, and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountain and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” (Rev. 6:15-16)

This fleeing makes sense. A criminal flees from the well-armed officer of the law. You wouldn’t expect to see it the other way around. It makes sense that guilty sinners flee from God.

But what we see in this text is the opposite. God flees from a guilty sinner, a madman.

Herod was called Herod the Great for his great construction projects, which included the enlargement of the Jerusalem Temple into a magnificent structure. Besides this, however, he was a cruel, bloodthirsty tyrant. If Herod merely suspected someone to be dangerous to him, that person would suffer a violent death. He even killed many of his relatives who could ascend to his throne after his death. When his wife and sister showed sorrow over the death of some relatives, they fell victim to his wrath. He even had three of his sons publicly executed when he doubted that they loved him. Even Caesar Augustus remarked once that it is safter to be Herod’s pig that his son.

It is no surprise then that he acted with cruel injustice, killing all the boys under the age of 2 in the Bethlehem area in attempt to kill that mysterious Child that he so greatly feared.

In a way, you can say that Herod was fleeing God. He was willing to be under the authority of Caesar, but was unwilling to submit to Christ. He fled the Law. Fled Christ’s lordship. The way that he would flee would be by killing Him.

Even in the days leading up to his death, Herod stubbornly with hardness of heart rebelled against God. Soon after his order of killing the boys of Bethlehem, God sent him a hideous sickness. The early historian Josephus recorded that his body began to rot and swell. He omitted a putrid stench and worms fell from his body. He did not allow his impending death awaken his conscience, but continued in his wicked ways up until his death. He fled from God by dulling his conscience, and hiding in his sins. But in death, he entered into the flames of God’s wrath from which there is no fleeing.

But what deep humiliation Jesus endures that He must flee from this madman. Jesus, who holds divine judgment over this sinner, must flee from his bloodlust. This is God fleeing. He must be protected by His stepfather Joseph, and He is carried away into Egypt for safety.

Walther reflected on this humiliation Christ endures asking, “Can he be our Helper in all trouble, if he needed human protection and help in his trouble? Can he be the Refuge of our souls, if he was a dispossessed refugee? Can he prepare a place for us in heaven, if he could not be King even in the most humble hut, yes in the caves of animals? Yes, yes, my friends, as contradictory as it may seem to our reason, this holy Christ Child’s very humiliating flight is a wonderful pledge of our eternal salvation.”

Jesus didn’t flee because He was too weak to defend Himself. God the Father could have miraculously rescued Him. All the holy angels were at the ready to defend Him. But Christ could also have protected Himself with His divine might which is imparted to His human nature by means of its union with the divine nature. Yet Jesus did not do this. He willingly submitted to the humiliation of fleeing before a sinful human being in order to become our perfect Savior.

First of all, Jesus’ exile in Egypt and His return to Judea is a fulfillment of the messianic prophecy in Hosea. “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” This is part of His work of humiliation that He accomplishes as our Savior, that we who fled from God may be restored to Him.

On account of sin, Adam and Eve fled from God and were expelled from paradise. On account of our own sin, we too have fled from God. Our sinful flesh rebels against God. We have a sinful nature that would have us flee from God, to close our ears to His law, and to try to hide our sin from Him, as though that were possible, that we may continue in them. And if it were not for the salvation of God, we would be fleeing for the mountains pleading for them to fall on us to hide us from God’s Judgment, and banishment from His gracious presence forever.

Yet, the innocent Christ allowed Himself to be driven from Judea. His work of love for you, already has begun. His suffering has commenced. His life is preserved by the care of His parents, so that 33 years later He completes His suffering and humiliation on a cross, and there makes the full payment price for your sins.

He willingly humbled Himself and fled from sinful man in our text, so that we sinners who flee from God may return to Him. He undergoes such humiliation for the very purpose that He may be your Helper in trouble, that He may be the Refuge of your souls, and that He would prepare a place for you in heaven, and be your gracious King forever.

He allowed His life to be in distress, that you may find in Him your peace. He allowed Himself to be displaced from His home that you may find your home in Him. So, there is no more need to run from God. Instead run to Him. Do not be terrified by His righteousness and glory. Resist temptation, but no need to hide your sin from Him. Rather flee to Him with your sin in repentance, and He will take it from you. In fact, He already has 2000 years ago. He forgives you and justifies you. So let your consciences be at rest in Him.

When you hear the threatenings of His law, repent, and know that Christ has already dealt with your sins. All who flee to Him for grace will find it there in fullest measure. Even Herod may have found forgiveness in that Child he tried to kill. Instead, he suffers wrath that he cannot flee. But find in Christ your home, your resting place, and there remain though tyrants, wicked men, and the world rage. Christ once fled in order that He may be your refuge and victor to deliver you from these. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

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