And I’m Tyler.
This is scripture central’s. Come follow Me Insights.
Next two episodes will be Luke two and Matthew two.
So with this particular episode, we jump into Luke chapter two. And and I just have to say, are there any scriptures that are more familiar or that bring with them a flood of memories more than this one? And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. Thus we launch into the telling of the birth story of Jesus Christ. It’s been shared in pageants and in movies and in family traditions for centuries. And like I said, it just brings with it a flood of memories. What a wonderful time of year, Christmas, to be able to pause and reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ. And at the outset, before we dive into the scripture verses here, let me just share a little insight that I gained from a dear friend, Ron Fransen, years ago as our bishop when we lived in Brigham City. He shared this idea that some people at times, especially when they’re struggling with some things, maybe spiritually, they might feel a little intimidated by the image of the resurrected glorified Lord of the outstretched arms, who’s perfect in every way.
And it can be a little intimidating when they’re struggling. So Bishop Francis shared on multiple occasions this idea that isn’t it wonderful that the Lord gives us an opportunity once a year at Christmas time to come and bend the knee and worship the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, who came to this earth condescended to become like us. And he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Nobody, and I mean nobody, can be intimidated by the image of this Brandt new born baby who is Emmanuel God with us. And perhaps if we can at least start there, it can get us to that point where we can feel more comfortable coming to the Lord of the outstretched arms, the one who has power, who is mighty to save. Just a fun perspective as we jump into this story of the birth of Christ.
And we’re blessed to have two birth narratives in the gospels, Matthews and Luke’s. And Matthew focuses on the highborn, the magi. He focuses on the people of power and prestige. Where Luke, it’s almost like he represents all of us, just perhaps the outcast or the marginalized or those who are just going about their lives, doing good, but typically are overlooked and just don’t show up in the public conscious. And I love both stories. This one feels in some way like I might find myself in the Luke story just kind of in the background as one of these lowly shepherds. I mean, shepherds were kind of like the outcast of society. They played an important function, but nobody wanted that job. And it was kind of seen as the dirty low class job. And Luke paints such a beautiful picture of the Jesus who comes for everybody.
So let’s begin with verse three. All went to be taxed, everyone unto his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea unto the city of David which is called Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David. And we talked about that last week in the episode with Matthew chapter one. That the genealogy pedigree chart of Joseph that he is from the direct line of King David and so he has to go to his hometown. Now keep in mind the word that we use in the English, KJV, the King James version is carpenter but that comes to us from the Greek word Tecton. And if you look up Tecton in strong’s concordance sometime or in a Greek lexicon, you’ll see that it has multiple meanings in the Greek, an artist, a plotter, somebody who does blueprints, a planner for a building, it’s an artisan, a builder of all kinds, a finisher.
In some ways you could translate it as an author and finisher, somebody who conceptualizes a plan and brings it to pass. And this is the Joseph is the father of Jesus Christ who is the great Tecton.
So as the young boy Jesus is going to be raised through his life, you can see him learning these lessons of how you design something first, how you make a plan and you measure it out and you then carry out that plan from foundation to capstone and do all of the finishing work. It seems that sometimes when we use just the word carpenter, when we refer to Joseph and Jesus being raised as a carpenter, it’s very limiting because it only refers to a worker of wood. But that Greek word Tecton seems much more expansive in meaning and for us application to the life of the Savior and what he’s learning as the author and the finisher of our faith. Because at the end of the day Jesus, by learning how to design and build and finish buildings, that’s just a place holding metaphor for what his ultimate work and training from his real father is to become the author and the finisher of your faith. Because at the end of the day it’s you that he’s building it’s. It’s not buildings, those are just placeholders, symbolic placeholders. So what you have here is geographically you have the capital city of Jerusalem and about 5 miles, 6 miles depending on the route you take.
To the south is the city of Bethlehem, previously known as the city of David, that is Joseph’s hometown. And it seems as a Tecton, as a builder that he is spending significant time up in the north in Galilee in a place called Nazareth. There is a lot of construction going on in the first century up in the Galilee and so that’s where the builders would go. You go to where you can find employment.
Yeah. So we have a city, Sephorus or Zappi, that had been destroyed in a war or battles a couple of generations before, and now it’s being rebuilt as a Roman provincial capital for this area. And it’s about, what, a four mile?
It’s just down the valley and then up a hill, and from Nazareth you.
Can walk there probably about an hour or so. So imagine commuting every day on your feet, walking a little over an hour to get to your work site, an hour back. So you can imagine Joseph and later Jesus walking out to the site and building essentially a Roman city, complete with baths and beautiful synagogues for the wealthy Jews in the community, amphitheaters and theaters and everything you might find in a typical Roman city. And Joseph may have still owned property down here in Bethlehem, and many of us who might be homeowners have to deal with property taxes on a regular basis. So imagine you’re coming down we don’t totally know, but imagine he’s coming down to deal with some property tax issues during the census, like, let’s figure out where people have their property and then let’s tax them based on the property they own.
You look at verse five. It says to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child. I would just point out here that we only have one account of the actual birth story here playing out in all of our writings, and it happens to be right here, luke, chapter two. And it’s from these verses, this is all we get. It’s from this page of scripture that multiple movies, video clips, paintings, drawings have been produced off of this page. So if you watch most movies or church productions or stage plays that are retelling this nativity story, what we often do is we go to those extreme conditions of Joseph and Mary riding into Bethlehem with Mary on a donkey, which, by the way, there is never one time is a donkey or a mule mentioned in this story. Now, some of you are thinking, oh, no, I’m going to go to my nativity set and I’m going to take the old donkey out and throw away, please don’t do that. Leave the poor donkey there. It’s probable that she and he would have had a donkey or two, maybe, as they’re making this journey.
It’s just all I’m saying is it’s not mentioned in the story that’s it, but it doesn’t mean that they didn’t have one. And there’s a lot of beautiful symbolism of Mary writing on a donkey as she comes down into Jerusalem and then into Bethlehem, because there’s some allusions to an event 33 years down the road when Jesus would again enter into the capital city of Jerusalem writing on a donkey. In this case, they’re coming here into Bethlehem, 5 miles south. So back to our video and our stage productions. We like to show her coming in on a donkey in active labor, ready to deliver the baby Jesus very shortly. Look at the wording in verse six. Keep in mind this is all we get. And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. So as you read verse six, it doesn’t look like she came in to Bethlehem in active labor. It looks like while they were there, then the days were accomplished. So she’s great with child. There’s no question she’s far along in this pregnancy. But it seems that there’s a little bit of time which actually adds a little bit of additional meaning to the experience that they’re going to have in Bethlehem, which we know is Joseph’s hometown.
So if it’s Joseph’s hometown, who else lives there? And by the way, it’s not a big metropolis. It’s a little village up on a hill 5 miles south of Jerusalem. There aren’t thousands and thousands of people who live there. But if it’s Joseph’s hometown, the implication is many of Joseph’s relatives will also live there. And we know that Joseph and Mary are related, which means it’s possible that even some of Mary’s extended relatives also live there. Now, with that understanding, you can picture them coming into this village, her being great with child in a first century Jewish context where they all can do the math. And they know that her pregnancy doesn’t line up with the marriage date of Mormon Joseph. And under their interpretations of the law of Moses, they’re very careful with their cleanliness rites and rituals and and people being unclean. And it adds some meaning to verse seven. It says, she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger a feeding trough because there was no room for them in the inn. Now, you’ll notice what the prophet Joseph Smith did with verse seven.
He added one letter to the end of the word in. And so it becomes there was no room for them in the ends. Can we just pause for a moment on the significance of these two words? Can you see how Luke could have written that verse by saying things like, there was no room in the inn would be very different than there was no room for them in the end. And then Joseph adding the word or the letter S to pluralize it? There’s no room for them in any of the enos. And when you and I in a modern culture read the word in or ends, instantly. We think of a small motel or a small hotel in the ancient world, a caravanserai, a place where wandering strangers could stay for the night and have a place for their animal to be taken care of and they could get some food and drink and a place to sleep before they continue on their journey. That’s what most of us would equate with the word in. The problem is, if you go to the Greek word underlying this verse, verse seven, you’ll find that the word is not associated with a caravanster eye or a public house where guests are welcome to come and pay a price to stay overnight and have some food and lodging.
The Greek word for this one is cataloma, which is an upper room, or it’s a large room inside of your home. And if you’ve got a big home, you would have a big cataloma. If you’ve got a small home, you would have a small cataloma. The word cataloma only appears two other times in the entire New Testament, and both times it’s referring to the Last Supper that took place in an upper room is how it gets translated. But they could have just as easily translated it there as they’re going to have the Last Supper in and in, because that’s how they chose to translate it here, that King James translation team picked the word in. Now, why is that significant? Because it’s not as if Mary and Joseph are coming in and all the motels have a no vacancy sign flashing, because there probably aren’t any of those kind of hotels in Bethlehem. It’s off the beaten path. It’s a small village up on a hill 5 miles south of Jerusalem. But there are a whole bunch of homes that are connected with Mary and Joseph in one way or another, we would assume with some extended relatives and maybe some fairly close relatives to the two of them.
And there’s no room for them in those catalomas. And again, some could say, but don’t you think that because she was pregnant, it took them longer to get down there than other people, and so they would get there ahead and fill up all of these big living spaces, maybe what we would today call a front room or a parlor in these homes? And the answer is, yeah, that’s very possible. But most women I know, if a relative or even a stranger who’s in need came and she’s ready to deliver her baby, most women I can imagine in that culture would probably say, I don’t care how many people are here, we’re going to make room for you. And if need be, I’ll put you in my own room. But you’ll notice there is no room for them in any of these inns. So what do they do? She brings forth her first born son and wraps him in swaddling clothes and lays him in a manger. So they end up, instead of being in the inn, they end up out in a cave. There are many caves in the region, roundabout Bethlehem, and so it’s very easy to see how this would work.
And it’s there in that very unsanitary, doesn’t smell great, not clean, not pleasant. It’s in that condition where the God of Heaven, the creator of heavens and earth, who stood at the right hand of the Father for all of these amazing experiences and miracles in the Old Testament. And now when he comes to this Earth, he’s born into that condition. It’s very sobering. In preparation for our study of the New Testament this year, taylor and I, along with the film crew from Scripture Central, went over to Israel to film some segments on site. Let’s take you onsite now over to Bethlehem to give you an idea of what the region looks like and to show you an actual cave in the region of Bethlehem.
So we’ve come out here to Bethlehem, the great Hebrew word, Bethlehem, house of bread. The bread of life was born in the house of bread. And there’s all these caves, including this one, from the time period of Jesus. Now, we don’t know exactly where he was born, but he may have been born in a cave just like this. Let’s go on in.
You can picture if there’s no room for them in the cataloma, the inns, these common rooms of the houses in Bethlehem, and Mary’s needing to deliver her child, this would be an ideal place to resort to to bear her child, something like this. And we’re used to seeing wooden mangers, but you’re seeing here in Bethlehem, there’s stone everywhere, a lot of stone.
Yeah, the the French word magered literally means just to eat. So a manger is a it’s a feeding trough and stone is an overabundance. You just carve it out and you put the food in. So that the animals that always happens to eat. But extremely humble circumstances, but absolutely sufficient for what they needed.
Yeah. And the other element here, if you can picture if Mary has given birth to this newborn Son of God and the shepherds come to see that baby, I can picture this incredible scene where they come in and see the little babe lying in a manger with Mary and Joseph hare in a cave in this stable. What a beautiful setting.
Which would be familiar to them.
Very familiar to them.
They would be spending evenings in places like this so that they could also have protection from the weather elements, even.
Sometimes bringing their own sheep, bringing their animals in. Yes.
Which is easy to protect. You saw that small opening we came through. Very easy to protect that. So the animals are protected. So here is baby Jesus being protected.
Yeah. And if you go back out of this cave and look, we’re on top of the hill here in Bethlehem looking out over what is known as shepherd’s fields. And fascinating, that idea that this could serve as a beautiful sheepfold as well, like you’re saying that they’re keeping watch over their flocks. By night, angel appears to them and they go to see the baby Jesus in, as you said, a very similar setting to their surroundings. I think it’s interesting that the angels did not go to kings to say come and see the newborn king. The angels went to shepherds to come and see the lolita, the Lamb of God who would grow up to become the good shepherd. The symbolisms surrounding his birth are just.
Beautiful and very rich.
Thank you for visiting Bethlehem with us. Now let’s return back to the studio.
For years, most of us have thought about the hotel or motel metaphor. I have a friend, John Garfield, who has managed hotels for his entire career. And he said, this has always been hard for me because somebody who manages the hotel is deeply interested in providing incredible guest services and welcoming people in and taking care of them. And he said, I have a hard time imagining, in the typical traditional way that we read the story, imagine that some hotelier would not treat anyone quite like that. But the significant thing we’re learning here is that are we creating space for him in our hearts? In the Jewish time, we have to be a little forgiving. If this is an appropriate interpretation. If Joseph and Mary’s family are worried about ritual impurity, it would make sense that they had made this decision. We have to ask ourselves, do we have cultural boundaries in our lives that we don’t want to have transgressed or somebody cross those borders? Then we have to ask ourselves, are we taking the time to love all of God’s children or do we allow cultural boundaries to separate us from God’s children and loving them and welcome them in in an inclusive way?
So here’s Jesus, who is inclusive to all, who invites all of us into his embrace of salvation. He begins life by being excluded.
The irony is thick. He who makes room in his heart for all was despised and rejected of men through his mother and father, his stepfather, even at his coming into the world. The irony is thick. There, in fact, reminds me of the old saying many of you have probably heard before. Am I part of the in crowd or am I one of the stable few? It’s a nice little play on words here, as we consider Elder Neely Maxwell’s phrase, we are all innkeepers and we have to all decide if there’s room in our heart and in our life for the Savior. Now, you’ll notice verse eight. There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. Once again, shepherds are a class of servants that most of the society of their day in the first century would have paid very little, if any, attention to. There there are nobodies in this culture. And yet Luke is going to tell their story. Because the heavens chose this particular group that the angel didn’t come to a group of Roman senators, he didn’t come to a group of royalty in Jerusalem.
He didn’t come to a group of businessmen in the rich sector of Jerusalem. He he came to some of the poor, easily overlooked and forgotten shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock by night.
So Bethlehem is this royal city. The shepherds who worked in this area, they raised the flocks that were then sent to Jerusalem for sacrificial slaughter. So there’s all this deep significance that the King of the universe, who eventually himself will go into Jerusalem to be sacrificed for all, was also born, just like the lambs who were taken into the temple. So there’s important significance, in fact, we didn’t mention earlier, but we shared the word Bethlehem means the house of bread. As you know, bread is a staple of life. And here you have in the story, the bread of life is being born in the city called the house of bread. And his life as a lamb is what provides Sussex for all of us because of a sacrifice. So these are the connections we have that these shepherds ultimately play a crucial role in raising the flocks that keep the sacrificial system going, that points to Jesus as a great, eternal, lasting and final sacrifice.
What a great symbolism to call upon these passover shepherds watching over Passover lambs, to leave those passover lambs and to go and watch and look at thee passover lamb. The symbolism is beautiful. So what is the message to them? Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. This is for everybody, this message that’s coming to you, verse eleven. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And then they get the sign. You’ll find him, babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And then verse 13 tells us, suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men. Now, I don’t know about you, but I know where I would have wanted to be on that night. I would have wanted to be in that multitude of the heavenly host in verse 13. Brothers and sisters, I hope that we don’t just desire for things like that in the past because we can’t control the past.
I don’t know if I was in that heavenly host. I don’t know which of you were part of that multitude that got to come and praise God with that amazing statement, glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men. I don’t know whether I was part of that multitude. But what I do know is that living in the present today, I can choose, I can use my agency. I do have control in a decision to be part of a heavenly host that’s now living on the earth embodied in flesh to be part of a multitude of people who goes forth into the world saying the exact same thing as the shepherds heard 2000 years ago that we can live our life, we can treat people, we can interact with people in such a way that we are part of that multitude of the heavenly host who’s praising God and saying today glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. I want to be part of that number.
I love what the shepherds do. They say, let’s go do something about this. They make haste verse 16 and they found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. So they left the 99 to go seek out the one.
Look at verse 17. When they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. So the shepherds didn’t go and have the experience and then say, okay, let’s quietly go back to our flock and not talk to anybody. No, they noised it abroad. They told everybody concerning what they had seen. And yet about a year later, maybe a year and a half later, when we’re going to get to the Matthew chapter one part, people haven’t gotten this message. It’s almost as if to say they’ve disregarded this testimony from these shepherds. They’ve treated it as a thing of not they’ve not paid any attention to it. And then you’ll notice Mary’s response. Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. There have been a lot of people who have speculated a lot of things about the birth process of Jesus Christ, and the only person who could really tell us anything about that apparently chose to ponder these things in her heart. It seems that Luke is getting most of his information for telling this part of his story from Mary herself. It’s possible that she’s living out in Ephesus towards the end of her life under the care of John.
That is the Christian tradition. And we know that Luke lives out there on that west coast of Turkey, in that same area near Ephesus. Implication is he’s able to spend significant time with Mary and he’s getting her story as she’s telling it. And there are things that she’s pondering still in her heart. She’s not telling everything she knows, which is a beautiful principle that sometimes we tell everything about our spiritual experiences and things that are very personal and it can sometimes diminish them. And I love the fact that Mary shows this example of there are some things you just quietly ponder in your.
Heart and then the story moves on to show that Joseph and Mary are very good Jews. They follow the law and they go to the temple to offer a sacrifice. This is what’s expected from the Law of Moses. Remember, the Law of Moses was given to give people a list of instructions for how to show covenantal loyalty to God, and one of them was to offer a sacrifice in gratitude for a child. And what I also love about the Law of moses is, it recognizes that not everybody may be able to afford a very expensive sacrifice. And so there’s cheaper sacrifices that have the same outcome. And that’s why they are sacrificing two turtle doves, because they cannot offer a lamb. In fact, the way it worked anciently, is that the Israelites believed that the first born child was consecrated to God. In order to redeem that child back for the family, you would give a lamb instead. So we have this tradition happening here with Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
So if you look at this 3D recreation of the temple at the time of Jesus, you can picture Mary and Joseph coming into the court of the women here. As you can see, as you look around, you can picture Mary holding this 40 day old infant in her arms, and you can picture Joseph holding two turtle doves or carrying them in a cage of some sort. However they transported them, they’re too poor to bring a lamb and offer the lamb for the sacrifice. But some of you are noticing the symbolism here. Mary did bring a lamb to the temple that day. It’s just that it’s 33 years down the road before the Lamb of God would be offered up as a sacrifice. So in place of that, Joseph hands over his two turtle doves. Now, as you walk up these 13 semicircular steps towards this Nikonur gate that you can see, and Joseph now enters the court of the Israelites. He would hand over one dove at a time or one of these pigeons at a time to a priest who, under the law of Moses in Leviticus chapter one, would take that turtle dove, wring its neck, pluck out all of its feathers, take out the craw, and then he would throw all of those things on the east side of the altar right here.
As you can see, this is the east end. And then the turtle dove or the pigeon would be taken up and burned on the altar. If you now zoom out and look at Jerusalem from a bird’s eye view, you can see Temple Mount here. And directly to the east of Temple Mount, down the Kidron Valley and up a little bit onto the base of the Mount of Olives there to the right, you’ll see a little place that we now call Gethsemane. Isn’t it hauntingly beautiful symbolism that the Son of God would go there? And it’s in Gethsemane when he begins the infinite atoning sacrifice, where he will bleed from every poor? Now, if you were to go up to one of those priests that Joseph handed the turtle Dubs to and said, hey, why are you throwing the feathers and the craw of the pigeon onto the east side of that altar? Maybe they had a good answer for you. But my suspicion is that most of them would have said something like, I don’t know. Leviticus one tells us our handbook of instructions. Tells us that’s exactly what we need to do when it’s a turtle dove.
I don’t know why we have to throw it on the east. Now, as we look through Christian lenses back through the history of time, can you see that haunting symbolism of if you look at a turtle dove, right after it’s had all of its feathers plucked out, it would have a little drop of blood in every pore? So here we are with a 40 day old baby going into the temple, and we’re already seeing deep, rich symbolism about what that little baby is going to grow up to become and his suffering that is going to redeem all of us from from the fall and from our fallen mortal condition and offer salvation to everybody. The symbolism is profound to me.
And then we have this transition where you have these two individuals who’ve been at the temple for years. And again, these are the characters in the story that otherwise might be fully overlooked. And I think it’s significant that you have a prophetess who, by the power of God and under revelation prophesies and says things about Jesus, declaring truth about Jesus that has taught all of us over these centuries to know more about who Jesus is for us.
So again, keep in mind this is coming to you in the Book of Luke, he teaches a very balanced view of the life of the Savior. He starts with an aged man named Simeon in verse 25, who has been given some promises of the Lord that before he would see death, he would see the Lord’s Christ. Verse 26. And so now he’s looking at this 40 day old baby in the arms of this handmaid of the Lord. They’re dirt poor, this couple. They can’t afford to offer a lamb for the sacrifice. So he comes up to her, and look what he says. He came by the Spirit into the temple, and the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him after the custom of the law, and then he took him up in his arms. So here’s Simeon, who takes the baby Jesus in his own arms, just a little over a month old, this little infant, and he says, Lord, now let us thou, thy servant, depart in peace according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. I love the fact that the Lord embodies salvation for us, that Jesus is the embodiment.
And Simeon recognizes, I have seen salvation. I’ve held salvation in my arms. I can now die in peace because I know I have hope. Verse 34 says, an Simeon blessed them and set unto marry his mother. Behold, this child is set for the fallen, rising again of Mary in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. And then he turns to this new mother and he says, yeast sword shall pierce through thy own soul also that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. The incredible symbolism of this mother of Jesus is beautiful to me. This handmaid who bore Jesus, who shed her blood in order to give him life, is now being told, someday you’re going to watch as your son is basically going to shed his blood in order to give you and you and everybody life the symbolism there. I wonder what Mary was feeling and thinking as Simeon is giving these words to her.
And then we have Anna, this prophetess, and she’s from the tribe of Asher, or Asher. She was a great age and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years. So now she’s 84 years old. And culturally, what’s going on here, it just says something about her diligence and her integrity that she would remain in that state and participate in the temple over all those years. And the fact that she’s at Old also just says something that God has been with her.
So building on that, Taylor, the the thing that that to me is fascinated about Anna, this prophetess. Her story is she now knows some things. God has revealed some things to her, and she’s able to bear testimony. You’ll notice in our world, when you use the word prophet or prophetess, people assume that that individual is now going to tell you what’s going to happen in the future. Do you understand that the main role of a prophet or a prophetess is not to tell you things that are going to happen in the future? The main role of a prophet or a prophetesse is to bear powerful testimony of Jesus Christ. And Anna is going to do that. She’s going to share her thoughts. Look at verse 38. She coming in that instant, gave thanks likewise unto the Lord and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Everybody who’s looking for redemption. Anna, this really old widow, 84 years, she’s telling everybody she can about redemption. How widely accepted is her testimony?
What’s interesting, this is the only place we have anywhere in recorded history that she even lived and that she even took this action. So it’s quite likely that many people gave her no heed. Part of the lesson here is that God works his work in unusual ways and often in unexpected ways. And we have to be willing to listen to those who may not be at the center, they may be on the margins. And they often have core lessons to teach us about the character and purposes of Jesus Christ. That’s what she was doing. Her role was to witness of a core characteristic of Jesus as the Redeemer.
Now, in Luke’s Gospel, we go straight from that presentation in the template, day 40, up to Nazareth, up in Galilee in verse 39. So you’ll notice there that we’re skipping some significant events that Matthew will pick up. Can you see that when you take all four of the Gospels and be able to look at these events through all four lenses that we get a more complete history. Because if all you had was Luke’s Gospel, you would know nothing about the Magi and Herod and going to Egypt. It’s, it’s only in the Gospel of Matthew. Just like if you didn’t have Luke, you wouldn’t know anything about the shepherds or the manger or the inns or the conditions in which Jesus was born. We wouldn’t have it. Thank Heaven for what we do have. So let’s jump to the verse 40 where it starts talking about his childhood. The child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. And verse 41 tells us taylor’s already pointed this out his parents were good practicing Jews, they lived their religion. And verse 41 verifies that. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.
This is the biggest holiday for the Jews. I mean, this is remember, God saved his people from Egyptian bondage and Passover was like the climatic event. And so every year the Jews would celebrate god is our Redeemer and our deliverer. And it’s interesting that the full fruition of that is Jesus Himself. He’s going to celebrate a holiday. It’s all about what he did as Jehovah, the Old Testament and what he will be doing in about 20 years after this fact.
It’s beautiful. So when he was twelve years old, because they’re going up every year. And keep in mind Mary and Joseph have now had other children. We know that Jesus has sisters. We would consider them half sisters, children of Mary and of Joseph, his stepfather. So we know he has sisters. And Christian tradition holds that James, who wrote the epistle, the general epistle of James is his half brother and that Jude is also a half brother and possibly others. So Jesus being the oldest son in this family, there are other children. And the whole family just goes to Jerusalem every year and they probably go.
Up with a large group of people out of Nazareth. This is a big community event. So it’s like a big walking caravan, multiple days to get down to Jerusalem.
Absolutely. And now Jesus is twelve years old. That’s a significant age because he’s still considered a boy under Jewish law. So a girl would have her, what is called but mitzvah, a daughter of the law at age twelve. But the boys traditionally wouldn’t have their bar Mitzvah where they become a son of the law until age 13. So Luke’s signaling to us that Jesus is not of age. He’s a prodigy, he’s young still, he’s twelve. And when they had fulfilled the days as they returned the child, jesus noticed the word child. He’s emphasizing this again, he tarried behind in Jerusalem and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk, an acquaintance. Can you picture that moment in Mary’s heart as they stop after having gone an entire day’s journey? And we don’t know if she’s been carrying another baby, another sibling of Jesus, and smaller children along the way. We just don’t know the ages or the numbers. But it’s a day’s journey and it’s a big group, as Taylor was talking about, you’re traveling in big groups for protection, and it’s more comfortable.
And now she goes to the first group and says, is Jesus with you? No. Second group, is Jesus with you? No. And these different encampments there, can you imagine what’s going on inside of Mary’s heart as she keeps going from group to group? Have you ever lost something of great worth? Can you imagine the the anxiety that is building for her and Joseph? Joseph, the man who’s been commissioned to be the guardian, the stepfather for the Son of God, and he’s now lost him. This is a very anxious moment as they go to the last group and find out, nope, Jesus isn’t with any of us.
And to complicate this, Jerusalem may be a city of 70, 80 or 100,000 people during a festival season. We’re not again, not exactly sure what estimates are you might have a half million people descended upon the city. Have you ever been to a large event with a lot of people? How do you find anybody when you don’t have cellphone and GPS? So I my heart really goes out to Mary in the story of just the franticness that she must have felt, and Joseph, too, at having lost such an entrusted treasure that God had given them.
I wonder if Mary and Joseph could teach you and me some things about seeking Jesus today, when we at times feel like we’ve maybe lost sight of Him or lost a connection with Him, because you’ll notice it says, when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem seeking Him. So they’re looking for Him like never before. And it came to pass that after three days, they found Him in the temple. Sitting in the midst of doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions, I’ve often wondered, would Mary and Joseph say to you and me, if you’re seeking Jesus, if you’re trying to find the Lord Jesus Christ, perhaps you could start looking for him at the temple instead of waiting for three days. And I don’t know, maybe they went to the Temple multiple times and just didn’t happen to cross paths with Him. But I find it significant that when they did find Him, it was in the Temple. And there are a variety of sacred temple like spaces that people can have around the world. But there’s a good reason why our prophet Sears and Revelators keep announcing and building dozens and dozens.
And now we’re up to hundreds and hundreds of temples across the face of the earth, these connecting points between heaven and earth, where we can go to worship and to seek Jesus and to find Him and to reconnect with Him.
We learn the story that Jesus already knows something important about his own identity. Now, it shows up in English, but it’s even clearer in the Greek when Mary finally finds Jesus and says, jesus, down here in verse 48, behold thy Father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And Jesus responds verse 49 did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business? Now, Joseph’s business, as we’ve said, is in the world of construction and design and authoring, planning and finishing projects. Jesus is very purposely he’s here in the temple. As far as we know, he’s not building the temple at this point. And he’s making it clear he knows who his real heavenly Father is and that he is on His Father’s errand. So we get just this little hint here with the grammar that Jesus has some deep clarity already at age twelve, he’s still a child. He’s different. He knows his identity.
Which brings us back to verse 46, where he’s in the temple. And the King James Version says he’s sitting in the midst of the doctors. And the implication there is these are the teachers, these are the experts, the lawyers, the people who know the scriptures inside and out. They probably got them entirely memorized in some cases. And he’s sitting there with them, both hearing them and asking them questions. And Joseph Smith shifted that verse to say, no, Jesus isn’t listening to them and asking them questions. The doctors and the lawyers, these chief priests of the people, these wise men, they are the ones who are listening to this twelve year old and asking Him questions and marveling at his answers, saying how he’s a kid, he’s not a son of the law yet, he’s not considered adult yet. How does he know all of this? I love the fact that when you read verse 49, if you stop and think about it, verse 49, you could mark it, because those are the first recorded words of Jesus Christ in mortality. The Jehovah, the Old Testament, the Creator of heavens and earth now infles with us, walking our soil, breathing our air.
The first words we have recorded in all of scripture or any book anywhere that we have access to. First time he speaks, what did he say? How is it that ye sought me? WISD ye not? Or as Taylor said, didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business? His first recorded words match some of his last recorded words, which is not my will, but thine be done it’s. I am going to be about my Father’s business, not my own business, and not anybody else’s business on this earth but God’s business.
And then he goes with his family back up to Nazareth and we get this beautiful conclusion that Luke wants to know something significant about who Jesus is and who he’s becoming. Remember, not only is he God and fleshed, he’s also human. And therefore, verse 52, jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. And I believe that verse can apply to any one of us who also are seeking Jesus. We are on his path. We also can increase in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.
And I love the fact that the youth and children program of the Church is rooted in that one verse, verse 52. Why? Because this is one of the few verses that we have of when Jesus was a child up through his youth. And it’s a beautiful pattern for us to follow, not just for children and youth, but for all of us to focus on all four of these aspects to increase in wisdom, expand our mind, study, learn, grow and develop your intellect. He increased in stature. Take care of your body. Take care of what this incredible gift that God has given you, this physical body. And he increased in stature. He also increased in favor with God. He spent time working on that spiritual connection with God. And he clearly understands his identity and God’s identity and what his mission is to at least to a degree, even at age twelve, and then also with men, those appropriate social aspects that Jesus is developing. It’s a complete life that we want to find that appropriate balance for each of us, depending on the gifts and the talents and the opportunities that the Lord has given us to move forward.
So as we come to the conclusion of Luke, chapter two, this great chapter where the Savior is born and now he goes through these experiences, we wanted to finish with this idea once again that we’ve talked about in a previous episode of What Child Is this? If you can picture yourself being simeon in the temple or Anna, and you picture seeing this little baby and asking if you can hold him. And as you take him into your own hands, into your own arms and you hold him and you look at that little babe and you hold out your finger and his hands and his little fingers grab on you picture those perfect tiny hands that they’re going to grow up to. Calm storms, raise the dead, heal the sick and the afflicted, bring sight to the blind, adhering to the deaf, and restore that which is lost to everybody and ultimately are going to be pierced through with nails on the cross. Those tiny hands that are going to do all these amazing things. And what are we as humans going to do in response? We’re going to pierce them. And you look at that tiny head, that tiny brow that one day will grow up and wear a crown, but not a crown that any of us want to wear.
A crown of thorns that will pierce it. The price that he’ll pay as we finish this episode, we want to go back to the little baby in your arms if you’re Simeon or if you’re Anna or if you’re Mary or Joseph. And let’s celebrate the reality that the God of the universe, the creator of heavens and earth, the person who who performed all those miracles in the Old Testament, it’s that being who’s going to grow up and perform that infinite helmet to become your savior and your redeemer. So to finish, the question is, what child is this? The answer is this this is Christ the Lord. But even more than that, this is the Lord Jesus Christ, your savior and your personal redeemer. And we leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. Know that you’re loved. So this is the second part in this series for this week. We already covered Luke chapter two, and now we get the corollary to go hand in hand with Luke’s account of the birth of Christ from Mary and the shepherd’s perspective. And now we go to Joseph, and in this case in chapter two, herod and the wise men and them coming and having their interactions.
So as we begin, I think it’s important to note here that often in our portrayals, in our nativity scenes as well as in our Christmas pageants, we always seem to bring the shepherds and the wise men to the stable together. Matthew’s Gospel, his story here in Matthew chapter two seems to be taking place, I don’t know, months, if not a year to a year and a half after the fact. And you’ll see why in a minute. The story actually becomes significantly more powerful and instructive if we keep it in its cultural, historical context that the wise men weren’t there the night Jesus was born. Why is that significant? Because they’re coming from a long way away, which tells us that they’re going to incredible amounts of effort to seek this Jesus to come unto Christ. They’re sacrificing a lot. It’s not that they’re just coming from the east side of Jerusalem. They’re coming from a long way away. And so we can learn more from their sacrifice to then apply in our life today if we keep it in its historical setting.
And the Church recently released a video that depicts the two different narratives together in chronological sequence. In fact, there’s this beautiful scene where the wise men fall down at this little boy, Jesus, who might be two years old and just. The actors have done such an incredible job of just representing the deep pathos and feeling of joy that these magi would have had after all these years of sacrifice, of finally arriving to see their king.
Yeah, I totally agree. For me personally, that was one of the finest moments. That little scene was profound, very moving. So let’s jump in, and as we get ready to read verse one and two, let’s notice the contrast here between Herod and the Magi, okay? And what efforts they’re willing to put forth to seek Jesus, to come unto Christ, so to speak. I think Matthew has this beautiful juxtaposition on the page, this this contrast that is really profound. That leaves us as latterday readers, the opportunity to now liken this story to us and say, on a scale from Herod to the wise men, where am I in my efforts? And I’ll explain that more as we go through.
Now, this is important from an instructional standpoint. We’ve mentioned this in other episodes, and it’s fascinating to see how the inspired scripture writers do this on a regular basis, providing example, and nonexample imagine the Book of Mormon, imagine Nephi’s story without Lehman and Lemuel, what would be lost? And this is similar. There’s something powerful, the highlights of showing the distinction. So, as you think in your own life, if you’re in a moment where you have an opportunity to teach people think not only about providing really clear, good examples of what should be, but also examples of what shouldn’t be. That way people can see the clear distinction. And we get that in the Scriptures right here in Matthew two.
Let’s jump in verse one. Now, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Now, the words there, wise men. If you go to Strongs and you look up this verse, you will notice that it comes from a word in Greek, the Magi. And this word, if you look further down in Strongs, down here, you’ll see all the places in the New Testament where that same word appears in the Greek. But on one occasion it gets translated as sorcerer. So these are people who are considered at least by the Gospel writers and by the people in this culture as almost magical. That’s where our word comes from, magic, from these Magi.
But a little C here, you get the word magic. It’s partly because these people in many cases were very wise. They had deep understanding of maybe the astronomy or how the world worked. And for somebody who had not taken the time to understand the natural environment and how things worked, it might seem quite magical that somebody else had mastered with wisdom those things.
So here we go. Verse two, it says, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the Eastern or come to worship him. Joseph Smith made a little adjustment to that verse where he said, where is the child that is born the Messiah of the Jews, the Anointed one, this promised Messiah, or in the Greek, the Christ. The Christ, which makes a little more sense because you wouldn’t come into the King of the Jews and say, where is he that is born king of the Jews? You’ve got Herod, the king of the Jews, sitting on his throne saying, what are you talking about? You’re looking at him. It’s me. So I love the Joseph translation, where he’s the child that is born the Messiah of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the Eastern or come to worship Him. Did you notice that? They have come on a long journey from the east, these Magi? They’re not they don’t seem to be Israelites, and from what we would call the Kingdom of Israel or the Kingdom of Judah in this case, they seem to have come from the east, from somewhere out there in Babylon, Persia, assyria somewhere to the east in that fertile crescent.
They’ve come on a long journey, which means they’re not at home working their trade, making money. So they put their career, their life, their pursuits at home. They put all of that on hold in order to come and find the Christ, this Messiah, and worship him. So long journey. But before that, it says, we have seen his star. So the fact that they saw the new star tells you what Taylor was talking about. They’re experts with charting the stars in the skies. They have paid a price, probably not over a one or two month period of time. This is probably going back possibly for generations with wherever these people are coming from, where they’ve been watching, because they know the prophecy of a new star, and they’re watching. And as soon as that new star appears, we know the Messiah has come and he’s born, and then they leave. So it’s a really long journey. It’s a really long time of watching the stars and getting to know the stars so that when a new one appears, they’ll recognize it. And often our tendency as human beings is to sit back and wait for things to happen to us and to prod us to do certain things.
I love the Magi because on this spectrum from Herod to the Magi, they’re on one extreme of people who are very proactive, very engaged of their own free will and choice to seek Jesus Christ.
As you’re talking, the phrase that shows up in the Doctrine and Covenant came to mind by study and by faith compared to what we’ll see from Herod, who doesn’t seem to have either the ability to study or to have faith. So you might disagree that as well, by studying by faith, people who seek Jesus have both.
Yeah. Doctrine Covenant, section 88, verse 118 is your cross reference there. It’s so profound when you put both of those elements together in your discipleship as lifelong learners. Now you look at verse three. When Herod, the king, had heard these things, he was troubled when he heard this news which the angel would call glad tidings of great joy. Instead of celebrating, instead of saying what the Messiah the anointed one, the long awaited savior of the world, who’s going to come and take upon himself our struggles. He’s here where no Herod is troubled. Why? Because now his authority, his throne, his power over the people is potentially going to get called into question, and he’s going to lose some sense of his control, which, if you stop and look at this, at a really big, eternal perspective through symbolic lenses. You could see reflected in his words, in his responses and in his actions. You could see elements from the premortal realm of the devil who was focused on the throne, on control, on power, on taking agency away from people and taking it to himself. So he all by himself. He doesn’t want to share anything.
And here the Magi, ironically, coming to visit the Christ child, are showing a very Christ like symbol for us to pattern our lives as well, to say Jesus was willing to sacrifice everything for us. Now there they are showing a willingness to sacrifice many years, many efforts, long journey to sacrifice these things for Jesus in return. So you get type of Christ, type of the devil. The devil, too is troubled when he feels like he’s losing control or losing power. And so as we watch this go through verse four, it says, when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he noticed the verb here demanded of them where Christ should be born. Didn’t ask, didn’t inquire, didn’t open the Scriptures himself. Didn’t say, hey, bring the Scriptures to me and let’s study this together and figure this out.
He asked to ask the people who’ve paid the price to know, but even they apparently missed the point because they don’t seem to be joyously revealing to him. Actually, here’s the answer. And this is great news.
Yeah, and you’ll notice I kind of skipped over that part. But at the very end of verse three, it’s not just Herod who is troubled. It says, and all Jerusalem with him. This idea of, wait, what? The Messiah has come. He’s born as a child. Wait, no. The Messiah should come on a charger with a sword drawn, with a huge army behind him to wipe out the Romans. He’s a child, he was born. They’re troubled by this saying.
They’re partly they’re thinking they want a divided king. And one aspect of King David was as a powerful warrior who defeated enemies and provided protection for Jerusalem. That was only one aspect of King David’s attributes and it’s the one that the Jews had really locked into during the time of the Roman oppression.
Absolutely. So now these people are troubled because the coming Messiah isn’t fulfilling those Old Testament prophecies of the lion of the tribe of Judah, which we today, in our context, would see as a fulfillment that’s going to occur in the second coming of the Messiah. They’re overlooking the first coming prophecies of the. Lamb coming gently and to be slain for the sins of the world. Look at verse five. They said unto him in Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet. And now they’re going to quote Micah, chapter five, verse two. And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah. For out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel. So he’s got his answer now, wise men, this child, this governor who’s going to grow up to rule, he’s going to be born in Bethlehem, the least of these villages surrounding the region of the capital city, Jerusalem. So what would you do if you’re Herod and you’re so excited that your Messiah has come and you just found out he’s going to be born in Bethlehem? Well, you should get in a chariot right now and head the five, 6 miles south and go to Bethlehem and look for him.
No, that’s too much work. That’s too much effort for Herod. So look what he does then.
Herod, when he had privileged called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared, and he sent them to Bethlehem and said, go and search diligently for the young child, and when ye have found Him, bring me word again that I may come and worship him also. There’s a lot of lessons there. You imagine I’m like, hey, Tyler, I’m a little too lazy to build my own testimony to seek out Jesus, so I’m going to send you on an errand. You go build your life, go find Jesus and then tell me all about it, and I’ll just benefit from your testimony without doing the work myself.
Yeah. His whole life seems to be using slaves and servants to do things. We call him Herod the Great in history and in biblical studies because there haven’t been very many people who have been greater builders of cities, of fortresses, of the temple. He is one of the greatest builders of all time from the beginning of time, no question, but he’s got to be one of the worst as far as his interactions and relationships with people. This is the same guy who will talk about him a little bit later in a different episode. He’s going to kill a couple of his own children, his favorite wife. He’s got problems, he’s got issues, and we see it coming to the biggest problem of his whole life right here in chapter two.
Some people I’ve talked to about this think that he must have been a bit crazy to have been so, like, wildly extreme in the way he treated people. But the lesson still remains that he was not willing to come and see. If you think about the very first words we hear from Jesus’s mouth in the Gospel of John, come and see. Fair didn’t want to do it. He didn’t want to come see the christ child. So it was an invitation for us. Will we be like the magi taking the time to do the effort so we can find Jesus in our lives and not just wait for other people to do it for us?
So verse nine, when they had heard the king, they departed, and lo, the star which they saw in the east went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was. You’ll notice it’s not the babe, it’s not the infant, it’s not the newborn, it’s the young child. And did you catch back in verse seven that he had inquired of the wise men diligently what time the star appeared? How long ago did you see this star? And when they don’t come back to him, Herod’s conclusion is, oh no, I’ve been tricked. So we need to go and wipe out all babies. All of the children who are two years old and under. Gives us kind of a little bit of a clue that maybe they said, well, it was about a year and a half ago or a year a little over a year ago or whatever, so that he then says, okay, just to be safe, we’re going to kill all the babies from two years old and under. It gives you at least a frame of reference in your mind for what Matthew means when he says the young child.
And you’ll also notice we don’t go into a stable or into a cave. We don’t see a manger. Instead we go in verse eleven, when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with marry his mother and fell down and worshiped him. So they’re coming into a house. So a year and a few months, maybe a year and a half later, either they’ve been able to buy a home or maybe on some property that Joseph potentially owns there in Bethlehem, his hometown, maybe he’s been able to get enough resources to build a humble home for this young family now. So the wise men are coming into a house and you’ll notice what they now do. These are wise men who have come on a very long journey at great sacrifice. And by the way, we didn’t even talk about that a long journey back then from the east. They don’t have interstate highways, they don’t have rest areas, they don’t have a beautiful police force to enforce all of the laws along the way. This is a dangerous, perilous journey for these people, putting everything on the line to come this great distance.
And now when they come, they fell down, they fall to the ground. It’s a beautiful pattern that we see in the Book of Mormon, isn’t it? When people come into the presence of the Lord or when he appears, you’ll notice nobody ever stands, nobody ever runs up. They always fall down when you find yourself in the presence of the Lord. And I love this they worshiped Him, and he’s a child. He’s maybe one, one and a half somewhere in there, and they’re worshiping Him. They have paid a price, and they recognize he’s my Savior, he’s my Redeemer, even though he’s only a young child, even even some would classify as a baby at this age still. But they’ve they’re worshiping him. And then they opened up their treasures, and they present unto Him three gifts gold and frankincense and myrrh. All the symbolic connection between those three gifts are beautiful, considering Jesus’s past, present, and future from that point. So who would you give a gift of gold to? This is royal. You give this to kings. This is the most costly thing of the precious metals that they could offer, and they’re giving it to this young child and his mother and stepfather, who we talked about in Luke chapter two.
They aren’t rich. They’re very poor. They’re struggling. And what a difference that gold would make for this family, especially knowing what’s about to come, them leaving Bethlehem and going down to Egypt, and then frankincense, this beautiful gift that is used every single day up in the temple, and it’s burned every day on the altar of incense right in front of the veil. The priest will go in, like we talked last time with Zaccharias in Luke chapter one. You’re burning frankincense. And the smoke rising from that frankincense in front of the veil on the other side is the holy of holies, the presence of God. That smoke represents all of the hopes, all of the dreams, the aspirations, the prayers of the people ascending to God. Think of them now offering frankincense to this young child who embodies every dream, every goal, every desire of our soul. And eternity is embodied in that young child. So you get the frankincense there. So we have a king. We have the messenger of our covenant and our connection with God. All of this symbolism of the veil, especially when you combine the idea from the book of Hebrews, the epistle of Hebrews, that the veil is the flesh of Christ.
So here they are at the literal veil that is symbolized with a curtain in the temple. But this is Him, the flesh of Christ. And we now offer that frankincense to Him as one of the gifts. And then the third gift they offer him, myrrh, which is one of the elements that is used in anointing a body and preparing it for burial in various ways. The myrrh is a funerary kind of an element. So you get this allusion to the Lamb of God, who came to give his life freely, to lay it down and to be slain for the sins of the world in order to save us. Someday we’ll get to meet these magi. We don’t know how many there were. We just know there’s more than one, because everything’s plural. That’s all we know. Often it’s depicted as three wise men because you have three gifts. But at the end of the day, they would have probably had multiple people with them on this long, perilous journey. And by the way, that’s just one half of their sacrifice, getting there and giving these expensive gifts to Jesus, these beautiful symbols of different elements, of who Jesus represents and embodies for them and for us.
But then they have a long journey to go home again and to return to their work, their families, and their normal life. I could be wrong, Taylor, but I think if the wise men or any one of the wise men were standing here, I don’t think they would say, man, let me tell you what a sacrifice it was. Let me tell you what it cost me. Let me tell you how difficult that road was. I don’t think they would say that. I think they would say, I wish I had 10,000 lives to do the same thing and to sacrifice anything I could for the Lord Jesus Christ because I love him with all my heart. I personally think that’s what they would say.
I love these verses and just thinking about the enormous lengths they went to to acquire these resources. Frankincense comes from down in the area of modern day Yemen or Saudi Arabia, and these are difficult places to get to. There’s a lot of desert places it cost you to get to the frankincense. Mer, a lot of people think may have come from the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. So think about that very, very long distances. When I hear about what these magi did, I think about the parable of the merchant who finds the pearl of great price and sells everything to acquire that pearl of great price. I imagine these magi, having done something similar, that perhaps they sold everything in order to get all the way out to see Jesus and get back and to give Him the best that they had. Also, this idea of falling down. Sometimes we have the phrase also of to kneel. That’s interesting. The Hebrew word for knee and to be blessed come from the same root word. So if you want a blessing from God, it’s in a place or situation of kneeling, also following down you’re in the dirt or the dust.
It turns out the Latin word for dust is humilious. Our English word humility comes from the same word. The Hebrew word Adam is similar to the Hebrew word Adama, which means dirt or dust. So it’s a reminder of our humility before God. So there’s so much symbolism going in here, and it just takes us back to this overview. What are we choosing to do? How are we seeking this Jesus? What are we willing to sacrifice in terms of our time, our money, our talents, our prestige, our friendships? In order to have receipt of the greatest gift, which is the presence of Jesus, they are willing to give away all to have Jesus in their lives.
And by the way, you don’t have to live 2000 years ago in Bethlehem to be able to sacrifice and study and search and give gifts to the Lord Jesus Christ. You can do it today, you can do it this year. You can increasingly find ways with the help of the Holy Ghost to inspire those efforts to more fully come unto Christ and make appropriate sacrifices for Him. And I can guarantee you that 10,000 years from now you will not look back and say man, I wish I wouldn’t have sacrificed so much for the Lord. I wish I wouldn’t have sought so much to do his will or to stay on the covenant path and to trust Him and to pay tithes and offerings and serve missions and serving callings and love my family and all these people around me who at times were very hard to love. There are many ways that we can give these gifts today to the Lord. So in verse twelve the conversation now shifts them being warned. These are the magi being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod. They departed into their own country.
Another way they sneak out and go to their own country. Did you catch that? It was in a dream. Look over at chapter one, verse 20. It was in a dream that Joseph was told to take Mary to himself, his wife. And verse 13, when they were departed, behold the angel Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream saying arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt and be thou there until I bring thee word. For hair will seek the young child to destroy him in a dream. So that’s the third dream. You’re going to get another dream in verse 19. You’re going to get another one in verse 22. I love the fact that in a church today, in our church today, we believe in the gifts of the Spirit. We believe in prophecy and revelation. We believe in dreams and visions and revelations. And you’ll notice as you read scriptures that these people aren’t afraid of talking about the supernatural, about God, communicating very clear messages to people on the earth through simple things like dreams. It’s just on these two pages alone we have five instances of a dream being used by God to communicate something very clearly to these people.
So now Joseph rises up with his mother by night in verse 14 and they departed into Egypt. The implication to me is I’ve wondered. We don’t know for sure based on the wording, but it could be possible that he has the dream. And before the next day, even dawns, he rises up while it’s still night, wakes up mary takes the baby. Jesus gathers what they can, and they’re on the road to Egypt before the sun rises. I love that level of obedience and of trusting in the Lord and not waiting to be obedient, because sometimes God will give us commandments or direction, and when we tear or when we dilly dally, if you will, when we wait, then sometimes the opportunity passes and then we try to do it and it doesn’t work out. We say, oh, we’ll see, that wasn’t good revelation. Sometimes we blame that on the Lord, when in fact it was because we didn’t act, we didn’t go and do the things which the Lord had commanded. To use Nephi’s phrase, I love how.
Matthew ties us into the Old Testament. They go down to Egypt and we see here in verse 15 matthew quoting the Old Testament, and he says, out of Egypt have I called my son. This is a fulfillment of hosea eleven four. So this is another theme that Matthew uses throughout his work, showing that Jesus is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Remember, Matthew is likely communicating to a Jewish audience who would have been familiar with Old Testament texts. Gentiles, not so much. We don’t have Luke doing this quite as often, but Matthew knows his audience and realizes if I can give him some quotes from the Old Testament, they’re going to be more likely to see that Jesus is the fulfillment of our expectations.
I love that. And Matthew makes it very clear overt when he uses that phrase that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken or which was written in other places. So he’s signaling and look, he does it again in verse 17, then was fulfilled. What was fulfilled? What happened in verse 16? When Herod saw that he was mocked of the wise men, he was exceeding wroth. Are you noticing the type of the devil in the premortal council? When he didn’t get his way, what did he do? He got angry and he now starts to go on the offensive on the attack. So he was exceedingly wroth and he sent forth and he slew all the children that were in Bethlehem and in all the coasts thereof from two years old and under according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. So it kind of gives you an idea that Jesus, this young child, is probably somewhere in that age range of near two years old. And so Herod slays all those children. And that is a fulfillment, according to Matthew, of the prophecy in Jeremiah 30 115 that you find in verse 18 this lamentation and weeping and great mourning, rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted because they are not.
Now, notice every time Matthew uses a fulfillment of the Old Testament that if you were to go back in time to the Old Testament, people would say, no, that got fulfilled in the Old Testament. There were experiences happening when that was written in Jeremiah at the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, and you could say, Absolutely. But Matthew is now modeling for us this beautiful scripture study technique that Paul even talks about. If you read the Old Testament, you see through a glass darkly. It’s really difficult to understand it, but he says if you’ll read through the lenses of Christ now, it becomes way more clear. And that’s what Matthew is doing. Is he’s showing you how Jesus fulfills all of these Old Testament prophecies, even though they were historically fulfilled to one degree. And are they in their own time? That’s beside the point. The point is all things denote that there is a Christ and they point to Him.
So again, as we mentioned, joseph receives another dream to bring his family up out of Egypt. And there’s all sorts of great echoes to the Old Testament. Remember, in the Old Testament, there was a man named Joseph who also had dreams that saved his family in an entire nation. So it’s significant that Jesus’s stepfather is named the same thing. Interesting word in Hebrew that means to add to, perhaps even to gather. Also notice that when they’re coming up out of Egypt, we have a representation symbolically of how the Israelites also left Egypt to come to the Holy Land there to experience the fullness of their maturity, which is what Jesus also experiences. And it turns out that people living in Egypt today, there’s been a long standing Christian community. One of the oldest Christian communities in the world are the Coptic Christians, and they have many traditions about the location where Jesus and his family lived. Now, they put it in Cairo, maybe up in Alexandria, where there are far more Jews we don’t really know.
So in verse 23, you see that he says, and he came and dwelled in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophet. He shall be called a Nazarene. You’re seeing Matthew’s desire to keep bringing up these Old Testament prophecies and how Jesus fulfills them. Now, as we finish this, our fourth episode, kind of telling this Christmas story, I think it’s significant for us, before we we move on and go into the rest of his life, that we pause for a moment with this story and revisit this idea of on a scale from Herod to the Magi. Where do I lie or which direction am I facing? In which direction am I heading in my own efforts to seek this Jesus and to come into Christ? And I hope that it’s our hope and our desire, not just that you learn these facts and figures and places and descriptors of the words, but that those are all means to an end, that they’ll somehow translate into you. Seeking Jesus more fully in your own life today. Sacrificing more, trusting Him more, giving more on the altar of the Lord.
Because he, after all, would grow up to not just place everything on the altar, but to willingly place Himself on the altar. He gave us everything. And what a pleasure and joy it is for us to be able to sacrifice a little bit of our time and talent and energy and effort and desires as a sign to him, as a message to him that we love him and that we trust him and we want to be more like him. And we leave this with you. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. Know that you’re loved.