Part II of a new devotional project "Matthew: Back to the Beginning"
(Part I: "Visit of the Magi" posted on 5/18)
It was the middle of the night and Joseph was restless. He thought perhaps it was related to recent events. Earlier respected holy men from the East, Magi, came to visit his family. He had never before hosted such esteemed guests at his home. But the Magi didn’t seem to mind their humble surroundings. They came to see Mary’s child, Jesus. And they brought extravagant gifts: gold, incense and expensive spices. They bowed low before the child, worshipped him and claimed he was the long awaited king for the Jews.
It was an astonishing visit, and yet it wasn’t the first time Jesus drew special attention. Before his birth both Joseph and Mary had separate encounters with angels citing the child’s vital role in future events. Then the day he was born a group of jubilant shepherds arrived to celebrate with them after they too were visited by celestial beings proclaiming the birth of the savior of their people.
Yet now, as Joseph gazed into the night, he was worried for the child. He could feel an evil presence, as if someone else were staring back at him through the deep darkness, searching, approaching closer and closer. He sighed. It would do him no good to let his mind run rampant, imagining boogeymen hiding in the dusk’s shadows. He turned from the window and went to bed, letting his thoughts meander and sleep lull his apprehensions. It was then, just as he was drifting into semi-consciousness, that he heard his name. “Joseph.” A voice called to him. He recognized it, but from where? Somewhere, sometime, familiar, and…important.
“Joseph,” the voice repeated. Immediately Joseph’s reason returned. He did know the voice. It was the angel, the one who urged him to keep his engagement to Mary and told him of Jesus’ special heritage. Joseph was alert now. “What is it?” He wondered. The angel let him know his instincts were correct, the child was in danger. “‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him’” (v. 13). Joseph was awake now. He knew Herod’s murderous reputation. But how was his attention alerted to Joseph’s small family? Oh, of course, the Magi. They unwittingly led him right to them.
Joseph dressed quickly and woke Mary. They needed to leave. Tonight. They gathered their belongings and the gifts from the Magi. The valuable gifts would help sustain them during their flight from Bethlehem. Joseph learned later of their narrow escape and Herod’s brutal attack on the children of Bethlehem. He and Mary mourned the senseless evil. Then after a time he learned of Herod’s death. “An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead’” (vv. 19-20).
Joseph again was obedient to the angel’s instructions and returned to Israel with Mary and Jesus. However, he did not return to Bethlehem, but instead moved to Nazareth, a small town in an obscure district.
“And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” Matthew 2:15