Sermon for Sunday December 29, 2019 based on Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
The moment is crystalized for many parents. When the hospital tells new parents it’s time to go. Checking out time. No more nurses, no more help when the baby is crying, no more taking the newborn to the nursery overnight so the parents can get some sleep. Going home is good but that’s a scary moment for new parents. Because the little bundle of joy is now their responsibility. Every decision will be theirs to make. All the feedings have to be handled by them. Changing diapers must be mastered. Everything falls on their shoulders now in caring for that baby.
How do you think Mary and Joseph felt? They weren’t even leaving a hospital. As soon as Jesus was born they were caring for him. No nurses were around. There were no doctors or others to watch the child. Not even a grandma or grandpa to watch little baby Jesus and give mom and dad some quiet moments. More than all that, this was the Son of God under their care. So the little precious thing was also their God in the flesh. Talk about pressure.
I don’t know if Joseph felt that more than Mary did. But it would be like fathers to feel a certain amount of pressure to care for their new baby. It’s not like they were carrying the baby for nine months. But when it comes to providing a safe environment, a level of care that meets the baby’s need, and also watching over the new mom, I think fathers feel that. Why wouldn’t Joseph? Jesus wasn’t his child, but Mary was his wife. And God had told him that this child was the Son of God. Joseph probably felt just as much pressure to provide a safe environment, give Jesus a level of care for his needs, and make sure Mary was well cared for. Where they would live, how he would provide, and what to do next, those were just more questions.
Joseph may have thought about staying in Bethlehem for the foreseeable future after Jesus was born. Except, the king in that area wasn’t nice. Joseph didn’t realize it himself, but his newborn baby was under threat. Because Magi from the East had shown up looking for a newborn king. They went to Jerusalem and King Herod first, naturally thinking a newborn king would be in the capitol city. Once King Herod figured out his rule was in jeopardy, he sent the Magi on a mission to find Jesus, worship him, and report back so he could too. His plan didn’t involve worship though. He would kill the baby when he found him. Joseph had no idea this was all happening. No idea his baby was in danger. God stepped in and protected Jesus. He warned the Magi to return home a different way. Avoid seeing Herod again. The father of Jesus was keeping baby Jesus safe.
After that, the real father of Jesus came to the stepfather, Joseph, in a dream. “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. He said, get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, because Herod will search for the child in order to kill him.” Joseph was a carpenter. If Herod came looking with soldiers for the child, he wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight. Some resistance, but ultimately Herod and his soldiers would win. Jesus was in real danger of physical harm, and only God could protect him and keep him safe. He did that through Joseph. With instructions to leave quickly, Joseph set out from Bethlehem to Egypt. It was Joseph’s responsibility to get moving and keep mother and child safe. All the while really God was keeping mother, son, and stepfather safe. God cared about his newborn Son, Jesus.
The escape to Egypt was about the safety of God’s only Son. But it was primarily about Jesus’ life. Yes, I did just say last week that Jesus came to die. He was sent into this world, was born, so he could die. The cross very much was big on the horizon even at Christmas. But the time for that had not yet come. Jesus had a whole life to live. See, Jesus needed to be perfect. Needed to be kept safe so he might live perfect in your place. As a baby Jesus was kept safe to preserve him for the work he would do. Pushing back against your sin and mine. Never once falling into sin himself. Jesus had no problems with God being in control like we sometimes do. You and I like control in our lives. But what we want to keep, Jesus was perfectly fine leaving to God. Where we might push God out in resistance to his demands so we can make our own decisions and choices, Jesus lived the plan of God. He made choices and decisions in line with God’s demands. Yes, it was very good news for you God the heavenly Father kept Jesus safe.
Joseph brought his little family to Egypt to keep Jesus safe. But it wasn’t about safety alone. There was another reason. “This happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, Out of Egypt I called my son.” About a 1000 years before Jesus, a prophet by the name of Hosea wrote those words. When he did they were applied to Israel. The nation of Israel had gone to Egypt during the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That was about 1000 years before Hosea wrote. The nation spent about 400 years in Egypt. During that time they grew, they were kept safe, and the promise God made to send a Savior was protected. When Israel left, it was called the Exodus. This was the biggest event in the Old Testament, a major Old Testament event that authors referenced many times. It was the greatest act of deliverance God had ever brought about for his people. God made promises that he would deliver them, protected them until it happened, and then delivered them in the Exodus. They left Egypt. So Israel, God’s own son, was called out of Egypt.
What Hosea wrote, God used the gospel writer Matthew to point out was actually about so much more. The Exodus as an event had happened centuries before. It was already done and in the history books. Still there was prophecy to be fulfilled. The Exodus only previewed another exodus. One where God would again call his Son out of Egypt. Not the nation, but the entire nation of Israel reduced down to one person. Jesus. “Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.” Jesus was delivered out of Egypt. It fulfilled prophecy. It signaled more was to come. Jesus would bring about another exodus. A greater one. One that applies to you. This exodus would mean the final full deliverance of God’s people. A exodus of you from your sins. Jesus delivering you from death and Satan’s grasp. God cared about his newborn Son in order to bring about this deliverance for you.
The threats that sent Jesus to Egypt were very much like the threats you are under. Persecution you face. Suffering you endure. From early on he was stepping into your place and facing what you face. As a baby Jesus was dealing with the persecution by a king who wanted him dead. Jesus was made to face difficult travel over many miles to a country far from his own. He would even suffer as he came out of Egypt as he faced a threat from the next king in line who likely would have killed him. This made Joseph settle elsewhere. The persecution, threats, and suffering Jesus faced for you in your place. Even as a baby Jesus was already your substitute. Jesus survived when you wouldn’t have been able. Jesus won the victory and brought about your deliverance. You are released from your bondage to sin. You are set free in Christ. The one who came out of Egypt as a baby delivered you from all sins on the cross.
Joseph may have been like many new fathers. Petrified. Scared to make a mistake. Worried about many things. His step son was the Son of God and Savior of the world. No pressure. In this case there wasn’t any. Because God stepped in. God cared about his newborn Son. He provided safety when his newborn Son was in danger. Safety that extended to mother and stepfather. Safety that extended to you and me. And God provided fulfillment of promises and prophecy. Assuring you and me that this newborn Son is the Savior, your substitute. God did just what we would expect a father to do. God cared about his newborn Son.