Today’s blog finishes the narrative of the events of Jesus’ birth. For the rest of Christmas week, I’ll be sharing some things about the significance of Jesus’ birth. On Christmas Day, I think I want to reflect on Jesus’ return (his 2nd advent). His second coming will be nothing like His first.
Herod was old and sick when Jesus was born, so Joseph and Mary knew that they would only need to wait things out in Egypt for a little while until Herod died. Of course, we know that God could have simply killed Herod instantly, if He wanted to. For whatever reason, God chose to protect Christ by having his family flee to Egypt and provided for them through the gifts of the wise men.
Sometime thereafter, Herod the Great died and was succeeded in Judea by one of his sons, Archelaus and in Galilee by another one of his sons Antipas. Archelaus had a reputation for a more violent temper than his father. But Antipas was somewhat more mild mannered. He was actually a spineless wimp, to be honest. 😉 So, Joseph and Mary were directed by God to move back to Nazareth, their hometown before Jesus was born. Jesus was raised in the town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee. It was in this region where his ministry began when he was about 30 years old.
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19-23)
And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:39-40)
One thing that always jumps off the page at me in these Christmas narratives from Scripture is the amount of historical references provided. Jesus was a historical person who really was born, lived and died. There is no serious doubt about that among any reputable historian, theologian, or scholar. So, that begs a couple of important questions:
- What do we do with His exclusive claims, like John 14:6? To quote C.S. Lewis, Cambridge professor and author of The Chronicles of Narnia books: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 40-41.)
- What do we do with His resurrection? Produce a body and Christianity is dead. But for over 2,000 years no one has been able to either produce a body or disprove the hundreds of witnesses who saw him alive after his resurrection and before he ascended into heaven, most of whom went on to die martyr’s deaths for refusing to recant their testimony regarding Jesus’ bodily resurrection.