Fight and Flight: Jesus, "The Early Years"
General Idea: Jesus always invokes a response, if not in this life, then, in the life to come, from every person who has ever lived. We either accept Him or reject Him; we will fight against Him, or devote our lives to please Him. Herod had the incredible opportunity to be one of the first people to give such a response; however, he chose fear and deception as his appropriate reaction to the newborn King. The response we give will echo for eternity, so, make sure it is the correct one! Responses also have consequences for us, as well as those around us. For Joseph and his family, it meant fleeing to a foreign land, away from family, friends, and work, all that he knew. It required great faith and trust twice, once to flee, and then to come back.
a. We do not know much of Jesus' early years, as neither Mark nor John share much about this period of Jesus' life. Only Matthew and Luke record something about the first thirty years. Matthew's concern was to point out the events, predicted by the prophets, which prove Jesus to be the Messiah, as his audience was the Jews. Even though we do not know much of our Lord's earthly life, we have all we need.
1. As we look at church history, we can see how such narrative events tend to be over dramatized, and even worshiped, taking away from the primary purpose of Christ. Thus, the Lord must have known our tendency to diverge from what is important, as He only leaves us information we need.
2. There is also Apocryphal (Scripture not included in the cannon for various reasons) works, such as the Gospel of Thomas, and the Pseudepigrapha, which are books claiming to be Scripture, but proven to be of false authorship. In this case, these were written over 200 years later, and refuted without contest by the early church. The Infancy Narratives, record many events of Jesus' early life. However, they have little to no historical validity, as they were written much later, in the Second and Third Centuries, and not accepted by the early church.
b. The Fight. Herod responded to the new King with fear and deception. He saw Jesus as the ultimate threat to his throne. This was not true, as Jesus' throne was the universe and eternity, and Herod's kingdom was geographical and temporary. If he had worshiped as the Magi did, perhaps he would have been blessed and would not have died early by the same deception he dished out, and the last time, from his own wife!
1. The Chief Priests and leaders also invoked their response, and they knew that that the newborn King was the Messiah, yet, they also saw Him as a threat and not the God they were to serve and worship. They knew the truth, but chose to fight Him.
1. What good is Scripture if you do not apply it to your life? The Leaders knew, but would not travel the short distance to see the true King.
c. The Flight. Joseph was told by the angel to flee to Egypt, because Herod was seeking to kill Jesus.
1. One of history's most heinous acts was the massacre of children by the very ones who knew the Messiah had come, and dared to think they could change the outcome!
2. Joseph was directed by dreams, a common way that Angels communicated to Biblical personalities. (Angels are not chubby nice winged personalities that you see in Hallmark stores or movies, who fly around playing harps! Angels, or "messengers," are non-sexual and non-corporal beings whose very presence will cause one to have a heart attack! Every time they manifest themselves, they first put the person they are visiting at ease, unless they are in disguise. In addition, they do not have wings or halos!)
1. The actual stay in Egypt was short, maybe one or two years. Church tradition says they stayed in the same town as another Joseph did "Heliopolis" (Gen. 41:45)
2. Then they returned to their home in Nazareth by the leading of an angel, and again via a dream. Although Matthew does not name their residence, Luke does (Luke 2:39)
3. All of these events were prophesied hundreds of years prior: (Ps. 2:2-3; 22:6,8; 69:11,19; Isa. 11:1; 53:2-4; Jer. 23:5; 31:15; Hos. 11:1; Zec. 3:8; 6:12)
a. In Hos.11:1, God is calling out His Son, as He called out Israel in the Exodus. This points to Jesus, God's plan of redemption for humanity.
b. Jer. 31:15 refers the return of Israel from the exile. Rachel (Gen. 37:28; 42:15) represents motherhood, her children leaving home, and God's children leaving their land. When God punishes Israel or us, it hurts Him more than it hurts us! Thus, the departure of Jesus to Egypt is like the exile of Israel.
c. He shall be called a Nazarene refers to the prophets and people of God who will be hated by those who refuse to acknowledge God. They will take their fear and hatred out on His servants, as they did to the prophets, Christ, and sometimes us! The other Jews despised the Nazarenes. (John 1:46; 7:42; 52)
4. Leaders, and people in general, are often opposed to anything that goes against their will and plans, especially God's rule (Mt. 2:1-3,16; 4:12; 14:1-12; 26:3-4; 27:1)
a. They/we plot against Jesus
b. They/we attempted to cover up His call/resurrection (Mt. 28:11-15)
c. They/we try to prevent the spread of the Word (Acts 4:1-3,18; 5:40; 24:1-5)
5. Since Jesus was persecuted, we should not be surprised if the same should happen to us!
a. Jesus warned that such might happen (John 15:18-20; 2 Tim. 3:12).
b. Satan will do anything to stop Christ's Word (Ps. 2:1-12; 1 Pet. 5:8;- Rev. 12:3-5,17; 17:12-14; 20:7-9).
c. To grow in maturity, we should be willing to endure suffering for our Lord (1 Pet. 2:21).
d. Jesus' harsh beginnings did not prevent Him from fulfilling His mission and ministry
1. When bad things, or unexpected turn of events overtake us, we should look to our Lord, be encouraged, and then persevere, because our eyes are on Him and not our circumstances.
2. The example of Jesus' humility ought to inspire, motivate, and encourage us to accept the character of Christ, and live it out in our lives, especially in our relations to those around us! (Ps. 84:10; Php. 2:5-8; 1 Pet. 5:5-7)
1. As a child, how would you have felt to have to leave your school and friends to follow your parents to a job change?
2. Jesus invokes a response from every person who has ever lived. So, what has been yours from early childhood up to now, and what will it be in the future?
3. What has been your pattern of faith, acceptance, and devotion to Jesus over the years, from fighting against Him to devoting your life to please Him?
4. Do you think it is important to know what Jesus was like as a child and teenager? If so, how would it affect your faith and acceptance? How could it distract you and the church from Christ's real message?
5. Do you believe that even though we do not know much of our Lord's earthly life, we have all that we need to know?
6. Herod responded to the new King with fear and deception. In what ways have you seen people respond to Jesus?
7. Why was Jesus seen as the ultimate threat?
8. How is Jesus seen as a threat today?
9. Jesus' throne is the entire universe and eternity, and our thinking is geographical and temporary. So, how could you benefit from a better understanding of who Jesus is, your relationship to the world, and your spiritual growth?
10. Why would someone who knows the truth of Christ, or has heard it, choose to fight and reject Him?
11. How have you rejected or challenged Jesus' Lordship over you?
12. What good is Scripture if you do not apply it to your life?
13. How have you seen Angels depicted in the media and the church? How does this compare with the reality of who they really are?
14. Do you think you have ever had, or known someone who has had an encounter with an Angel?
15. How does it affect your faith to know that all of these events were prophesied hundreds of years before they were fulfilled?
16. Leaders, and people in general are often opposed to anything that goes against their will and plans, especially God's rule. So, how can you make sure that your decisions are in line with God's truth and Will?
17. Since Jesus was persecuted, why should we not expect the same thing to happen to us?
18. Jesus' harsh beginnings did not prevent Him from His mission and ministry. So, how can you stay focused on your call when times get tough?
19. How can the example of Jesus' humility inspire, motivate, and encourage you to accept the character of Christ and live it out in your life, especially in your relationship to those around you?
20. Are you willing to humbly serve, and even suffer persecution for Jesus?
The response we give will echo for eternity. Make sure it is the correct one!
Herod: The Herods were a line of Jewish kings who were empowered by the Romans. They governed Judea from around 50 BC to the end of the First Century. The name is Greek, and they were Jewish, to what percentage is not known. Little is known of them other than their tendency to be shrewd and militaristic. Some believe they trace their kingship to the Maccabees, who ruled Israel during the in-between period of the two Testaments, as laid out in the apocryphal books, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Maccabees. Others have said they started governing in various roles after the Babylonian exile. The first Herod we know about is Antipaer, grandfather of Herod the Great. He was a soldier who rose to power, and politically manipulated his status with the Romans to hold onto his power. His son, also named Antipaer, served an exemplary career with Julius Caesar, which earned him Roman citizenship.
Herod the Great helped rebuild the Temple, and expanded the city of Jerusalem from 20 BC until 62 AD. Incredible structures, fortress, harbors, and cities continued to be built past his death in 4 BC. His great accomplishment, the rebuilding of the Temple, was destroyed in 70 AD, thus only existing after completion for around seven or so years! Conversely from his great buildings and cities, he was unspeakably evil, murdering his own family, including most of his sons! Along with his fervent building campaigns for the Jews, he also built many pagan idols and shrines! He was very cunning, and manipulative, fitting in perfectly with the Roman aristocracies. His biggest act of cruelty was the killing of all the children in Bethlehem, and in the surrounding areas! His surviving sons fought over the kingdom, forcing Augustus Creaser to step in and divide up the kingdom three ways, and removed the title of king" to the title of "governor." Herod Antipas, "that fox" in Luke 13:31-32, who had the ripe province of Jerusalem, was in power for over 30 years, and was the one who had John the Baptist beheaded, and who mocked Jesus (Mark 6:14-29; Luke 23:7-12). Herod Agrippa, Antipas' son, and Herod the Great's grandson, was the one who tried Paul (Acts 25:13-26:32).