What does it say?
Matthew chapter two provides information unique to Matthew. Joseph, Mary and Jesus remain in Jerusalem for several months before thinking to return to Nazareth. While they are still there, wise men from the East arrive to worship Christ, called here a young child, not a newborn infant. A trip from the East (Iran/Iraq) would have taken a minimum of two months with a huge entourage of people and animals. This would cause quite a stir and does not escape Herod’s notice. We don’t know how many wise men (court astrologers) are in this company, only that they bring three types of gifts.
A petty, cruel and insecure regional ruler, Herod is threatened by such attention to this young child in Bethlehem. He inquires of the wise men about their mission and then later orders the death of young children less than two years of age. God warns the wise men in a dream to take a different route home and sends an angel to Joseph telling him to seek safety in Egypt, which he does. After Herod’s death, Joseph receives a dream giving him the all clear to take his family back to Nazareth in Galilee.
What does it mean?
Matthew’s intent is to demonstrate primarily to Jewish readers how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and the fulfillment of God’s mission from the beginning. Notice how often he mentions that something is the fulfillment of what was spoken before (2:5-6, 15, 17-18, 23). This emphasis continues throughout the book.
The information that Matthew provides about the gifts of the wise men not only provides information to show how a relatively poor family could finance a trip to Egypt, it also shows that Christ’s mission is not only to the Jews but to all the nations of the world as evidenced by God’s revelation of Christ’s birth to these government officials from the East.
How will I respond?
If God controls world events in the development of his mission, why would I doubt that God controls my life as well? Can I give one example of circumstances in my life over the past month that could very well have relevance to God’s mission? What promise of God can apply to what God is doing in my life?