Hey everyone, I'm Josh Hawkins and this is Episode 30 of Opening Up the Gospels. In the last 20 episodes we've looked at all of the circumstances of the birth of Jesus from both Matthew and Luke's gospels. 20 episodes may seem like a lot, but trust me - there was so much more I wanted to say... We're just scratching the surface of the glory of Jesus in these episodes, and my goal is to just whet your appetite to begin feasting on the Gospels yourself. I hope they've been provoking to you and that you've grown in your love for Jesus and your resolve to make His greatness known. Today I want to start a new segment in our journey through the Gospels. In the next few episodes we'll take some time to think about what some have called "the silent years" of Jesus. Then, we'll spend a handful of episodes looking at John the Baptist. I can't stress his importance enough... What he says and does is critical for understanding the reason for Jesus' first coming. Then after John the Baptist, we'll jump in to the public ministry of Jesus. We won't be covering every single detail of His public ministry, but we will look at some of the most significant events and teachings, with a particular focus on some of the commonly misunderstood concepts throughout the Gospels.
Let's begin today in Matthew 2:
“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 ESV)
As we talked about in the last episode, Herod died in 4BC, and that's when Joseph received yet another dream during their stay in Egypt. Remember, the angel had said to him "go to Egypt and remain there until I tell you". That seems to imply that the same angel would be the one here telling Joseph to return to Israel, and it also implies that Joseph was expecting a clear message from the angel at some point again. That's pretty cool - I can't say that's ever happened to me or anyone else I know... We always long for that booming voice saying "go here" or "do that", but it seems pretty rare in redemptive history, with Joseph being one of the major exceptions. Scripture doesn't say how long they stayed in Egypt, but it likely wasn't a long time. Now it seems that Joseph and Mary initially wanted to return to Bethlehem to live there. Remember, that's where they had been living before their sojourn in Egypt. They were living in a house there, as we saw when the Magi visited them. But on their 200 plus mile journey back to Israel, they hear that Archelaus was reigning over Judea. Archelaus was one of Herod's sons. Herod also had two other sons who received power after he died: Antipas and Philip. Archelaus was the principal successor of Herod "the great", as he has come to be known. He received the regions of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria. Antipas received the regions of Galilee and Perea. Herod Antipas is the "Herod" we will see later in the Gospels. Finally Philip received the region of Trachonitis. Now Archelaus, in light of everything his father did to the Jews, didn't try to ascend the throne immediately but sought to win them over. But the Jews revolted, and Archelaus ordered his army to retaliate against them. He was brutal in his treatment of the Jews. Caesar, the Roman emperor, unseated him from his position just after a couple of years of his rule and banished him to Gaul, an area in Western Europe, for all of his crimes. Just as a side note, this is how the political situation we see in the Gospels arose... Instead of having a king in Jerusalem, the leadership fell to the high priest and the Sanhedrin, the Jewish governing body, and that was overseen by a Roman governor, Pilate. Then eventually it reverts back to having a Herod again as we see in the book of Acts.
So because of Archelaus' bad reputation, Mary and Joseph didn't want to go back to live in Bethlehem, because remember, Bethlehem is in Judea, the southern region of the nation. So where did they go? They went to the only other place they had ever known - the small town of Nazareth in Galilee. And this became the home of the rightful king of Israel, the Messiah, and this is where God in the flesh spent most of his years on the earth at his first coming.
Luke gives us just one verse to sum up years of Jesus' life:
“And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.”
(Luke 2:40 ESV)
What a glorious sentence. We can't forget that we're looking at much more than just the prophesied Messiah of Israel, we're looking at God in the flesh. Oh, what does this say about what God is like? That he would be a child for years, growing up in an obscure, despised town in the Middle East? It says so much if we take the time to listen.
Jesus was probably raised in a loving home, judging from both Mary and Joseph's character that we've seen so far in the Gospels. Now though we don't know any details about Jesus' upbringing from the Gospels, we can look at what life was like during those days to get a small picture of what His upbringing could have been like. We do know that life in first century Israel was primarily centered around family and nation, all under the banner of religion. I hardly even have to mention how this exactly the opposite of our modern western culture today where we're so rooted in individualism, relativism, and agnosticism. The bedtime stories of Jews in the first century would have most certainly been the stories of their people. A child's education would have begun at home informally with the parents, specifically the mother, and then formally when they turned five years old. They would study scripture, specifically beginning with the book of Leviticus and then by the time someone was ten, they would begin to study the traditions of the law. So basically from the age of five onward, Jewish children were immersed in the Law and the Prophets all the time. Huge portions of Scripture were committed to memory. This is probably a good general picture of the education that Jesus received as a child, and this is so important to understanding the background of the people we read about in the Gospels, especially the disciples of Jesus. I'll talk more about this when we move into Jesus' public ministry and he calls his disciples.
Now we tend to so quickly forget that Jesus actually grew up. Think about that. He grew up! He was a toddler walking the streets of Nazareth with his family! He played with other kids and had certain friends he liked to play with more than others! He got tired and took naps and had growth spurts and outgrew his clothes. He'd help his parents with their everyday tasks as he got a little older, he'd grow in wisdom and might have even had a funny accent as he was learning how to speak Aramaic. Think about that - this is our God, this is the Messiah of Israel, and he's just a little boy. We've got to push past the overfamiliarity and all the preconceptions we have. Think about it - if you or I had been born in a different time in history and a different place on the earth, we could very well have been one of his friends or his neighbors that also lived in Nazareth. We could have heard his voice and been there to watch him grow up. We could have heard his laugh - you know what I mean, the cute laugh of a young child. Oh, what would this have been like?
But on the other hand, Jesus was not just another cute first century boy. He was the first sinless man to walk the earth since Adam. And because of this, we can't underestimate the effect that sin has had on all of humanity except for Him and how it affects us even from the moment we come out of the womb. Perhaps one of the most precious things about Jesus in His humanity is that he had absolutely no sin or even any inclination to it. What does this even look like? Think about a young boy with no pride at all. No self-exertion, no bad mouth, no lying or cheating. How then did he relate to His family? There was no deception in him, there was no tricking His younger brothers. He never disobeyed His mother or father. Oh Jesus, we aren't like you! Think about this! No sin at all! Though He had no sin, He was still completely human. Don't let him float off the ground as if He wasn't really human, and don't let him wallow in the mud as if He actually could have sinned. Both His humanity and His divinity are so important to rightly understand, but that's a subject for another day.
I want to close this episode today and help stir your soul to meditate on these years of Jesus' life. They are so precious and hold such a treasure for us to discover.
Luke tells us that Jesus was not only born with a human body, He grew up. What did Jesus’ awkward seasons look like? Can you imagine the time when His ears had outgrown His head and he sat through two more years of rabbinical school before His head caught up? Have you ever thought about that? He was just like you, except without sin. What did it look like when Jesus lost His first tooth and had his first haircut? What was it like when Jesus as a boy had awkwardness in each of His stages? What was it like? Jesus also grew in the Spirit, was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him. He grew mentally and spiritually. He grew. What were the stages like as He was finding out He’s the unique God-Man? Thinking to Himself, “Something feels different about Me. I never get in trouble like James does?” What was it like when His capacity mentally and spiritually got to the point where He began to have remembrance of the throne room? What was it like for Him growing up when He could see all the angels around everybody else? Did Mary and Joseph tell Him the stories of His birth? What was it like on the day when the Father decided that Jesus was ready to see spiritual realities? I think of his first angelic encounter. Trembling with fascination, I see Him asking, “I feel like I know You from somewhere. Have we met before?”
I've added a link in the description of this video down below to some other very similar questions by Max Lucado in his book "God Came Near" where he has a section called "25 questions for Mary". They're awesome, definitely check those out if you have the chance. As always, you can find the rest of the videos of this series on my website, www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. In the next episode we'll continue looking at these early years of Jesus. Subscribe for short email notifications of new episodes on my website as well if that interests you. God bless, see you next time.