Last month we focused on how Jesus birth was redemptive for us (if you missed it you can find it here) now we will focus on his childhood and early ministry.
The persecution by Herod
This horrific "slaughter of
the innocents" has raised many questions and is a
regular "Why" question. "What sort of a
God would allow this - let alone prophesy it?" It is
really a declaration of how bad evil can get. It is a
revelation of the depths to which human megalomania will
sink in order to preserve itself. Lets put it plainly -
God did not want those innocent children murdered. His
reaction was to weep. Scripture speaks of Rachel (Jacob's
wife and the mother of Israel) weeping for her children.
This is God's heartfelt compassionate reaction. The
slaughter of the innocents was not "God's will"
it was Satanic, dark and murderous. God foretold it but
He did not will it. He revealed it but he did not glory
in it. He allowed it but only so evil could be seen as
evil and the more thoroughly condemned.
The action of Herod was the action of someone who was anti the Christ. It was representative of how the kingdoms of this world must react once they realise that Christ will demand complete rulership. It sets Christ's kingdom off from the start as a kingdom of martyrs and suffering saints born into a world inimically opposed to their existence. As Paul later writes in Romans "We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered". The innocents are the first Christian martyrs. They were slaughtered because they might be the Christ, because they might turn into the Messiah one day. If we grow in God we will meet opposition from the world that opposes those who "might be Christ". Paul writes to pastor Timothy "All those who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". They will not be persecuted by everyone but they will meet stern resistance from those who are grasping on to worldly power.
How can such as awful deed have any redemptive significance? By itself it has none. Only in Christ and the resurrection of the dead does it redeem innocent suffering. The purposeless mad rages of evil, the "ethnic cleansing", the horrible butchering of innocent women and children that occurs every year around the globe. They are not forgotten. God weeps for them and interestingly "refuses to be comforted" this is no normal tragedy to be gradually forgotten. It will be always remembered in the heart of God. He will never be comforted or consoled until justice is finally done on behalf of those who have suffered the ravages of pointless evil.
The Flight Into Egypt
This is a reworking of the Exodus "out of Egypt have I called my Son". The son being first of all Israel and now the Messiah who is the head of Israel and its historical recapitulation. Egypt represents bondage and the security of this world. "Out of Egypt" is a journeying lifestyle , the lifestyle of the heroes of faith who were "searching for a another city, a city not of this world". In Christ we are freed from this world to journey into the next. In Christ we can transcend our bondages and come into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
The Stay In Nazareth
Here we see the Son of God growing in stature and in favour with God and man. Growth was part of his life and ours. There is no Scriptural evidence for Jesus performing miracles before His baptism. He grew as young boys grow - but without sin. Learning, instruction, boyhood, not instant perfection was the way of the Messiah and our path as well.
Bar Mitzvah - The Redemption of Precocious Teenagers!
At 12 Jesus was outstanding - a
"young Einstein". He astonished the Rabbis with
his questions and with his insight into the Law. He was
also learning to be independent. I remember these
precocious, independent years well, they were probably
the most enjoyable of my life. His poor perplexed parents
driven to distraction by their son who was having a great
time being the focus of attention in the temple! His
answer "Did you not know that I would be in my
Father's house?" would have got me a clip around the
ear or a scolding. Joseph and Mary just seem relieved
that He was safe and somewhat proud of this difficult and
Jesus had done his Bar Mitzvah and taken his place as a male in Jewish society. He was now a "son of the law". He could have stood aloof and independent from his parents but he chose to "remain in submission to them". Here is a model teenager -working out His independence and "distance" from His parents - yet remaining in submission to them, and without sin. Jesus was once a teenager - and He grew up OK. By living through those years He took them and all their turmoil into the Godhead and sanctified them. He redeemed teenagers from two curses - overdependence on home - Jesus was no mother's boy. And arrogance - for He was in submission.