Trouble in Jerusalem (Matthew 2)

It looks as if the arrival of the wise men caused quite a stir, which suggests that they were more than three in number. Probably the people in Jerusalem were concerned about what the Romans might do if they heard that people were speaking about another king, which would be regarded as a threat to their authority.

The response of Herod is strange because he had an interest in the details of the Bible accompanied by no interest in its message. He accepted that the Bible spoke accurately with regard to this prophecy, but he had no love for what it predicted, and indeed imagined that somehow he could overrule God’s revealed plan for the Messiah. Of course, he is not the only one to hold such a contradiction.

The priests and the scribes had a different response. While they knew what the Lord had predicted through Micah about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem, they did not think that he had been born at that time. They may have had different reasons for thinking so, including the assumption that the Messiah would only appear in a glorious manner, and that when he did he would appear in order to help Jews.

What did the prophecy say about Jesus? First, it was a reminder that the Messiah would come from the line of David, who was connected to Bethlehem. Second, the Messiah would be kind and gracious to God’s people – he would act like a shepherd in providing for them and protecting them from their enemies. Third, the Messiah would bring unity to God’s people – when Micah had given the prediction, they were divided into Judah and Israel. Those details were pointers to how the Messiah would govern his kingdom. They would be fulfilled in ways far beyond what the original listeners would have thought, but they would create an expectation in Matthew’s readers as to how Jesus would do this.

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