Wednesday, December 23

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 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.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 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. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19–23)

            This is our final fulfillment passage in Matthew 1-2. We have seen fulfillment in 1:22-23, 2:5-6, 2:15, 2:17-18, and finally here. Those passages were straightforward, but what does Matthew mean here?

            Unlike Bethlehem, there is no specific prophecy about Nazareth in the Old Testament. The town of Nazareth is never even named in the Old Testament. Commentators like Douglas Sean O’Donnell see a clue in Isaiah 11:1. There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. Jesse was the father of David, and the shoot from Jesse is David and his lineage that leads to Jesus.

We started with a genealogy in Matthew 1, and Matthew brings us back to the genealogy in chapter 2. The résumé of Jesus is pivotal for Jesus. Matthew is pointing out that everything, including town in which Jesus eventually grew up, highlights the last qualification in Jesus’ birth and infancy. Let me explain.

            The answer seems to be in the branch verse in Isaiah 11. The Hebrew word for branch is neser. In English we sometimes add the ending polis to a word to make the name of a city (Minneapolis, Indianapolis). In Hebrew you would add the ending eth. The City of the Branch would then be neser/eth, or Nazareth! Douglas Sean O’Donnell says it beautifully: “So, Matthew is saying that Jesus came from the city of David (Bethlehem) as well as from the people of David (Nazareth). Jesus is ‘the branch.’ Jesus is ‘the Son of David.’ The fact that he grew up in Nazareth as a Nazarene puts an exclamation point on this!”

            God led Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the census, to Egypt for protection, and to Nazareth to raise the boy Jesus, all part of God’s plan to emphasize Jesus is the son of Abraham, the son of David, and the Son of God. Rejoice in God’s wonderful plan for you and me!

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