TEXT: MATTHEW 2: 13-23/1 PETER 4:12-19/GEN. 46:1-7
THE KING IS ON THE RUN FOR HIS LIFE AND OURS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear hearers of the Word made flesh: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.


An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  And he rose and took the child and his mother and departed to Egypt…


The heavenly King is running from the earthly king?  The Messiah - promised for centuries – is pursued by murderous King Herod! In fear Herod is willing to destroy all the male toddlers two years of age and younger in the region of Bethlehem. It has become known as “the slaughter of the innocents” (not innocent of all sin – but guilty of nothing deserving capital punishment).


Historians (Baily – Jesus through Middle Easter Eyes – p. 56-58) describe Herod as a complex individual. Ethnically Arabian, religiously Jewish, culturally Greek, politically Roman, historians portray him as both brilliant and brutal. They relate his bravery in personally leading his army in the field of battle. He had sided with Anthony and Cleopatra. When Octavian (later known as Caesar Augustus) defeated them, Herod quickly requested an audience with Octavian. He came before him without a crown and even in defeat admitted his loyalty to Anthony. He then asked for mercy saying, “What I ask of you is to consider not whose friend, but what a good friend I was.”  Caesar decided to trust him and told him to put his crown back on his head. Herod did so and through the decades of his reign he grew more fearful and more suspicious of conspiracy. He ordered the death of Mariamne - his favorite (of ten wives). He also ordered the death of two of his favorite sons whom he came to view as rivals as well as a mother-in-law, a high priest and others.  


Now he sought the death of a child that wise men from the east had said was born the king of the Jews. THE HEAVENLY KING IS ON THE RUN FOR HIS LIFE. In the middle of the night, while others slept, Joseph heeded the angel’s warning. The land of bondage for the people of Israel became the land of refuge for the King of Israel, at least for a time. It was no accident; he remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

SECOND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS – JAN 4, 2014
TEXT: MATTHEW 2: 13-23/1 PETER 4:12-19/GEN. 46:1-7
THE KING IS ON THE RUN FOR HIS LIFE AND OURS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear hearers of the Word made flesh: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.


An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  And he rose and took the child and his mother and departed to Egypt…


The heavenly King is running from the earthly king?  The Messiah - promised for centuries – is pursued by murderous King Herod! In fear Herod is willing to destroy all the male toddlers two years of age and younger in the region of Bethlehem. It has become known as “the slaughter of the innocents” (not innocent of all sin – but guilty of nothing deserving capital punishment).


Historians (Baily – Jesus through Middle Easter Eyes – p. 56-58) describe Herod as a complex individual. Ethnically Arabian, religiously Jewish, culturally Greek, politically Roman, historians portray him as both brilliant and brutal. They relate his bravery in personally leading his army in the field of battle. He had sided with Anthony and Cleopatra. When Octavian (later known as Caesar Augustus) defeated them, Herod quickly requested an audience with Octavian. He came before him without a crown and even in defeat admitted his loyalty to Anthony. He then asked for mercy saying, “What I ask of you is to consider not whose friend, but what a good friend I was.”  Caesar decided to trust him and told him to put his crown back on his head. Herod did so and through the decades of his reign he grew more fearful and more suspicious of conspiracy. He ordered the death of Mariamne - his favorite (of ten wives). He also ordered the death of two of his favorite sons whom he came to view as rivals as well as a mother-in-law, a high priest and others. 


Now he sought the death of a child that wise men from the east had said was born the king of the Jews. THE HEAVENLY KING IS ON THE RUN FOR HIS LIFE. In the middle of the night, while others slept, Joseph heeded the angel’s warning. The land of bondage for the people of Israel became the land of refuge for the King of Israel, at least for a time. It was no accident; he remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” 


Recall Egypt and what King-Pharaoh did to preserve his political power. By his order, the lungs of Israel’s infant boys were flooded with the waters of the Nile. But not baby Moses!  Remember the little ark, the little basket in which He was placed. By water, God delivered Moses by whom He would later deliver His people from bondage. Grown to a man, exiled from and returned to Egypt, Moses led Israel out of death through the waters of the Red Sea.


Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and Pharaoh’s drowning of infants are not unrelated to our culture of death today. Bigger more powerful ones are always tempted to solve their problems at the expense of smaller weaker ones. Whether it is political power or personal position, we want to be kings and queens of our own lives. This fearful longing to protect our place is so powerful it can push aside the smallest and weakest ones – even fatally – both in the womb and out of the womb.     


In this child Jesus, whom Herod sought to push aside, history now begins to repeat itself and complete itself with us in mind. We were enslaved in an Egypt far worse that the Egypt of old. Hardhearted Pharaoh was evil, but he was not the Evil One under whose rule we were born. To deliver us from our adversary Jesus is delivered from the madness - the shedding of infant blood that Herod unleashes. THE HEAVENLY KING IS ON THE RUN FOR HIS LIFE!


As He ran, A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”  As Jeremiah pictured Rachel weeping for the Israelites who were exiled to Babylon, so Ramah located along the road running down to Bethlehem, again hears the sound of weeping. But not for Jesus!  Jesus was born to die, but not just yet!  When the sun came up, Joseph had the Child and His mother well along the road to Egypt. He escaped from death at Herod’s hand that He might later die for all sinners at God’s hand – even sinners as cruel as Herod – even sinners so young as these little boys – even you and me.


It is the nation of Israel that is God’s son in Hosea’s prophecy. It is the nation of Israel that is the subject of Rachel’s weeping in Jeremiah. By these texts Jesus is proclaimed to be the people of Israel reduced to one!  “Out of Egypt I called my son.”  Israel – as God’s chosen - failed the purpose for which God called them out of Egypt. They rebelled and chased after idols!  But God again took action to make Himself a people!  Here Jesus is named as God’s one and only Son whom God would also call out of Egypt. Dear Christians - in these last days He is running with a purpose – an eternal purpose!  He did not fail in redeeming His people from captivity far deeper than that of Pharaoh. He is Israel reduced to one!


But when Herod died…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…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.”


Israel reduced to one – is seen here nestled in Nazareth. He is there for you. He is there for all people. At the proper time He will step forth in public ministry – not to flee death but to taste if for all who have flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14-15) – to taste it for you. He would not die as an infant according to Herod’s fearful desires. He would die as a young man according to His Father’s gracious desires. He would not die in Nazareth or Bethlehem by the sword. He would die just five miles to the Northeast, at Jerusalem by the cross. He would not die as a little lamb – as an infant. He would die as the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.   THE INFANT HEAVENLY KING IS ON THE RUN NOT ONLY FOR HIS LIFE, BUT FOR OURS!  He is the Son of David and the Son of Abraham and the Son of God (1:18-25). We need the cleansing from sin only His blood can give.


The law clearly shows us that that need even as it shows us that fears like King Herod’s live also in us. Every day our Old Adam sees Christ as a threat to the thrones of our priorities and plans. Just consider how difficult it is to pray as the highest priority each day for God’s name to be holy among us and for His kingdom to come to us and others. Consider how demanding it is to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Consider how threatening it can seem to see all of your wealth as God’s and to return to Him a cheerful, generous, proportion befitting the King of Kings. The wise men whose sacrificial travel and whose precious gifts and worship of the Christ-child we remember this Tuesday were truly wise!  The king on our throne may appear a little more sophisticated than King Herod, but he is no less prone to snuff out the real Jesus with His real words. The king on our throne also thinks that we should have life without affliction and that suffering in the world proves either that God is not a loving God or that He is not powerful. This despite God’s revelation that the whole creation groans under His curse for our sin!  To the king on our throne the “slaughter of the innocents” and other tragedies call into question God’s very existence or at least His wisdom and involvement in human affairs.


So it really does matter that Jesus got away in the middle of the night!  It really does matter that He returned from Egypt and lived in Galilee and was called a Nazarene. It really does matter that Pilate put this inscription on His cross, “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews”. It really does matter that in Christ God took on our flesh and fulfilled the law in our stead – as Israel reduced to one - and rose bodily from the prison house of death!


THE INFANT KING IS ON THE RUN NOT ONLY FOR HIS LIFE, BUT FOR OURS. In the deepest sense He was not running from something but rather for something. He was running for our redemption - for the life of the world. In love He redeemed you on Calvary. Then He parted the waves of death in His mighty resurrection!  Risen from the grave He rescued you like Israel of old, through water combined with His word. Recall how Octavian, told Herod to put the crown back on his head?  In the waters of Baptism Jesus in effect says “I now put my nature (my image) back on you.”  By His gift you are clothed in Christ (Gal. 3:27). Now there is another King at work in you, the King of Kings.


Even with His presence - Beloved, do not by surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. In this troubled world there will be weeping and grief as deep as death. Who can measure the suffering of the parents in Bethlehem?  Who can measure the danger and destruction in life all around and the ugliness of death itself?  Christ did not abandon those little soldiers the same age as Himself!  The church fathers noted somberly their moment of pain and gave thanks that they would have no mature fear of death - that Christ promoted them to walk in victory before they lived – to share in the divine life immediately.


It is the divine life that the risen King of kings comes to share with you. At His table He invites, “come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  God grant you to keep running to the King of kings for His forgiveness. God grant you to keep running for the King of Kings in your daily vocation for it is Christ who works in you. God grant you to keep running with the King of Kings in suffering for He will never leave you nor forsake you. God grant you to keep running with the Gospel of the King of Kings to those sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death for there is no other name given under heaven by which we are saved. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a