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He Walks in Danger All the Way

Sermon 1835 Matthew 2.13-23 January 1, 2023

Well, that didn’t take long. Oh, I’m not talking about Christmas trees on the curb. And I’m not talking about store turn-arounds with seasonal card racks stocked now with Valentine’s Day merchandise. Only 44 days left, guys, two days after the Super Bowl. I’m talking about threats on Jesus’ life.

It shouldn’t surprise us. John saw a retelling of it in Revelation 12. An enormous red dragon was waiting in front of a woman in labor so it could devour the child as soon as he was born. That baby was Jesus who would rule the nations with an iron scepter as Psalm 2 predicted. Revelation pictured the devil’s opposition to Jesus right from the start. It also shouldn’t surprise us because Isaiah predicted the Savior would be distressed as we are distressed. Welcome to our world, baby Jesus! Watch your back.

He Walks in Danger All the Way

1. If God had not been on our side all would be lost.

2. With brothers and sisters in the faith we move forward.

Recently we have seen more than a few people exaggerate war records, academic achievements, family histories, even their race! Scripture was not exaggerating the danger the Christ-Child faced.

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi (16).”

He walks in danger all the way. Jesus would have been one of those first martyrs of the faith if God had not been on our side or if there had been no family of faith to move forward. This puts an end to the atheistic poppycock that religion (and by that they mean Christianity) is the source of all evil in the world. The birth of a baby is hardly provocation for genocide. You almost think King Herod was related to Putin. No, the danger was real, as was the heart-breaking wail of young mothers bereft of their little baby boys.

He walks in danger all the way. If God had not been on our side all would be lost.

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him (13).’”

If God had not been on our side all would be lost. That night, when the Wise Men left, God sends an angel to Joseph. This was not the first time an angel had visited Joseph. An angel had come in another dream to inform Joseph Mary had not been unfaithful to him. The child she was carrying was conceived by a special miracle of the Holy Spirit. “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1.21).” That prediction had proven right. Joseph did not doubt this second angelic message, though it was so different.

Some time later a similar situation appears. King Herod has died. An angel again appears to Joseph. “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead (20).” Trouble is, Herod’s equally wicked (though not nearly as competent) son is ruling over Judea, where Bethlehem is. “Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene (22-23).’”

At every step God was on our side, warning Joseph of dangers and guiding him to safety beyond the ruling power of the Herods, first to Egypt, then to Nazareth.

I say, “our side.” It’s not a sloppy use of words. Jesus’ side is our side. God’s side is our side. Yes, I know we were not on God’s side to begin with. I know as well as you how Adam and Eve forfeited that wonderful position as the apple of God’s eye, the crown of his creation, when they fell into sin. I also can see from the daily headlines and reviews of 2022, how wretched we have been both to God and to our fellow man. We imagine we are god and then express disappointment with the results.

God is on “our side” because he sent his Son to become one of us. From that time onward no human being could seriously say God was not interested in the human race. Jesus proves God is with us. Immanuel. We’d have to be asleep from all the eggnog to miss those references this past month.

And, yes, as Lutherans we know this special place for the human race in God’s plan of things is pure grace, his undeserved love. That’s the real mystery of our faith. Not creation, not the incarnation, not the resurrection of the dead. Why did God love us so much? That’s the head scratcher.

Without God on our side, Jesus would have certainly been killed, swept up by the general massacre Herod ordered. Without God on our side, Jesus would have returned to Bethlehem and someone would have remembered the shepherds’ story of his miracle filled birth. And then the authorities, goaded on by Satan, would have stepped in. We would have had no Savior. We would have had no forgiveness of sins. We would have no hope of heaven.

He walks in danger all the way. With brothers and sisters in the faith we move forward.

Now here’s the amazing thing. God doesn’t treat us like pawns on a chessboard. God works through our actions, through our will, almost a divine dance, if you will, a virtuous cycle with good results. Here’s the human side of the equation in our text. The angel had appeared to Joseph to warn him to flee to Egypt.

“So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son (13-15).’”

Joseph didn’t wait. Joseph didn’t dally. Waking an infant in the middle of the night is not something you do on a whim. Getting a tired nursing mother to uproot everything in the middle of the night is also not for sissies. But Joseph does it. He is insistent. It’s urgent. Before dawn the Holy Family is on their way to Egypt with everything they are going to need for an extended stay. Yes, the rich gifts the Wise Men brought would come in most handily. But if Joseph, Mary and Jesus were still in Bethlehem two days later haggling over what stays and what goes, it would have been a different story.

God knew this would happen. He knew Joseph would get the Holy Family down to Egypt. That’s why, over 750 years before, he had predicted it through the prophet Hosea. As the Children of Israel found refuge in Egypt under the days of Jacob, so Jesus, the Savior promised to Israel, would find refuge in Egypt. It’s one of the ways we know Jesus is the Savior, so look for no other.

After Herod’s death God continued to include Joseph’s will and purpose into his plans.

“So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there (21-22).”

Joseph recognizes wickedness. He recognizes threats as only a poor man can. The Lord rewards his wariness with certainty. Another warning in a dream. Joseph goes back to the only other town he knows—Nazareth. Again, God had foreseen this. He had predicted it through his prophets. Jesus would be a Nazarene, set apart for service to God, not by how he appeared and lived, but by where he was from.

Without Joseph’s prompt obedience, without Joseph’s wariness, well, you know what would have happened. Travel was a big thing in ancient times, because people, under normal circumstances and times, they tended not to leave their birthplaces. Joseph had already made two big upheavals in his life. It made perfect sense he was coming home to Nazareth for good.

God didn’t move the Holy Family. Joseph did. God worked through Joseph’s fears and wariness to keep the baby Jesus safe. The Promise, endangered so often by past wars, famines and unbelieving kings, was rescued just as it was coming to be fulfilled.

Now, if the baby Jesus was not spared these dangers, why should we think we will be? At our baptisms we were not promised a life of security and ease. We were promised something far greater—whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Cling to what God promised. Don’t gripe when we don’t get what we imagined.

But how can I overlook this? If the baby Jesus was rescued from these dangers, we will also be rescued!

God is faithful. He will never leave those who trust in him. But he knows we need something more. We need assurances we can see and touch. And since God knows we need something more he puts brothers and sisters in the faith in our life so we can move forward.

That is a reason Christians gather around the Word in public worship. That’s one of the reasons we gather for the work of spreading the saving message of Jesus to others. We get to know each other. We grow together in our faith. We recognize the good in each other. So often friendships fall to the wayside in life. We’ve had Kindergarten buddies, Junior High Best Friends Forever. We’ve had friends, fellow moms and dads from Little League and the swim team. We used to work together. We used to be neighbors. It usually is an outside bond that unites us, but, when that bond is gone, the relationships fall apart. Ask any grade school principal reminiscing about past PTAs.

Here is a relationship that will not fall apart. We are joined to Jesus. We are saved by his Word. We have a church family that welcomes us. We care for each other. We help each other. We pray for each other. And if, at times, it did not seem like there was that care, nine times out of ten it was because we didn’t let people know what was going on inside us. The family of God does not have the omniscience of the Lord.

But my point is this. Together we move forward. The Lord helps us get through by our brothers and sisters. In them we find encouragement, understanding, emotional support and wise advice. Jesus without Joseph would have been murdered in Bethlehem. Jesus with Joseph is the Savior from Nazareth.

He Walks in Danger All the Way

1. If God had not been on our side all would be lost.

2. With brothers and sisters in the faith we move forward.

It didn’t take long. It didn’t take long after Christmas for the devil to start up his attacks on us. Don’t be surprised. Be prepared. Rely on the Lord for victory. Lean on brothers and sisters in the faith for encouragement.

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