Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Matthew 2
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

I rode my bike early this morning, a short 15 mile loop that I typically ride when I want to be done in an hour or so. Only this morning's ride was not typical. It was faster than usual. Lately, my average speed is typically 14 mph. Today I averaged 16 mph. That's close to my average when I was at my lowest weight and peak of fitness. I hope that kind of pace can become typical again, but it will take some discipline and training on my part for that to become typical again.

Today, as I was reading Matthew 2 I came across something else that was "typical." It was an Old Testament passage that Matthew quoted in connection with the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem. In referring to the grief instigated by Herod's heartless attempt to destroy the Christ child, Matthew quoted Jeremiah 31:15. Matthew wrote: "Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 'A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'" (Matthew 2:17-18)

Jeremiah's words refer directly to the grief of the Jews whose children were slaughtered when Israel was taken into captivity by the Babylonians -- a consequence of their idolatry against the Lord. Jeremiah's mournful words, however, are actually found in a hopeful context, one in which the prophet is foretelling God's future restoration of his people Israel. This restoration after 70 years of captivity, ultimately resulted in the birth of the Messiah.

When cries of grief arose from Bethlehem as a result of Herod's jealousy against the One born King of the Jews, Matthew recognized that the grief of the Jews whose children were slaughtered by the Babylonians was typical of the grief of the Jews whose children were slaughtered by King Herod in Bethlehem. Thus, the earlier weeping and wailing became a "type" of, or was typical of the later mourning by God's people.

The two events are tied together because the earlier grieving was alleviated by the restoration from captivity which led to the fulfillment of the prophesies of the Messiah. And the later grieving was alleviated because the Messiah himself was spared from Herod's sword, and was able to become the Savior of mankind by his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

This is one of many, many Messianic prophesies that Matthew refers to throughout his Gospel. Some of those prophesies are like this one, "types" of the Christ to come or of events surrounding his coming. Many others are direct prophesies of Jesus Christ, his life, ministry, death and resurrection. We can thank God for these prophesies and their fulfillment. They give us great confidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Son of God who came into the world to save us from our sins. And our response to this Good News should be typical -- praise and thanksgiving.

Pastoral Commentary for Matthew 2
Author: Pastor Zach

My wife Melody loves her birthday. She loves to talk about her birthday, she loves to celebrate her birthday, and she loves to drop me little hints as to what she might like for her birthday. I, on the other hand, am not nearly so fond of my big day. I would just assume have a nice quiet evening at home rather than a rowdy party, and a simple meal with my wife rather than a mountain of gifts. Because I very much prefer a low-key and private birthday celebration, I have often stood astonished at Melody's desire for a high-energy and public birthday party. I have asked her more than once, "What's the big deal about birthdays?" To which she has repeatedly replied, "Your birthday is the day God brought you into the world. And that's a big deal! It's your special day, so we need to celebrate!"

"It's your special day." This is Melody's credo concerning birthdays.

Our reading for today from Matthew 2 begins thusly: "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod... " (verse 1). In Greek, the phrase "during the time of King Herod" is en hemeras Herodou, meaning literally, "In the days of Herod." Herod, it seems, didn't just have a special day, he had special days. Every day was like his birthday.

Indeed it was. For history records Herod as a hopelessly ruthless, maniacally egotistical, and incurably narcissistic ruler. His monetary wealth surpassed not only that of Caesar, but that of the collective Roman Empire. He built himself a palace, the remains of which can still be seen today, in which he literally raised the of a hill so that his mountaintop mansion would appear more imposing to those who dwelt below. He also constructed a city around his private fortress that, in the words of the first century Jewish historian Josephus, was "second to none." What would he call such a brazen display of his so-called majesty? He modestly named it the Herodium, of course. As he lay on his deathbed, Herod was so concerned that no one would mourn his passing (a justifiable concern due to his merciless brutality) that he ordered the dignitaries of Judea be locked inside the Hippodrome in Jericho and slaughtered upon his death so that there would be weeping and mourning when he died, even if it wasn't for him. These were the days of King Herod.

"In the days of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him'" (verses 1-2). Matthew begins with the "days of King Herod," but he ends with the star of the King of Jews. For the days of King Herod are being swallowed up by the dawning of the day of a new King. For the star that these Magi have seen is a "Morning Star" (Revelation 22:16). A new day is on its way. And this new day is not a day of hopeless ruthlessness, maniacal egotism, and incurable narcissism; instead, this new day is a day of gentle compassion, contagious humility, and salvific selflessness. For this new day is the new "day of the Lord Jesus" (2 Corinthians 1:14).

Perhaps you sometimes feel as though you live in the days of King Herod. Maybe you are victim of your boss's ego. Maybe you look longingly at the palaces others live in while you are barely making ends' meat. Maybe you simply live in fear of all the violence and callousness that seems to permeate today's headlines. If this is you, then this is your promise: Jesus, the Morning Star, is rising for you. The days of King Herod in all of their sinfulness and brokenness are waning while the new Day of the Lord Jesus is rushing to culminate history and bring salvation. And that day will be bigger and better than even a birthday. I hope it comes soon. Because even though I don't always enjoy a large celebration for my birthday, I'm sure I'll be up for a huge party for the Day of the Lord Jesus. After all, that's a day truly worth celebrating... no matter what kind of a birthday boy or girl you are.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2020-06-05 08:21:14