Inside the House: Matthew 2:1-23

Focus Passage: Matthew 2:1-23 (CEV)

When Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem in Judea, Herod was king. During this time some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and said, “Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard about this, he was worried, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem. Herod brought together the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”

They told him, “He will be born in Bethlehem, just as the prophet wrote,

’Bethlehem in the land
    of Judea,
you are very important
    among the towns of Judea.
From your town
    will come a leader,
who will be like a shepherd
    for my people Israel.’”

Herod secretly called in the wise men and asked them when they had first seen the star. He told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, let me know. I want to go and worship him too.”

The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 They were thrilled and excited to see the star.

11 When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshiped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him. 12 Later they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and they went back home by another road.

13 After the wise men had gone, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Hurry and take the child and his mother to Egypt! Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is looking for the child and wants to kill him.”

14 That night, Joseph got up and took his wife and the child to Egypt, 15 where they stayed until Herod died. So the Lord’s promise came true, just as the prophet had said, “I called my son out of Egypt.”

16 When Herod found out that the wise men from the east had tricked him, he was very angry. He gave orders for his men to kill all the boys who lived in or near Bethlehem and were two years old and younger. This was based on what he had learned from the wise men.

17 So the Lord’s promise came true, just as the prophet Jeremiah had said,

18 “In Ramah a voice was heard
    crying and weeping loudly.
Rachel was mourning
    for her children,
and she refused
to be comforted,
    because they were dead.”

19 After King Herod died, an angel from the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph while he was still in Egypt. 20 The angel said, “Get up and take the child and his mother back to Israel. The people who wanted to kill him are now dead.”

21 Joseph got up and left with them for Israel. 22 But when he heard that Herod’s son Archelaus was now ruler of Judea, he was afraid to go there. Then in a dream he was told to go to Galilee, 23 and they went to live there in the town of Nazareth. So the Lord’s promise came true, just as the prophet had said, “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Read Matthew 2:1-23 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While I understand why our culture has done this, what we see displayed every Christmas is not what actually happened at Jesus’ birth. While Luke’s gospel describes Jesus being wrapped up in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn, nowhere do the gospels actually tell us that the manger was present in a stable.

If we are going to blend Matthew’s visit of the wise men with Luke’s visit of the shepherds into one night, then Matthew actually tells us a key detail many people have never seen before. Matthew describes the wise men’s visit by saying, “When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshiped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him.” (v. 11)

According to Matthew, Jesus was in a house when the wise men came. Perhaps this was a small living structure that was not part of the inn. Maybe it was the place where the owner or manager of the inn lived.

However, what likely was the case is that the wise men visited a few weeks or months after Jesus was born. From Luke’s description of what Joseph and Mary are able to do, we know that their escape to Egypt didn’t happen on the night of His birth, because Joseph and Mary take Jesus when He was just days old to be dedicated at the temple.

This would mean that Herod unknowingly had this upcoming Baby-King even closer to him without him even being aware.

While tradition and culture have abbreviated Jesus birth story into one night, it is important for us to pay attention to the details of what the gospel writers tell us to understand where tradition has it right, and where it has adapted the details. When we are able to see the details we get an even more incredible picture of God’s guidance and protection during the Christmas story.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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