Matthew Chapter 2

Wise men from the east

1 When Jesus was born in Beth lehem, in Judea, during the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem.

2 They asked, ¡°Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw the rising of his star in the east and have come to honor him.¡±

3 When Herod heard this he was great ly disturbed and with him all Jerusalem.

4 He immediately called a meeting of all high-ranking priests and the scribes, and asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

5 ¡°In the town of Beth lehem in Judea,¡± they told him, ¡°for this is what the proph et wrote:

6 And you, Beth lehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the clans of Judah, for from you will come a leader, the one who is to shepherd my people Israel.¡±

7 Then Herod secretly called the wise men and asked them the precise time the star appeared.

8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem with the instruction, ¡°Go and get precise information about the child. As soon as you have found him, report to me, so that I too may go and honor him.¡±

9 After the meeting with the king, they set out. The star that they had seen in the East went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.

10 The wise men were overjoyed on seeing the star again.

11 They went into the house and when they saw the child with Mary his mother, they knelt and worshiped him. They opened their bags and offered him their gifts of gold, in cense and myrrh.

12 In a dream they were warned not to go back to Herod, so they returned to their home country by another way.

Escape to Egypt

13 After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, ¡°Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you for Herod will soon be looking for the child in order to kill him.¡±

14 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left that night for Egypt,

15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled: I called my son out of Egypt.

16 When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old or under. This was done in line with what he had learned from the wise men about the time when the star appeared.

17 In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled:

18 A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation: Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.

Joseph and Mary return to Nazareth

19 After Herod¡¯s death, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said,

20 ¡°Get up, take the child and his mother and go back to the land of Israel, because those who tried to kill the child are dead.¡±

21 So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

22 But when Joseph heard that Archilaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. He was given further instructions in a dream, and went to the region of Galilee.

23 There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way what was said by the prophets was fulfilled: He shall be called a Nazorean.


Comments Mathew, Chapter 2

• 2.1 From the first Christian generations there have been popular narratives trying to relate all that was not known about Jesus and not part of the Gospel. These closely resembled the Jewish stories of the childhood of Abraham and Moses. The wise men, the star and the massacre of the children of Bethlehem have sprung directly from those stories and it is useless today to study astronomical maps to find a comet that was visible at that time.

In this chapter then, Matthew uses these stories without the slightest problem about their authenticity. He uses them to show how Jesus lived in his own way what his people had undergone. That accounts for the quotations from the Old Testament with each one repeating the phrase: ¡°in this way¡­ was fulfilled¡­.¡± It is a way of saying that the texts should be reread. They spoke of the people, and at the same time they announced the coming of Jesus. In a way, he would live what had already been lived ¨C journeying, searching, rejoicing, grieving ¨C but with him all would have a new meaning.

The Wise Men could have been respected priests and seers of Zoroastrian religion. Here they stand for all the non-biblical religions. While the Jewish priests, chiefs of the people of God, do not receive notice of the birth of Jesus, God communicates the news to some of his friends in the pagan world. This lesson is good for all times: Jesus is the Savior of all people, and not only of those who belong to the Church.

The star reminds us that God calls each one according to him or her own personality. Jesus calls the fishermen of Galilee after a miraculous catch of fish; the pagans who look at the stars, God calls by means of a star. God knows how to communicate with us by means of events and through our own ideals, which guide us as stars. Whatever be the way, it will lead us to the one who is the light of God.

• 13. In relating the story about the slaughter of innocent children and the flight into Egypt, Matthew quotes two verses from the prophets Hosea and Jeremiah about the trials and sufferings of God¡¯s people in past times. Jesus must live in exile and anguish, as did his ancestors. Persecution begins with his birth and will follow him till his death. Mary (and Joseph to a lesser degree) was associated with Jesus¡¯ sufferings and saving mission.

Christian tradition has always held that the ¡°Innocents¡± associated with the Passion of Christ without having wished it also shared in his glory without having merited it. This invites us to be mindful of the fact that the mysterious love of God envelops millions of massacred children and other hundreds of millions killed before seeing the light of day. What should we think of so many stifled possibilities? Indivi duals and society responsible for this disaster suffer the consequences; but God has all destinies in hand, he knows them in advance, and no one by destroying life is able to limit God¡¯s generosity. No matter how much innocent blood the enemies of the Gospel spill, they will not be able to extinguish the Church or to block God¡¯s plans.

• 19. The return to Nazareth. Here we have the end of these stories that are intended to introduce us to the Gospel. They announce the mission of Christ: savior misjudged by his own, hounded by authority, he will turn towards the pagan nations. For Galilee was considered by the Jews of Judea as half-foreign and pagan (4:15). Jesus was to remain thirty years in this small village where he grew up and worked as a ¡°carpenter¡± (Mk 6:3) while the world waited for salvation.

• 23. He shall be called a Nazo rean. Matthew plays with this word that brings to mind nezer, or shoot (Is 11:1) and nazorite (Num 6). In those days there were religious groups who preached and baptized, as did John, and they were considered nazorites. Jesus was both nezer and nazorite.

Many people wonder what Jesus did be tween the ages of twelve, when he was seen in the Temple (Lk 2:41), and thirty, the approximate age of Jesus when he began his ministry. False pretenders take advantage of this Gospel¡¯s silence to speculate that Jesus went to India to learn magic and how to work miracles from the Hindu wonder workers, or even that he visited some outer-space goblins. It does not take much to imagine things!

Let us remember, first of all, that the Gospel is not a biography of Jesus, a narration of his life from birth to death. It seeks only to tell us the most important deeds and words of Jesus by which he gives us his message. It does not tell us what Jesus looked like, whether he was tall or stout, blond or dark, and many other things that did not interest the first Christians. The Gospels of Mark and John open with Jesus¡¯ baptism by John, after which Jesus began teaching. Later on, Matthew and Luke wrote a little about Jesus¡¯ childhood to help us understand the secret of his person.

Secondly, let us read Matthew 13:54-56. The people of Nazareth, astounded by his deeds, do not say: surely Jesus has learned this in foreign countries because he was abroad so much. They wonder: what has happened to the car penter¡¯s son? We have known him for a long time¡­ what has happened to him?

Thirdly, we can say that to speak the word of God is at the same time to speak a word of human experience. The prophets speak words of God, not as a tape recorder, but as people who feel something and have something to cry out. Jesus could not speak the word of God if he had not acquired, as a man, an exceptional wisdom of what is in side man (Jn 2:25). The years Jesus spent in Nazareth were not really lost. He absorbed the culture of his people and observed events affecting his nation experiencing manual labor, human relations, feelings, suffering and oppression. Jesus had to experience all these things to be our savior, so that his words would be true, weighty and valuable for all times.