When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”
Because the Romans had trusted Herod they allowed him to reign over a very considerable territory. Herod guessed that the Romans would not allow any of his sons to rule over such a large domain, so in his will he left a part of his lands to each of his sons. Archelaus was given Judea. Archelaus was a bad king; he appears to have tried to ‘out-Herod’ his father! At the beginning of his reign he slaughtered 3000 of the most influential people in the country. His brother, Herod Antipas, who was given Galilee, was much more benign. And so Joseph, in a second dream, was directed towards Galilee. This reading demonstrates both the love and care exercised over Joseph and his family by a loving father God and the careful listening and obedience of a man who knows he is a child of God.
The final part of the reading seems to be a slight enigma. Numerous theories have been put forward, but none obscure the fact that there does not appear to be a suitable prophesy concerning Nazareth or a Nazarene in the Old Testament. So, we don’t know what words of which prophets are fulfilled in Jesus being a Nazarene. One of the simplest suggestions is that Matthew says the obscurity of Nazareth fulfils the Old Testament expectations of a humble and rejected Messiah.
Lord, as we read of how you looked after Joseph and his family we are reminded of how you still do that today for us, and we give thanks. We are also reminded of how we need to listen carefully to your words and guidance to hear your message to us. I pray that you would give us ears to hear and the courage and wisdom to do your bidding. Amen