It’s all about Jesus
In a Series, The Future is Behind Us
Isaiah 63:7–14 // Galatians 4:4–7 // Matthew 2:13–23 // Hebrews 4:15–16
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today is from Matthew 2 and more, all centering on this sentiment, Matthew 2 verse 14, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.” Our text thus far.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It’s all about Jesus. Today we consider the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and this extraordinary story of his young life, one that only Matthew records, the departure of the Magi, Jesus and the Holy Family fleeing from Judea to Egypt and from Egypt to Nazareth. Today we consider who Jesus was, why the Scriptures had to be fulfilled in this way for him and for Mary and for Joseph, and to what end Matthew records these events. Today we FIND ourselves getting LOST in the story of Jesus.
And when I think of that, I think of way back in Seminary school when I had a creative project. I wrote a little book and illustrated it, I printed it, and then someone asked for about 15 copies of it. And I tell you, making those was about the most fun that I’ve ever had. Writing and illustrating, printing and cutting, stitching and taping, I remember getting lost in the work, in the rhythm, getting lost in the action, I found myself getting lost in the story before me.
Three points for today as we find ourselves getting lost in how it’s all about Jesus. Three points for today and two directions in conclusion. First, Jesus goes where Israel has gone. Second Jesus succeeds even where Israel has failed. Third, Jesus dies as Israel’s ransom payment.
First, Jesus goes where Israel has (gone). Matthew makes that very clear in our text. That, he says is the reason behind the reason why Jesus and the holy Family go to Egypt.... yes, to escape the wrath of King Herod but even more to be walking in the steps of ancient Israel.
Israel had gone down to Egypt to escape famine and came back named as God’s firstborn son, bought and paid for by the Passover Feast and by the Parting of the Red Sea. Jesus, God’s own son from the very beginning, follows the course of the people Israel down to Egypt and back again. He goes where Israel has gone.
Or, to say it in a different way, this new thing that God is doing in Jesus is not so different from the way God has worked in the past. There are themes to God’s work. The work feels familiar even when God does something new. Or, perhaps to say it best, as Numbers says, as James says, as Isaiah says, as Malachi says, as the Psalms say, God does not change, and it’s always been all about Jesus. He has laid out Jesus’s path in a way that is consistent with his work in all time, and every action of Jesus in the Gospel carries with it echoes of all the ways God has already worked. It’s all about Jesus, and Jesus goes where Israel has gone.
Second, Jesus succeeds even where Israel has (failed). Israel went to Egypt because the children of Israel sold Joseph into slavery, but “what you desired for evil, God worked out for the good of many.” The Holy Family goes to Egypt in obedience to an angel of the Lord. Israel left Egypt with fear in their hearts, longing to go back to their former masters. The Holy Family goes back in obedience to what God had commanded succeeding where Israel had stumbled.
Even beyond our text for today, we find this to be true. Israel had been tempted 40 years in the desert, but “they rebelled and grieved God’s Holy Spirit.” Jesus, in just the next chapter, starts his ministry by going out in to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil himself for 40 days, withstanding temptation when Israel had failed.
Israel received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, and they were not able follow them, even the moment after they were given. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expands those commandments. He raises the bar. He increases the requirements of God’s Law, and he keeps them, every little bit.
Israel was to be a light lifted up among the nations that would draw all peoples to the One True God, but in the end they were scattered and lost. Jesus was lifted up on a cross on Calvary, drawing all of the sin of the whole world to rest upon his shoulders.
It’s all about Jesus, and Jesus succeeds even where Israel has failed.
Third, Jesus dies as Israel’s (ransom payment). Great Exodus event where God frees Israel from 400 years of slavery was a great and mighty work, but in the end, it was merely a sign of something greater. What is that greater thing? God had ransomed Israel from Egypt in the first Exodus, and in the second Exodus, God ransoms all believers from death.
The author to the Hebrews sums it all up like this, in chapter 4: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Dear friends in Christ, Jesus is the ransom payment that all of Israel points to. Jesus is the promise of Israel, the hope of Israel. Jesus is the point of Israel, that God would be drawing all people to himself in Jesus, that God would be blessing all the nations through Jesus, that God would be placing the whole of his Divinity into Jesus to be tempted in every way, to cry all of our tears, to suffer as we suffer, to rejoice as we rejoice, to live as humanity lives so that by his death, we might live. He sympathizes with our weaknesses. He reigns over us on a throne of grace.
OK, Pastor Muther, that’s great, but what’s the payoff? What does this all mean? The author to the Hebrews gives us two directions in the end: Let us receive mercy. Let us find grace to help in time of need.
Direction number one: In light of all of this, let us receive mercy. Or, in other words, we look (back). We look back to know what we’ve known from our mother’s knee. We look back to hear the Word of God that we’ve always known and realize that the Christian journey is more a journey deeper than it is a journey beyond. That is the direction of the Christian life. We look back to find ourselves lost a little bit more in the wonder of the Christ-child, in the audacity of his grace, in the poetry of his salvation.
Direction number two: Let us find grace to help in time of need. Or, in other words, we look (around). Whether Mary and Joseph were in Egypt, in Bethlehem, or in Nazareth, their calling was the same. Whether Mary and Joseph’s nearest neighbors were the Magi or fellow construction workers, their calling was the same: to receive the grace given to them in their time of need, and to spend the rest of their days giving that grace out to their family, to their neighbor, to their community. That is the direction of the Christian life. We receive all that God would give us in this sanctuary so that we can go out from this place into all of the other places where God would send us, so that his grace might be apparent to others in their time of need.
The kingdom of heaven is like a large church in a small town that finds they are losing themselves in the story of Jesus today. They find themselves looking back to remember God’s grace for all their years. They are looking around knowing that God is using them to show his grace in times of need.
The kingdom of heaven is like a couple for whom every chapter of life serves to deepen their understanding of God’s love and grace. Every grandchild that they hold serves to remind them that God loves that little one more deeply than they can know. Every neighbor that they see reminds them how God helped them in their time of need and reminds them that it’s all about Jesus.
Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther