Matthew thus closes the chapter on Herod’s part in the history of the Gospel by these words.
And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
It seems strange that he suddenly points to a man in the wilderness by the name John and then the account of the baptism of Jesus.
Matthew again cites the fulfilment of another Scripture.
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
The reference to Elijah would be deliberate so was the reference to John’s clothing. It is clear Matthew being a Jew was mindful of this passage of Scripture.
2 Kings 1:1-17
The Lord’s Judgment on Ahaziah
1 After Ahab’s death, Moab rebelled against Israel. 2 Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, “Go and consult Baal- Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.”
3 But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal- Zebub, the god of Ekron?
’ 4 Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die! ’” So Elijah went.
5 When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, “Why have you come back?”
6 “A man came to meet us,” they replied. “And he said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you and tell him, “This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending men to consult Baal- Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” ’”
7 The king asked them, “What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?”
8 They replied, “He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.”
The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.”
9 Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down! ’”
10 Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men.
11 At this the king sent to Elijah another captain with his fifty men. The captain said to him, “Man of God, this is what the king says, ‘Come down at once! ’”
12 “If I am a man of God,” Elijah replied, “may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men.
13 So the king sent a third captain with his fifty men. This third captain went up and fell on his knees before Elijah. “Man of God,” he begged, “please have respect for my life and the lives of these fifty men, your servants! 14 See, fire has fallen from heaven and consumed the first two captains and all their men. But now have respect for my life!”
15 The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So Elijah got up and went down with him to the king.
16 He told the king, “This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel for you to consult that you have sent messengers to consult Baal- Zebub, the god of Ekron? Because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” 17 So he died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.
Matthew had wanted his audience to realise that:
1. The people had lived as if there is no God in Israel.
2. John was really a man of God.
3. Judgment was coming.
History tells us at the time of Jesus’s first coming, there were only one group of people who knew when and were expecting him. John was a member of this group.
They are called the Essenes. They had actually believed that the coming of the Messiah was one that is of judgement and his appearance would be that of “the end of the world” for the Judea.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
The axe is already at the root of the tree. We would know that some 40 years later, the axe came down and Jerusalem was cast into the fire.
His message hence had not been a pleasant one. However that was not the point of his coming. While he had been speaking of doom and gloom, Mathew had opened this glorious narrative with these words “He shall be called “A Nazarene””.
That was the focal point Matthew wants to deliver. The person who about to be baptised.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
While John’s focus was that of a Messiah that will bring righteousness through judgement of evil and fire, Matthew had other ideas.
So he points us to this.
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
This is deliberate and ties in with the opening of this account.
23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
What people may not know is this. There is no specific verse in the Old Testament that says this.
Hence Matthew’s understanding of this comes from the word “Nazarene” which means a branch.
What Matthew wanted to point us to, is this.
The Branch From Jesse
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord –
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
He will give decisions for the poor. He will bring justice to the needy. In other word, he will bring restoration to the poor and needy.
You may say today. “Oh. I am excluded as I am well to do but I have other problems. A divorce. Cancer. I am not accepted by my family.”
Dear friends. Matthew is setting us up for chapter 5. He wants to leave us with the thought here was a Messiah who would bring recovery to the “poor” so that he can bring us to the very next thing he wants to tell us.
The Messiah’s definition of poverty is not poverty in wealth.
It is this.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You and I are included.
He has come to bring restoration to what we lost. He is the Branch that will bring recovery to the poor. Poor in spirit.
He has come to bring the poor into the Kingdom of Heaven.