The Nobody-Messiah From Nowhere
Truth Taught-The Old Testament teaches that Jesus the Messiah-King would have no worldly status and be despised and rejected by people
Jesus is not going to be the Messiah-King that people think He’s going to be. He is not interested in the status quo… the existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues.
Status is a big deal in our society. And status is often measured in very superficial terms: like according to what kind of clothes you wear, what kind of car you drive, the house you own and where you live. The people that our popular culture idolizes and regards as successful are those who possess the right outward symbols of status, power and wealth.
But this is not only a modern phenomenon. As the author of Ecclesiastes once wrote: There is nothing new under the sun. In the first century Greek and Roman world, the church was to a large extent mirroring the value system of pagan culture by looking for a Messiah-king with social, political and celebrity status.
In Chapters 1-2 of Matthew we read about a new king born in the powerful and prestigious city of Bethlehem. His name is Jesus. How does he stack up against the popular Jewish expectations of their Messianic king?
Now, as a royal son of David and one born in the city of David there were understandably certain expectations of Jesus – expectations that were shaped by the OT history of great kings that ruled in the Promised Land, like David and his Son, Solomon. If you remember, these kings had massive amounts of wealth and they ruled with great displays of outward power and might. To a degree, then, you cannot blame your average Jew for expecting a Messiah-king who would famously re-establish his throne in Jerusalem and drive all of Israel’s foes into the backcountry of Assyria and Babylon.
However, there are already clues in the birth story of Jesus so far that suggest Jesus will execute his kingship in a way that doesn’t quite line up with the popular Jewish newspaper headlines of the day.
Shaking up the status quo
One clue that starts to raise eyebrows is the fact that the parents of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, are not people of status and influence. They are nobodies. They are both from an obtuse place called Nazareth: a village with a population of about 480 hidden away in the hills of Galilee. And Joseph is a lowly carpenter.
So far, from human standards Jesus isn’t staking up to be much of King. He doesn’t look like a King, He isn’t from a wealthy family. He doesn’t come from a prestigious city. However, from God’s standards Jesus is perfect in every way. He is God’s Son and we have seen so many acts of divine providence keeping Jesus alive and directing His early life.
The real issue in today’s passage is what sort of Messiah-King are you looking for to be your Savior? This question could have been asked throughout the centuries. The Jews missed Him because their expectations were wrong. Those in Jerusalem missed Him because they thought the Messiah-King would come with amazing celebrity fame and status. Jesus would set the status quo on its head.
Matthew 2:19–23 (ESV)
19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
King Herod suddenly died. It seems fitting that an evil king such as Herod would die and I’m not sure about you but I’m all for it. It seems a fitting end to such evil. Josephus who was a Jewish historian of the day said this about Herod’s death…
He died of this: “Ulcerated entrails, putrefied and maggot-filled organs, constant convulsions, foul breath, and neither physicians nor warm baths led to recovery.”
Herod literally rotted from the inside out. So, Herod the Great died.
Verse 20 again gives us Matthew’s emphasis and shows that Jesus was the Son of Mary but not Joseph.
Rise, take the child and his mother
The child, Jesus Christ is the central figure in all these accounts. The normal order would have been speaking to Joseph, take your wife and son and flee. That’s not the way Matthew states this. Clearly, he wants to remind us that this child is virgin conceived and He is the central focus of the text.
We also see again the immediate response of Joseph. His obedience to God’s commands plays a major role in Jesus being spared from those who would want to kill Him.
When Joseph, Mary and Jesus left Egypt to return to Israel, they probably returned first to Bethlehem. Many commentators put them in Bethlehem. While they are returning to the Land of Israel as the angel of the Lord has told them, they discover another truth that brings fear to Joseph and Mary…
King Herod’s son, Archelaus now reigns over Judah.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.
So, Joseph brings his family back to where the journey began.
Matthew 2:14 (ESV)
14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt
Upon the death of Herod, three of his sons became rulers as his territory was divided among them by Rome.
Archelaus– reigned over Judah
Antipas– reigned over Galilee. This is the Herod we will meet when Jesus ministers in the region of Galilee.
Matthew 14:1–3 (ESV)
14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 3 For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife,
Philip- became tetrarch of territories north and east of the Jordan
Joseph was right to be afraid of Archelaus because there were already signs that he was as evil as his father was. He was a chip off the old block. You know, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Time would prove that Archelaus would be an evil ruler without his father’s political skills and Rome would depose him and set up in his place a Roman Governer, Pontius Pilate.
Again relying on the historical account from Josephus’ Antiquities, he records that Archelaus began his reign by flexing his authority and had 3,000 Jewish worshippers slaughtered during the Passover in Jerusalem.
Joseph was afraid to go to Jerusalem, and for good reason.
Joseph was once again warned by God not to go to Jerusalem but rather head north to the Land of Galilee where it was easier to hide and where God’s Word would be fulfilled.
and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Matthew does something a little different here in this text. Rather than quoting from Isaiah or Jeremiah or another prophet he gives us a theme that most all the prophets gave us in their writings. The most compelling interpretation, however – which dates as far back as Jerome in the 4th century – builds on evidence in our text, which can easily be overlooked by us modern readers – but would have raised flags for the original audience. That is, this fulfillment quotation is the only one so far which is not made by a single prophet, but rather prophets in the plural. This fact seems to support the suggestion that Matthew’s prophetic allusion here is not an unknown singular instance, but rather a repeated theme found in the OT prophets in general. So what, then, is this theme?
The theme is that Jesus the Messiah-King is humble and lowly in nature. He doesn’t spring from wealth and fame. He is not the Son of a celebrity or famous.
Well, I think we already have insight – paradoxically – from the fact that Nazareth does not exist in the OT! Therefore, to call someone who claims to be Messiah a “Nazarean” is to ask for ridicule. In other words, because Nazareth was for the most part unknown, calling someone a Nazarean was the equivalent of dismissing him, or even hurling verbal abuse at him.
In Jesus’ day, Nazareth was considered a backwater village from which nothing good can come.
John 1:43–46 (ESV)
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
To be from Nazareth brings scorn and ridicule, and many people question Jesus’ validity because of His hometown.
John 7:40–44 (ESV)
40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
However, there are many passages in Scripture that tell us the Messiah will be despised and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:1–3 (ESV)
Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Many would find reason for hating our Savior once they learn He was a Nazarene, and so in settling in Nazareth, Jesus begins to fulfill His work as Messiah.
The bottom line here is that this theme of humiliation is not incompatible with Christ’s title as royal Messiah. This fact has been confirmed to us by OT prophesy. And it will be a theme that continues to be developed throughout the rest of the gospel until it finds its climax with Christ’s public humiliation and disgrace on the cross at Golgotha.
Jesus, the royal son of David who was born in the city of David is also the Jesus of Nazareth.
So, let me ask you, what sort of Savior are you looking for? One who has rockstar celebrity status? Or One who is humble and lowly, literally a nobody from nowhere.
Maybe you’ve been seeking status and significance for yourself, all your life. We must remember that God is not impressed with worldly fame. He isn’t swayed by movie stars. Jesus was not impressive according to the world’s standards. Perhaps you get very little recognition in this life. Maybe you don’t have the right status symbols to fit in or be considered a success.
But notice how Jesus and his gospel turn the values of this world upside down!
1 Corinthians 1:26–28 (ESV)
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,
Beloved, the Son of God humbled himself and took to himself the frailty of human flesh, and lived a life of public shame and disgrace. Chose to call the wrong side of the tracks, home. Why? So that he might identify with us in our sin and suffering – in order to overcome it. Jesus became nothing for nobodies; Jesus was rejected for the rejected; Jesus became sin for us.
Beloved, this is your Savior. He has confounded the world by conquering through weakness: from the embarrassment of being called a Nazarene to the curse of being nailed to a cruel Roman cross. And he did it for your forgiveness and to earn for you eternal life.
Today, if you’re a nobody according to the world’s standards it’s okay because in Christ you are deeply treasured and loved by God. Jesus came to save the humble and lowly. He came to save regular people just like us. In order to do that He made Himself lowly to save the lowly.
Are you chasing after significance in other places besides Jesus? Are you needy for the world’s approval? Do you seek the affirmation of others? If so, God is calling to repent of the sin of the approval of man and to begin seeking His approval in Christ
We must understand we cannot have both.
Seek to be humble like Jesus and in Christ you will be loved by the Father and who cares what people think.
Maybe following Christ and seeking to be obedient to Him has brought you into conflict with family and friends. Maybe you’ve been wondering what you should do and how you should respond? Be loving and caring toward them but remember God has called you to a different life with an entirely different worldview. His ways are right never bend or let up follow Christ and in this world we will have trials.
John 16:33 (ESV)
33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary
A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles
A Gospel of Matthew by France
Matthew by Craig Bloomberg
Matthew by Doriani
Matthew by Charles Price
Matthew by Leon Morris
Blue Letter Bible