Christian Persecution, Pt. 1
Aug 02, 2020
Matthew 2:13-23 We Need a King: Christian Persecution
“When is it Christian Persecution?”
“If it is, then, what stage of Christian persecution are we in?”
“What color is our fire danger: green, blue, yellow, orange, or red?”
You probably are asking this question in light of the times.
- We feel pressure from our society.
- Forbes magazine (last February) recognized an increasing volume of persecution on a world scale.
Christians should not be surprised by persecution.
ESV Matthew 5:11 a"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely bon my account.
ESV John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you: a'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, bthey will also persecute you. cIf they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
ESV Romans 12:14 aBless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
ESV Galatians 6:17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
ESV 2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to alive a godly life in Christ Jesus bwill be persecuted,
Persecution directed toward Christ will be directed toward his body.
- Satan usurps Christ’s authority by gagging the Gospel and snuffing out evangelism.
- Persecution comes from both inside the church and the outside world.
- Our textual emphasis is on persecution from outside the church.
God’s Word promises persecution and suffering.
- Sometimes the two are one and the same and sometimes they are not.
- Need to know how to tell the difference to respond appropriately.
- The Bible gives clear direction for how to diagnose the difference and how to respond accordingly.
- To be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
ESV Matthew 10:16 a"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be bwise as serpents and cinnocent as doves.
Prop: Christian persecution takes four different forms
1.Conspiracy (vv. 5-12)
Each of these forms (of stages) of persecution trace back to Herod.
- Herod’s response to Christ was unabashed hatred, so he assumes the face of each persecution category.
- With this connection to Herod, there are also connections made to prophecies.
- Persecution has a face and persecution has purpose.
- Difficult to stomach but persecution is part of God’s plan.
My first point backtracks to a section we already covered.
It ties back into the question we need to answer, “When is it persecution?”
- In fact, this first form could be what we have just come out of.
- What we knew was brewing but difficult to identify.
- I grew up in Sunday school and church regularly hearing messages that persecution is coming.
As a review, Herod knowing the true King was sought after by wise men [Magi], caucused with the chief priests and scribes to deduce his birthplace.
- They unequivocally showed Jesus was to be born in “Bethlehem,” identifying him from the Davidic line (cff. Micah 5:2; 2 Sam. 5:2).
- This triggers Herod to “summon” the wise men “secretly” to caucus to figure the precise timing of Jesus' birth and age.
Bethlehem was not a big but little town.
- Probably 1,000 people there meaning at most there were 30 babies that would profile as male and 2 years or younger.
- Think about a medium-sized stadium for an NBA game – the former days when people could gather.
- Herod’s conspiring to make a target strike on the 10-month-old?
- He lies and manipulates to kill the Lord for political purposes!
- Does not want a large media hit.
- So, he quietly works behind the scenes to make his move.
- Killing only one by winning the trust of gentile converts, under the religious pretense as co-worshipper.
“How does this play out today?”
- Conspiracy leads to soft coercion, what we need to discern is happening all the time.
- Agendas through media bytes always watering down Jesus or his message.
- Effectively snuffing out the Lord’s witness.
- The witness of God’s Word.
- Discernment is the key to fighting against secret whispers that lull Christians to sleep.
- When times seem perfectly fine.
- Lies that everyone is ok with Jesus.
- “We are all really friends” and “We love Jesus too” when they in reality hate and want to remove him.
2. Coercion (vv. 13-15)
This second phase is where I actually believe we are moving toward right now.
The rate of movement from conspiracy to soft to hard coercion is undeniably fast and in our country, actually astounding.
- Verse 13 moves right into another dream with Joseph, this is one of four dreams where the Lord spoke to Joseph (cff. 1:20; 2:13, 19, 22).
- Each dream has the header: “Behold” and “an angel of the Lord” appearing to him.
- Joseph’s last two dreams subsume under this header.
- These dreams are practical interventions where God through an angel makes direct contact, telling Joseph what he would not otherwise be able to know.
- The first dream surrounds Joseph’s perceived personal crisis.
- “Do not divorce Mary, she is with child by the Holy Spirit.”
- “He is the Savior.” “Name him Jesus.”
This second dream is a direct intervention in light of persecution.
- This intervention enabled Joseph to protect his wife and stepson, the Savior.
- All of these dreams are important but these next three (including the one given to the wise men, cf. v. 12) are in the context of persecution.
Verse 13 presents rapid events.
- Again, the word “behold” is Matthew’s cue to pay attention to.
- An “angel of the Lord” “appeared” literally “shined to Joseph” (v. 13).
- God spoke through visions while someone is not sleeping, like when he appeared to Saul/Paul and John’s Revelation.
- Dreams meaning while someone sleeps.
- I do not want to make too much of this but the posture of sleeping may represent what God does while we are not doing anything.
- God’s plan is for his purposes, represented by prophecies tied to each of the angel’s messages.
The angel commands Joseph to “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt…” (v. 13).
- Joseph as to get up right then, during the night (v. 14).
- The timeframe of the attack was imminent.
- Wise men would have traveled 5 miles by caravan – had seen Jesus the same day.
- The Star took them to Jesus’ front door (v. 11).
- Herod is coming so Joseph’s responsibility as a husband and Jesus’ human father needed to pack up and go.
Called to “escape to Egypt” (v. 13).
- Sometimes it is right to run (away from trouble).
- Escape persecution.
- However, sometimes it is not!
- Stephen the first martyr preached and died.
- Early after Paul’s conversion was lowered down by a basket, behind a wall, to spare his life (cf. Acts 9:25).
ESV Acts 9:25 but his disciples took him by night and alet him down through an opening in the wall,1 lowering him in a basket.
Knowing when to stay or go has to do with discerning the Lord’s will, which is not always this clear.
- Address your immediate circumstances with God’s Word.
- Counsel with elders.
- In view of your perceived mission.
Egypt was not an obscure option for Joseph to move his family.
- Many Jews had sought refuge there and they would have blended well with other Jewish residents.
- There was a colony there called Alexandria, with 1 million Jews, so they would not be alone.
The angel concludes with hope.
- God would tell them again when they were to return, “…remain there until I tell you…” (v. 13).
Verse 14 speaks to Joseph taking the lead role in his family.
- We do not know much about this carpenter but we do know he took initiative and obeyed the Lord.
Verse 15 hints they were not there very long.
- We do not know how long or how old Jesus was when they left.
- There is a purpose for why Jesus left Egypt.
- A pictorial prophecy where Jesus fulfilled Israel’s exodus.
- Matthew connects the Jewish readers with Hosea 11:1.
- Israel was God’s son; this is God’s greater Son.
- Israel is a type or picture of Jesus (cf. John 3:14)!
ESV John 3:14 And aas Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man bbe lifted up
- Moses the deliverer, Jesus the ultimate Deliverer.
- The whole Bible story is in reference to Jesus.
- Our story likewise told in reference to Jesus.
This was hard coercion. Conspiracy leads to coercion.
Joseph was tipped off by the Lord himself that danger was coming the next day!
- Why he had to move at night!
- They had to pick up their lives for the sake of Christ and for personal safety because of this attack.
- Our circumstances will change day to day but we move and adjust in view of soft or hard coercion.
- Perhaps there is a hint of provision where Joseph and Mary had the resources to relocate that had come in the form of the wise men’s offerings.