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December 8, 2021

Early Years of Christ's Life Marked By Suffering and Trauma

Christmas plays always end with Jesus in the manger, the heavenly host singing around Him, and the shepherds and wise men bowed at his feet. But that is hardly where the birth narrative ends in the gospel of Matthew. 

After Jesus was born, King Herod sent soldiers to go search for Jesus to have him killed. God warned Joseph to flee in a dream, so Mary and Joseph with their newborn baby traveled by night to Egypt. Upon arriving they heard that, in a rage, King Herod had ordered all the male children under two in the town of Bethlehem to be killed. After a few years, King Herod died. Mary, Joseph, and the toddler Jesus returned to Israel, but then heard that Archelaus, Herod’s son, was also a threat to them. They finally arrived in Nazareth, safe, but with a terrifying and emotionally challenging few years under their belt. 

Christmas religious nativity concept: Silhouette pregnant Mary and Joseph with a donkey on Christmas eve background

In this podcast by BibleProject, the Matthew 2 narrative is explored to give listeners a deeper understanding of what the first years of Jesus’ life were like and how the terror, suffering, and trauma of the years can speak to the suffering we experience today. Oftentimes, believers think that because they trust in Jesus as their Savior, He will and should protect them from harm, give them the desires of their heart, and generally provide a comfortable life for them. But when we read Scripture, especially this story of how Jesus entered the world and what his and his parent’s life was like, it forces us to question our expectations for comfort and provision. 

How would you feel about traveling almost a hundred miles on a donkey while pregnant so that the government could tax you more money? What would it have been like to give birth away from your family in a barn? Can you imagine the terror of having to flee with a newborn hundreds of miles for fear of men killing your child? Can you imagine the guilt and grief over hearing that hundreds of other children were killed because you protected your own child? What would it have been like to return to Nazareth with a young child, knowing your pregnancy was still under scrutiny by everyone who knew you? 

The basic realities of Mary and Joseph’s life, as well as Jesus’, were incredibly difficult and challenging. When we meet suffering, it is easy to question whether God really cares or is even there, but we see in the birth narrative in Matthew, that even with God incarnate as their child, Mary and Joseph had to walk by faith and trust that God was in their circumstances. 

Intensive biblical study is a foundational element of Christian Union ministries. As we study the text, who God is, who we are, and how God works in our lives becomes clearer—studying the Bible is essential for every believer to continue to mature in Christ. Christian Union ensures that students, professionals, and people across the nation have access to thought-provoking and in-depth Bible study so that they might deepen their faith, step into more boldness in Christ, and grow in walking by the Spirit. 

Listen to the full podcast here

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