Matthew 2 addresses two very teenage issues that are worthy of mention. Most students have some conception of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. They know he was born in a stable, laid in a manger, and that shepherds came to see him after his birth. Some are aware that the wise men came at a later time “to the house” to see “the young child” – perhaps many months after his birth (Matthew 2:11).
They know of the evil king Herod who slew “all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof…” (Matthew 2:16). It’s putting all these details into a framework that relate to young people that can be challenging. One thing is certain from this text: God isn’t going to let anything happen to His Son. Jesus had a specific mission to fulfill and Heavenly Father did His part to assure that the Savior of the world would live to perform his atonement.
By looking deeper into the text we see that many prophecies are fulfilled in this story. We have the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, in the land of Juda (Matthew 2:6 – see Micah 5:2), that Heavenly Father would call His Son out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15 – see Hosea 11:1), and finally that a virgin would conceive and bring forth God’s Only Son (Matthew 1:21-23 – see Isaiah 7:14).
Involved in the details of our lives
Heavenly Father also provided means whereby Joseph and Mary could take Jesus into Egypt. The gifts brought by the magi probably financed their journey south. Both Joseph and the wise men were warned in a dream of the danger posed by King Herod. Both Joseph and the wise men heeded this warning, and by their obedience, furthered God’s work here on earth. Truly our God is involved in the very details of our lives! He is mighty to save and He wants us to be aware that He is involved in our struggle.
The following story illustrates this truth:
Some years ago (Elder Robert R. Steuer of the Seventy) served as mission president in São Paulo, Brazil. It was his practice with newly arriving missionaries to give them real “missionary experiences” on their very first day as full-time proselyting missionaries. To do this, after their orientation and a dinner at the mission home, they would be sent out that evening with their assigned companions. The seasoned missionary would take the new missionaries out either tracting, street contacting, or giving discussions.
In one of the groups of new missionaries, there was a Brazilian elder who came from the far north of Brazil. It took this missionary about three days travel by bus just to reach the MTC in São Paulo for his initial training. On that first evening, after having a good meal, President Steuer announced that the new missionaries would then go out and do missionary work. This new missionary’s companion decided they would go tracting, a frightening experience for this shy new elder. The senior companion said he would take the first door and told his companion to watch closely how it was done as the second door would be his.
The young elder protested, saying he was too frightened, but his companion proceeded to the first door. When this young elder knocked on the second door, the senior companion stepped back and indicated for him to proceed. He shrank back. When the door opened, to the young elder’s utter astonishment, the person standing there was his older sister. She had run away from home three or four years earlier. The family had not heard from her since and had no idea where she was, or even if she was still alive. One can imagine the sweetness of that reunion and the tears of joy that were shed that night.
As he concluded the story, Elder Steuer said two things that deeply impressed me and made the point I’m trying to make. He said, “Not only was his sister one of the first nonmembers he contacted in the mission field, but she became his first convert baptism as well.” Then he added, “As you think about that, remember, at that time there were between thirteen and fourteen million people in São Paulo!”
When things like this happen, the world tends to use words like coincidence or good fortune to explain them. “It was an incredible coincidence,” they say. “It was really fortunate how everything came together.” As a popular saying goes, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” But in my experience, it is just the opposite. What we call coincidence is God’s way of letting Himself be known. A metaphor used by another author is a better reflection of how I see it: “Coincidence is the word we use when we can’t see the levers and the pulleys.” 1
The odds of that missionary finding his sister among fourteen million people during the entire two years of his mission would be astronomical. Yet it happened on his very first night in the mission. Here was not only a stunning example of the Lord’s tender mercies, but the timing and the combination of circumstances that brought it about were also amazing. It was almost as though the Lord was signing His name to the event so they would know it was unmistakably His. 2
I asked my students, “What would have happened if the events did not occur in the order that they occurred in this chapter? How could Joseph and Mary have made the long journey to Egypt had they not received the generous gifts from the magi?”
What if Joseph did not heed the dream and left to go into Egypt? Think of the detailed prophecies and their fulfillment: Jesus born in Bethlehem, brought out of Egypt, and later dwelling in Nazareth (Matthew 2:6,15,23). God took care of His Son. If He can do this, He can take care of us – we just need to trust Him.
1. Emma Bull, as cited by Jerry Earl Johnston, “Ideally Speaking,” Deseret News, January 2, 2010, E8.
2. Elder Gerald N. Lund, Divine Signatures: The Confirming Hand of God, p. 19-20.