“In every human heart there is a “little King Herod” that wants to rule and that is threatened by anything that may compromise its omnipotence and sovereignty.” –Tim Keller
The three names in the quotations from the Scripture—Bethlehem, the city of David (2:6); Egypt, the land of Exodus (2:15); and Ramah, the mourning place of the exile (2:18; see Jer 40:1), evoke decisive moments in the history of the people of Israel. As the first section (1:1-25) demonstrates that Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish hopes, the second section shows Jesus recapitulating the major events in the story of Israel; but it is with some irony. Jesus, the son of David, is rejected in the land of Judah and therefore must find a refuge in Egypt, the symbol of bondage. When he returns to “the land of Israel” (2:20, 21, the only time this phrase occurs in the New Testament), he cannot stay there but must retreat to Galilee (2:22), which is later identified as the Galilee of the gentiles (4:15). Had he remained in Judea, he would have been killed. When he finally returns to Judea, he is killed. “Judea” and “the land of Israel” come to represent the place of unbelief, and refuge is to be found only beyond their borders. – David Garland
Jesus doesn’t behave like a king the world expects. He did not have any academic credentials. He had no social status. When Joseph brought the family back, he settled as far from the centers of royal power as he could. He went to Nazareth (Matthew 2:22–23). So Jesus was not merely born in a manger, he grew up a Nazarene. What did that mean? You get a hint in John 1, where Nathaniel learns that Jesus is from Nazareth and is appalled. He exclaims, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46). Everyone in Judea looked down upon anyone from the backwater of Nazareth and Galilee. Yet as the text shows us, God arranged things so that was exactly where the Messiah of the world grew up.
The world has always despised people from the wrong places and with the wrong credentials. We are always trying to justify ourselves. We need desperately to feel superior to others. And everything about Jesus contradicts and opposes that impulse. In the 1987 movie Wall Street, the young Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, is wide-eyed at the cost of the art on the walls of Gordon Gekko’s home in the Hamptons. When he discovers what one painting is worth, he exclaims, “You could have a whole beach house!” Daryl Hannah, Gekko’s protégée, sneers, “Sure you could. In Wildwood, New Jersey.”4 She almost could have said, “Of course you can have that, if you are one of the benighted masses, the nobodies, who live in Nazareth.” If you are from Nazareth, you can’t possibly be one of the top people. The world insists if anybody has the answers, they have to come from certain places. They have to come from people with certain credentials. They have to come from people who look a certain way, who have gone to certain schools. They have to come from New York City, not Mississippi. They have to come from a Harvard professor, not someone with just a high school diploma.
The Bible’s teaching, however, is not only that God does not operate like that, but that he habitually operates in the very opposite way. The greatest personage in the history of the world was born in a manger and came from Nazareth. It’s throughout the Bible. God initially brings his message not through the Egyptians, the Romans, the Assyrians, or the Babylonians but through the Jews, a small nation and a little race that is seldom in power. He dispatches Goliath not with a bigger giant but with a shepherd boy, one at whom the giant laughed. That’s the way God works. How does he talk to Elijah? Through earthquake, wind, and fire? No. Through the still, small voice.
– Tim Keller