I have been teaching stories from the book of Matthew to my Bible class children on Sunday mornings. When I came to the lesson from Matthew 2:12-23, I thought that it was a lesson the children should know, but that they probably would not find the lesson very interesting. I was so wrong! I am not sure what intrigued them so much, but they really enjoyed the lesson. The short lesson over Jesus’ family’s escape to Egypt and then eventual settling in Nazareth really grabbed the children’s attention. So I encourage you to teach your children this story, and do not simply pass over it, as I was tempted to do.
In this story, Jesus and his family begin in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Joseph and Mary begin returning to their home country although they are taking an alternate route because they have been warned of Herod. Joseph is then warned in a dream to flee to Egypt rather than return home because Herod is seeking to kill Jesus. Jesus and his family remain in Egypt until the death of Herod. After Herod’s death, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph and tells him to go to the land of Israel. Joseph hears that Archelaus is reigning in place of Herod, and Joseph is afraid. Once again, Joseph is warned in a dream; therefore, the family travels to the region of Galilee, to a city called Nazareth.
One of the most intriguing parts of this story to children may be the fact that Joseph is continually told through dreams what to do with his family. I think it is important to explain to children that God does not speak to us through dreams anymore, but rather through His Word (the Bible). It is also important to show children how God took care of Jesus and His family. If you have older children, you can use this story as an opportunity to speak about God’s prophecy and how Jesus fulfilled prophecy. In Matthew 2:15 and Matthew 2:23, the phrases “this was to fulfill” or “that it might be fulfilled” are used to describe fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.