Some of us like to read a book backward—the end first, before the beginning. Others are on the look out for spoiler alerts and enjoy the experience of not knowing how the story is going to turn out in the end.
The Gospel writer Matthew had learned to read the Scriptures of Israel both forward and backward. He was member of a generation on whom “the end (fulfillment) of the ages had come” (1Cor 10:11; Heb 1:2; 9:26). With Mary and the other disciples he had lived through the agony of Jesus’ crucifixion and the life-changing surprise of resurrection and coming of the Spirit.
Together they had learned that Jesus did far more than fulfill specific predictions about a coming Messiah (Matt 2:3-6). Matthew could now see that events of Jesus life— like Joseph and Mary’s flight into Egypt (2:15) and Herod’s killing of Bethlehem’s sons (2:17) were reminiscent of past events that would find fullness of meaning in the unfolding rescue of humanity.
(We noted in earlier posts that author Tim Keller urges us read the Bible forward and backward so as to see our need for Jesus as “the true and better” Adam, Abel, Job, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-Israel, Moses, Passover, Temple, Sacrifice, Joshua, … etc.)
Now, all of this reading backwards is for us—to go forward. Even though we are living 2000 years after those on whom “the end of the ages came” every new day remains our challenge to trust the God who turned out to be so much better, (i.e. so much more merciful), than anyone prior to (or after) Jesus could have imagined…