The cradle and the cross
The Cradle and the Cross: Changeless Responses (Matthew 2:1-12)
Reactions to Jesus Christ have timelessly remained the same in every epoch of man's response to the good news. The faces we see around the cradle are also the faces we see around the cross. Nowhere may the sameness of man's reaction to the Christ be more dramatically seen than in contrasting His first week and His last week, His cradle and His cross.
The cradle and the cross represent the two points of His greatest weakness, His manifest impotence. From the cradle He grew in the strength and His Divine manhood until the moment He surrendered it on the cross, and once again became as weak as the One in the cradle. Yet, nowhere in His ministry did He more surely shake the world than in those two moments of His greatest manifest weakness. For it was in those two moments of His apparent weakness that kings were shaken, the holy city was shaken, the heavens were shaken, and God Himself intervened. How may we compare these two divine moments?
Witness the Timelessness of Human Reaction to the Christ
Around His cradle, Herod and all Jerusalem with Him were troubled (v. 3). What a paradox that a raging tyrant shakes at an impotent infant! Yet at the last, another Herod and all Jerusalem were also shaken by the crucified Christ. What a paradox that a Man nailed to a tree and bleeding away His life should terrify a city and trouble its rulers. "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:25, KJV).
In the cradle of Christ and at the cross of Christ, there is the same sequence: revelation, proclamation, and twofold reaction (acceptance and homage, or rejection and persecution). God reveals Himself in a cross, angels proclaim a resurrection, fisherfolk believe while kings and priests reject. Those who are nigh were really far off. Those who were far off were really nigh. The paradox of God, the great reversal of God, the unfathomable wisdom of God. See it in the cradle! See it in the cross! "God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world that he might put to shame the things that are strong" (v. 27, ASV).
Wonder at the Cosmic Disruption Because of the Christ
Reaction to the Christ in His cradle and on His cross was not limited to the human sphere. Both events were marked by two profound cosmic disruptions. In each case, there was a disruption on the earth and a disjunction in the heavens. At His conception, there occurred the mysterious moving of the Holy Spirit over the womb of Mary. A quite physical miracle. At His crucifixion, there was a quaking of the earth (Matt. 27:51-54). A notably demonstrable physical miracle. At His birth, there occurred a singular phenomenon in the sky, a new light. At His crucifixion, there occurred a striking disjunction of the heavens—darkness in the midst of the day. He lives and there is light; He died and there is darkness. Among the first to come to Him were Gentile Magi drawn by the light of the star. Among the first to respond to the cross was the Gentile centurion drawn by the shaking of the earth. How sovereign God is! When His own people will not respond, He can shake the earth or move the stars to draw men to Christ.
Why this cosmic upheaval at His birth and at His cross? Because those two moments will have ultimate implications for the farthest reaches of the universe. "The creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21, ASV). Shakings of the earth and changes in the heavens were only premonitions of that time when all the universe will be changed at His appearing.
Witness to the Divine Intervention for the Christ
In the crucifixion, Jesus dies but is brought back to life through the resurrection. In the cradle, Jesus is taking away to another land but returns. In each instance, God has confounded the kings and the rulers who assembled against Him and His Messiah (Ps. 2:2). God will yet intervene once more for the Christ. Then it will be the cradle, the cross, and the crown!