Have you ever wondered of the significance of Bethlehem? Why was Jesus born in Bethlehem? In the Part 1 of this reflection, it was cited that one of the reasons why Jesus was born in Bethlehem was because of prophecies found in the Old Testament – Micah 5:2, Psalm 132:11, Jeremiah 23:5-6. These prophecies were affirmed in the life of Jesus Christ, and as written by Paul in Romans 1:2-4.
Here are two more additional reasons on the significance of Bethlehem:
First, Jesus is the Bread of Life and Bethlehem in Hebrew means the “House of Bread.”
In John 6:35 Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.” The exodus experience is celebrated during the Feast of Passover. One emphasis in that celebration is the story about the unleavened bread.
The Israelites were in a hurry to get out of Egypt and they had no time to prepare and to bake bread. The fastest way was to have an unleavened bread, without yeast. Thus, the celebration of the Passover Meal with the unleavened bread. Christians celebrate this during Communion Sunday or the Lord’s Supper. The bread now symbolizes the body of the Lord Jesus Christ which was broken for our redemption.
Paul also wrote symbolically of the yeast in relation to sin. 1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
Second, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a little town, the least of all clans, to remind us that God can work from small beginnings.
Let us compare two passages – one from the Old Testament, and the other from the New Testament. Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” On the other hand, Matthew 2:6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Is there a difference? Yes! The second line was reversed in meaning by Matthew. Micah stated that Bethlehem was a town of little significance and that great thing would happen in there. Matthew on the other hand stated that Bethlehem is not a town of little significance because great things would happen there. Matthew had the benefit of writing after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus while Micah prophesied it.
The point here is that God chose something insignificant like Bethlehem to bring about great things. This is to affirm what the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest!” and not glory to any other person or any other popular place. Bethlehem is a reminder that God works in little things, in unexpected ways, and that God fulfills His promises.
Rev. Francis Neil G. Jalando-on
Office of Communications
Central Philippine University