Opposition, Indifference, Or Worship
Topic: Jesus Christ Passage: Matthew 2:1–2:18
The point of Advent is worship. The point of Christmas is adoring Christ. We see this from every prophecy of the coming Messiah. We see this in every Old Testament shadow revealing Christ in the law, the Psalms, and the prophets. We see this especially magnified through the Gospel accounts of Christ’s birth.
The account of Jesus' birth according to Matthew doesn't focus on why Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem the night of his birth. It doesn’t focus on the circumstances that led to the manger scene or the angels' joyful chorus in response. But one amazing thing we do see in Matthew's account is the stark difference in the way people and groups of people responded to Christ’s birth. In Matthew 2 we see three people or groups responding in three starkly different ways to the birth of the Messiah.
The first is Herod and his response is one of hostile opposition to Christ; an opposition that grows as the story goes along. First, when Herod heard of this “king of the Jews”, he was "troubled" and called the chief priests and scribes to determine where the Christ would come from (verses 3-4). Next, he conspired against the wise men so that they would help lead him to Christ in order to kill him. And finally when Herod’s plan didn't work, he went into a murderous rage (verse 16). And why? A king had been born and this was a threat to Herod, his power, and his autonomy. A king had been born and Herod's days on the throne were numbered and he seemed to know it.
The second group in Matthew's account is the chief priests and scribes - the religious leaders of the Jewish people - and their response is one of indifferent opposition. They were called into Herod so he could ascertain where the Christ would come from, for Herod was sure they would know (verse 4). And they did know. They told Herod Bethlehem from the prophecy in Micah chapter 5. And that's it. From all we can tell, the scribes and chief priests answer Herod and just go back to business as usual. The religious leaders of the Jewish people were [seeming] completely apathetic to the possibility that their long awaited Messiah had come. Their quiet indifference is deafening! They had an outward religiosity that was void of the living God. They were so busy being religious, they didn't have time for God himself!
The third group, of course, is the wise men or Magi. These men were not worshipers of God at the time of their travels but were pagan priests, magicians, or astrologers. But there response is stunning! It is so different from the other two. First, it says they apparently traveled some distance since they came from the East (probably Persia which is modern day Iran). They didn’t hop on a plane or train or drive a car. Their travels were likely long and laborious. Next, they didn’t come just to clamor at an important person who was born as people do in our day when a famous couple has a baby. As they inquired about where the king was, they didn't hide their intentions either. They said, “we have come to worship him” (verse 2). Furthermore, when they found this child-king, they “fell down and worshiped him” (verse 11). Finally, they opened up their treasures of gold and frankincense and myrrh. As they stood (or kneeled) before this King of highest majesty who was just a little child, they demonstrated that He was the true treasure in the room, not their oils and precious metals.
O, there is one more Person acting in the story. Actually He’s the main Person of this story and every story. When the Christ child is born, God the Father is so excited; He is so pleased with the unfolding of the story that He moves the starry host to lead the way to where Jesus was born. And of all the people that the Father draws to the Son, He draws the least likely – not the powerful, not the religious, but the pagan foreigners from the East.
We see something amazing about the gospel in this story - the grace of God is for the totally undeserving. Furthermore, we see something amazing about the extent of what God intends to accomplish through His Son even from his infancy – to draw all nations to Christ the Lord.
It is no different today, people still fall into one of these three groups - those who are hostile, indifferent, or adore Christ. As we approach Christmas and consider the coming of our Messiah and King, which group do you find yourself in? Today, seek Christ and “come to worship Him”, and receive him as your highest treasure.