The King Has Come
Topic: Advent Season Passage: Matthew 2:1–2:12
Christmas is really about joyful worship. Christmas is about adoring Christ.
As we carefully look at this story, my hope is that you find yourself surprised in a way changes how you see Christmas. Because this story turns our expectations upside down – in fact, turns the world on its head. So let’s first step through this story looking carefully at three people or groups and how they respond to the birth of Jesus and then look at how this story turns the world on its head.
THREE RESPONSES TO KING JESUS
First, we see King Herod's hostile opposition. Who is Herod? King Herod was the client king of Judea under the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Herod was not a good guy, but a ruthless man. He had a history of removing threats to his throne. So paranoid was Herod, that his 33 year reign is full of the brutal execution of one political enemy after another. He reportedly had one of his wives executed along with her mother and brother for good measure. He had two of his sons and three grandsons killed because he thought they were plotting against his rule. So dangerous was it to be one of Herod’s flesh and blood that Caesar Augustus quipped, “it would be better to be Herod’s pig than his son.”
So it is not surprising that Herod is troubled when he hears news that the King of the Jews has been born. He’s not the only one troubled though; so is all of Jerusalem – all Jerusalem finds this news troubling.
So, Herod gathered the chief priests and scribes – those who would certainly know the answer of where this king was to be born. They shared the prophecy of Micah 5 with Herod affirming that the Christ is a Ruler (read) – which probably doubled the level of his anxiety. Then Herod got wise men together to see when they saw the star, so he would know where the child was and when he was born. Then he said, “go find this child and let me know so I can come worship him too.” Now, of course Herod is only conspiring. In his mind he is thinking, “This kid’s days are numbered.”
Once he found out that the wise men had not listened to him he went on a murderous rage.
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more." ~ Matthew 2:16-18
Here’s the truth. Jesus is troubling for those who do not want to worship him as King. He was then and is now. For those who want to remain king of their lives, he will be met with hostile force. Tim Keller says,
The question, “Where is the true King?” is the most disturbing question possible to a human heart, since we want at all costs to remain on the throne of our own lives.
But the next response might be even more troubling.
Next, we see the indifference and apathy of the chief priests and scribes. Who are the chief priests and scribes? The simple answer is they were religious leaders and teachers of the Jewish people. Here is the amazing thing: of all the people in this story, they should have been 1) the most ready for the Messiah to come and 2) the most excited about the news that he had come.
They are brought in to give Herod counsel as to where the Christ was to be born. And after that, we hear… well, here is what we should have heard. Once the chief priests and scribes heard news of the king of the Jews, they hurried with joy to Bethlehem in order to see this child. But instead we hear… well, nothing. Silence. In fact, the silence is deafening!
They were apparently so busy with their religious activity they missed the One it was all about and all pointed to.
But there is a third group and their response is stunning!
Finally, we see the joyful, reverent worship of the wise men. Who are these wise men? Well, as mentioned before, they weren’t kings. The Greek word translated “wise men” is “Magi” which indicates they were magicians, astrologers, dream interpreters, future-tellers. So right off the bat, we should be informed the first readers of Matthew’s gospel would have viewed these men negatively.
They were from the east. Probably what was formerly Persia – today’s Iraq, Iran, or Saudi Arabia. The reason for thinking this is because these areas would have had access Jewish scriptures from the time of exile there. These Magi come to Jerusalem and make their intentions clear. “Where is the king of the Jews. We have come to worship him…”
After finding out where he was, they make their way to the town of Bethlehem, and check this out. Look with me again at verses 10-11 – it is amazing. Their response as they draw near to Jesus is anything but moderate!
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. Repetition is used for emphasis. It could be translated, “They rejoiced deeply with mega joy!” That's not it, they fell down and worshiped him. They assume a posture his exalted status over them. They are saying, “You are the exalted one here!”
They opened their treasures. We don’t know exactly what the wise men knew about Christ, but clearly these gifts were appropriate gifts and point to the significance of Christ’s ministry. Clearly they considered the birth of Christ more momentous than just an important person being born. It was the arrival or coming of THE KING and their gifts for Jesus show there was some knowledge of this. They brought gold – the metal for kings. When Jesus was presented with gold it points to his right to rule. They brought him frankincense – incense was used in temple worship. It was mixed with oil to anoint the high priest for his ministry before God. In presenting this gift to Jesus, it points to Him as our great High Priest. Finally, myrrh was a spice used for embalming. If you came to my birthday party with embalming mix as a gift, I might be offended. But this gift was given in faith and points to Jesus as our Sacrifice. The gifts offered by the wise men point to Jesus as King, High Priest and Sacrifice.
Well, I said that there is a surprise in this story which turns the world on its head… and here is how:
This story show God drawing the least likely to Jesus.
In our story the Magi were the least likely to worship Jesus and yet they were the ones who end up finding him. More accurately, the wise men were led by God to Jesus! You might say, “No they followed a star.” True, but starts don’t have intentionality and motivation. God does. Who leads the stars? God does.
Isaac Watts, gifted the church with the song “I Sing the Mighty Power of God”, in which he says,
I sing the mighty power of God that made the mountains rise, That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies. I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day, The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.
The stars obey his voice. Isaac Watts is not infallible, but he does echo what scripture affirms.
Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He brings out their [starry] host by number, calling them all by name. ~ Isaiah 40:26
It is Father who drew the Magi. And of course, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him…” It begs the question though, Why the Magi? Why not Herod? With his position of power, he could have furthered God’s agenda, right? He could have brought Jesus to the king’s palace to be cared for. He could have blown the trumpet that a new king had arrived– calling on all people to pay homage to him! But God didn’t choose Herod. Why not the Jewish leaders – the most likely? They received the OT scriptures with all its promises. They were given the hope of a coming Messiah who would extend his universal reign throughout the entire world. But he didn’t choose them either.
He didn’t choose the powerful. And he didn’t choose the religious. God’s agenda is not the same as ours. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 reveals to us God’s motivation in how he works,
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
God chose the least likely in our story. Not the powerful and not the religious. It is a group of pagan magicians who are found kneeling at the foot of a cradle in adoring worship of King Jesus. Why? So we would boast in God and be amazing at his grace. It was nothing in them that commended them to God. It was God's free grace. Same with us. The basis of our acceptance before God is not who we are or what we bring to the table, but his GRACE. This is cause to celebrate.
This story shows us you must become a fool in order to become truly wise.
The Magi (wise men) become fools. Look at what these wise men do. They fall down before a baby – and worship him! I wonder as they hit the deck if any of them looked around to see if they were the only ones thinking, “this is weird.” It sounds foolish. Well it is, in a wonderful way! In 1 Corinthians 3:18 Paul says,
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
Here’s foolishness! Matthew’s Gospel calls Jesus “The King of the Jews” at his two most vulnerable points. As a newborn baby and 3 times in Matthew 27 (before Pilate, crown of thorns, on the cross).
Listen to the foolish things Christians believe. God entered his creation as a baby, virgin-born of a young Jewish girl. Christians believe that this baby king accomplished his mission on earth by dying for his enemies in order to make them friends and loyal subjects of his kingdom. This is utter foolishness and weak to this world, but God’s wisdom and power to lovers of Christ. The Magi were truly wise men not because they figured out how to interpret signs in the sky or because they made their own way to Jesus, but because they became fools for Christ’s sake. Will you? Do you believe the foolish, glorious gospel?
Finally, this story shows us Christmas is about God seeking, not men.
In our story, we see promises of the Messiah’s coming, an irresistible drawing, a providential star, a Spirit-generated joy – this is God working out his agenda!
But Christmas also teaches us that just like the wise men, God traveled a great distance to come to us. The eternal Son of God (God himself) entered his creation in the miracle of the virgin birth to “seek and save the lost”.
And just as the wise men were filled with exceeding joy as they saw their journey’s end, so Jesus, as he was nearing the end of his journey on earth, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God” for us.
And just as the wise men came bearing gifts, treasures from their homeland, so Jesus came bearing the greatest treasure he could give. He has given us the infinitely valuable treasure of himself.
The Father is sill seeking worshipers who see Christ as that treasure and fall down before him in adoring, joyful worship.
Come Worship the King
You are invited today to deep and massive joy! If you have found yourself opposed to Jesus the King thinking he was the end of your joy, put down your arms of rebellion and receive him as your inexhaustible fountain of joy. If you have found yourself indifferent (lukewarm), REPENT. He stands ready to receive you! More he stands at your door, ready to come in and celebrate with you!
May the Spirit-generated joy of heaven resound in your heart as it did the Magi! May a vision of the majesty and meekness of our King Jesus move you to fall on your knees in humble worship. May a sacrificial offering of praise burst from your heart as you consider your King Jesus and his coming, his seeking, and his saving accomplishment for you.
Christmas is about worship finding its summit. Our king has come. THE king has come. Come adore him.
Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings. Risen with healing in his wings. Mild he lays his glory by. Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth. Born to give them second birth. Hark the herald angels sing. Glory to the newborn King.