************ Sermon on Matthew 2:1-12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 16, 2012
"He is King"
Sunday School/Choir Cantata - "The Promise of a King"
Why did Jesus come? Why did the eternal Son of God take to Himself a truly human nature? This morning we said Jesus came as the promised Messiah, the Christ, the anointed prophet.
But, you should realize there is far more to the Messiah than the office of prophet. As I said this morning, the Old Testament describes the Messiah in many different ways. Sometimes it also talks of the Messiah as a great warrior king from the line of David. And, it also talks of the Messiah as a man of sorrows who would be slaughtered like a sheep or goat for the sins of others (Is 53).
Why did Jesus come? Why did the eternal Son of God take to Himself a truly human nature? This evening, in answer to this question, we learn from Scripture that Jesus came as the promised Messiah, the Christ, the anointed king. This same message was echoed by the cantata this evening: Jesus came as Christ the King!
I The Promises of God about Christ the King
A Our starting point needs to be the promises of God. A quick look at the Old Testament shows promise after promise about a Messiah King who will destroy God's enemies. The earliest promise about the Messiah King, of course, is found in Genesis 3:15 – that wonderful promise upon which every other Gospel promise is built. Speaking to Satan, God said,
(Gen 3:15) And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.Someone is coming, the offspring of the woman, Who will crush Satan. Listen to some other promises as well:
(Gen 49:10) The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
(Is 9:6-7) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
(Jer 23:5) "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land."
B Keeping these promises of a Messiah King in mind, listen to the words of the Magi from the east: "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" (Mt 2:2). We don't know whether the Magi fully understood what they were asking. But King Herod knew. And so did all of Jerusalem. They knew the Magi were asking about the Christ, the Messiah, the promised king. That's why Herod asked where the "Christ" was to be born (cf Mt 2:4).
"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" "Where is the Christ?" "Where is the Messiah?"
At the very start of his gospel Matthew is making a claim about Jesus. At the very start of his gospel Matthew presents Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the promised king.
C And, Matthew presents this claim throughout his gospel. Do you remember the opening words of Matthew?
(Mt 1:1) A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David ...In other words, Jesus is the promised King from the line of David.
Let me highlight some other instances in Matthew's gospel:
-When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16).
-When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, do you remember the passage quoted by Matthew? "See, your king comes to you ..." (Mt 21:5; cf Zech 9:9).
-Remember the words of the high priest? He said to Jesus, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied (cf Mt 26:63-64).
-Remember what Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Again Jesus answered, "Yes, it is as you say" (Mt 27:11).
-Remember what the soldiers did to Jesus? They put a scarlet robe on His back, a crown of thorns on His head, and a staff in His right hand; then they knelt in front of Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" (Mt 27:29).
-Remember what was above the cross? There was a sign, reading, "THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS" (Mt 27:37).
-Do you remember the mocking of the priests and elders? "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him" (Mt 27:42).
Do you hear the message throughout Matthew's gospel? He wants his audience to clearly know that Jesus came as Messiah, as Christ, as the anointed and promised king.
II Christ Jesus Rejected as King
A We know the Magi came from the east. We don't know exactly where they came from but we think it was Babylon. We don't know how long they traveled. We don't know their method of transportation – camels, horses, on foot. We don't know whether they were part of a larger group. We don't even know the number of Magi. All we know is that they were excited and determined.
In my mind, at least, I imagine the Magi hurrying along on their camels, eager to participate in the celebration and excitement in Jerusalem and Israel.
When they arrived in Jerusalem they must have been sorely disappointed for they found that everything was business as usual – no dancing in the streets, no ticker tape parades, no national holiday. People didn't even know about the birth of the king.
Contrast that with Kate & William. She is barely three months pregnant. Yet there is already excitement in all of England. Both the Queen and the Prime Minister have made official statements. The media want to know and publicize every single detail. And, they are willing to do almost anything to get this information; I am sure you heard of the suicide of the nurse who was fooled by the media into revealing confidential information.But in Jerusalem back then, nothing. Nada. What a downer for the travelers from the East.
B Students of Scripture know that the excitement about Kate & William should also have been the excitement of Jerusalem. Students of Scripture know that the New Testament should describe how the governors of the world bow before Him and how all people lay their treasures at His feet. At least that is the picture of the Messiah's birth presented by the Old Testament Scriptures:
(Ps 72:10-11) The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts. (11) All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him.As the song puts it, "The King of glory comes, the nation rejoices." Yet, things are eerily quiet in Jerusalem.
(Cf Isaiah 49:7)
C This doesn't mean it is business as usual. Matthew give us a peek behind the scenes. He starts by telling us the reaction of Herod. Herod, we are told, was "disturbed." That is, he was agitated, upset, angry. Why? Because Herod held the title "king of the Jews." Who was the imposter taking his title, his honor, his place? Was there a pretender to the throne? Was this the start of an organized resistance to his rule? No wonder Herod was disturbed.
How disturbed was Herod? You know the story. Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem and vicinity and ordered them to kill all the boys two years old and under (Mt 2:16).
Herod did not bow before Christ, the new born king. Herod did not worship Christ, the new born king. Herod did not present gifts to Christ, the new born king. Instead, Herod was filled with thoughts of murder and outrage.
D Next, notice the reaction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the city of the priests and teachers of the law. They were "disturbed" with Herod. They should have been excited that the hoped for and prayed for King had finally come. They should have welcomed Him with open arms. They, too, should have bowed down in worship. They, too, should have presented their gifts. Instead, they were "disturbed."
Why were they disturbed? Were they upset that they were left out? Were they upset that the King's birth was announced by Gentiles rather than by biblical scholars? Did they have a sense that God was going around them rather than through them? Whatever the reason, they were "disturbed." This is a foreshadowing of their increasing hostility to King Jesus and His ministry and His claims. They were not thrilled by Jesus' birth. They were not excited by Jesus' ministry. And, Jesus' resurrection was met with lies rather than joy.
I want you to see and realize that Christ the king was met with the same hostility and rejection as Christ the prophet.
III Christ Jesus Worshiped as King
A There is something astonishing about the Magi. They see a star. By the providence of God, they realize the "king of the Jews" has been born. And, then, they follow the star. Across the desert! Even Abraham didn't follow such a route. Instead, Abraham followed the Euphrates northwest and then dropped down into the Promised Land. But not the Magi because stars travel in a straight path and don't take detours around deserts and mountains. How many months and years did this take them? We don't know. But the trip must have been hard and mind-numbing and body-wearying.
Are you astonished by these Magi? They are pagan priests, after all, priests of an idol. Yet, they endure all sorts of hardships, for all sorts of time, in order to find the "king of the Jews." But now a better question: Are you willing to be like them? What has it cost you to come to Jesus? Remember what Jesus said to His disciples?
(Mt 16:24) If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.Can we say that pagan priests suffered more to see Christ than we do?
B The Magi, in spite of Jerusalem's response to their news, continued their search for the Messiah, the King of the Jews. They went on their way to Bethlehem.
The Magi were not first century autograph seekers who wanted the thrill of being one of the first to greet the new King. They were not glory-hounds or publicity-seekers. Already in Jerusalem they announced their intention "to worship him." So on coming to the house where Jesus was "they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him" (Mt 2:11).
Three times in our Bible reading (Mt 2:2,8,11), Matthew chooses to use a word for "worship" that he uses other times in his gospel to show the true worship of those who do truly believe in Christ Jesus. The same Greek word is used for:
-the leper who wanted to be healed (Mt 8:2)
-Jairus who wanted his daughter brought back to life (Mt 9:18)
-the disciples in the boat after Jesus quieted the storm (Mt 14:33)
-the woman of Canaan who wanted her daughter saved from demon-possession (Mt 15:25)
-the mother of James and John asking that her sons be given a place of honor in Christ's kingdom (Mt 20:20)
-the reaction of both the women and the disciples to the resurrected Christ (Mt 28:9,17)
Imagine this: the Magi, so proud and independent, bowing before Christ, worshiping Christ, acknowledging Christ as Ruler of their lives, and accepting Christ as their Lord and Master. Back then, it was Caesar who wanted people to bow before him. Back then, it was Caesar who wanted people to worship him. But in Bethlehem it was a baby, Christ the Lord and King, Who was worshiped.
And, as a sign of their true worship, look at the gifts that the Magi bring: gold, incense, myrrh (Mt 2:11). These Magi gave to Jesus their best.
Which makes me ask, what do you give Him? King Jesus, what do you give Him? What can I give Him? As the song puts it, "Give Him my heart!"
Now, don't forget that for centuries the children of Israel dreamed about the coming Messiah, the Christ, the promised king. They waited for Him. They prayed for Him. They looked for Him. In the deserts and villages, along the seas and hills, among the rich and the poor, the Jews talked about the coming of God's anointed servant, the Messiah.
But when the Messiah finally came the people were disturbed and upset and agitated. They rejected Him. And, they killed Him.
Think about this: Gentiles, Magi, recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the promised king, whereas His own people do not. Gentiles worship King Jesus and give Him gifts whereas His own people become disturbed at His birth.
There is always this two-fold reaction to Christ the King: some believe and worship; others reject or neglect the message and curse the name of the Lord. This happened at Jesus' birth, this happened at His death, this happened at His resurrection, and this still happens today. Some believe and others do not.
The story of the Magi, congregation, is a call to us all. It is a call to "Come and worship, Worship Christ, the new-born King."
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