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Monday, December 16, 2013

Do You See what I See? Pt. 3: Matthew 2.1-12

{This is the third in a series of four. The audio file can be found here. Spread the word. Mike}
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Do You See what I See? Pt 3: Matthew 2.1-12
What do you do with Jesus? Some folks sequester him off to some holding cell and lock him up out of sight. Some sell him off because he’s profitable for business. Some try to remake him into their own image. Some don’t bother with him at all until Christmas and maybe Easter, and only if it’s convenient; and then quickly pack him away with the decorations to keep him safely under wraps. Part of the emphasis of this passage is to dare us to ask ourselves: What do I do with Jesus? It helps us to answer that question by showing us connections and then contrasts.

Connections: There is a double connection, one from inside this Gospel account and one that draws from outside; and both connections end up parking at the same house.
Inside:
First we hear the wise men ask in 2.2 “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” – Jesus is born King of the Jews.
But then, as we move to the further end of this Gospel, we read in 27.37 “And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews."” – Jesus is killed King of the Jews.
Finally we come to the very end, after Jesus has been raised from the dead, and we hear him say (28.18-20) “"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."” – Jesus, born king of the Jews and slaughtered king of the Jews is resurrected King and Supreme Emperor of the cosmos!

All praise to thee, eternal Lord, clothed in a garb of flesh and blood; choosing a manger for thy throne, while worlds on worlds are thine alone!

The enfleshing, embodying of God – Jesus, Yahweh Saving His People, God with us – has little value in-and-of-itself: simply sappy, syrupy sentimentalism (cute, cuddly, fluffy baby stuff). But, with Paul Harvey, it’s the rest of the story that changes everything: Immanuel being also a law-loving, law-keeping man, dies the death of a cursed law-breaker, rises bodily from the dead on the 3rd day and ascends into heaven, reigning as Supreme Master and Ruler of all the cosmos – now this expresses something worth expressing! This means that that humble little birth in Bethlehem has indestructible, irrefragable, unforgettable and unstoppable consequences for you, me, the country, the world and the whole cosmos.

Outside:
There is another connection and it is found in the Prophecy recited by the religious elitists here in verse 6. It comes from the prophetic book of Micah. Turn to Micah 5, and allow me to show you. We’ll start at v.3 and work up to 1, then down to 4 and 5.

·        God’s people “forsaken” until the Shepherd comes; “Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel” (v.3). There’s a longing, yearning, hankering for this promising day.
·        The longed-for one is born in humility in backwoods, shantytown Bethlehem; “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (v.2).
·        The longed-for one will be stricken shamefully; “Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek” (v.1).
·        He shall “stand” (rise) and will shepherd his people; “And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God” (v.4a).
·        Our asurance is when He will be great throughout the world; “And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth” (v.4b).
·        And he shall be their peace” (v.5a). This is brought out in Romans 5.1: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We who once were enemies of God (Romans 5.8-10; Colossians 1.21-22) are not at peace with God. But it is also the ground and reality for a more experienced one-another peace, mentioned in Ephesians 2.14 – “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we are objectively at peace with God, and this frees us to be peace with each other.

What is the point of this little rehearsal of the double connections? Both connections show us that You cannot have what is popularly called the Christmas story without the Cross, the Climactic Resurrection of Jesus and the Coronation at His ascension. That’s why the wise men’s coming is so very significant – It is the beginning of the fulfillment of prayers and promises like Psalm 72.8-11 which we read earlier this evening!

Sages, leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar; seek the great Desire of nations; ye have seen his natal star. Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn king!

Contrasts:
People and leaders (v.3 – “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him”) contrasted with the wise men (v. 10 – “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”). Just knowing the facts about Scripture, the data, the topologies and typologies is not enough; the Scriptures are intended to bring you, with the wise men, to Jesus – to the Jesus, not of your own making and fabricating, but the one who is truly God with us! The people and leaders had the Scriptures, they knew the facts, but had no faith! The wise men knew some things, and with what little they knew, they came believing!

As with gladness men of old did the guiding star behold; as with joy they hailed its light, leading onward, beaming bright; so, most gracious God, may we evermore be led to thee.

Herod (v. 8, 16 – “he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him."… 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”) and the wise men (v. 11 – “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”). Around Jesus you will always see a mixture – there will be those who come (however unlearned) with deep desire to worship, and maybe to even worship better than they know. And then there will be those shadowy souls who feign worship but foster wickedness. We are subtly being pressed to ask ourselves: Which am I?

As they offered gifts most rare at that cradle rude and bare; so may we with holy joy, pure, and free from sin’s alloy, all our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to thee, our heav’nly King.

This passage challenges you and me: What will you do with this one – this low-born, humble, without “fame and fortune” one? Will you ignore him, sighing nonchalantly in your apathy? Will you put on airs, looking all religious, while your heart remains crooked and creepy? Or will you come, open up your hands and hearts and give worship worthy of a King? Allegiance and love worthy the Supreme Emperor?


Good Christian men, rejoice; with heart and soul and voice; now ye need not fear the grave; Jesus Christ was born to save! Calls you one and calls you all to gain the everlasting hall. Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

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