Unexpected Threat or Unexpected Joy?
· Have you ever had a bad Christmas? Worst Christmas – suffering kidney stone, surgery on Christmas Eve – home in pain – preaching from a stool – couldn’t lift my child – awful!
· Christmas isn’t supposed to be this way! It’s supposed to be full of joy, peace on earth, goodwill to men. But, reality, the first Christmas wasn’t any of those things. It may have been the worst Christmas ever.
· Matthew – Babies are murdered, and Mary and Joseph flee from Bethlehem and Egypt in fear of their own lives. This child who was born the Savior of the World becomes a refugee.
· Matthew tells the dark side of the Christmas story – real encouraging for Christmas Eve – BUT, hope in the darkness because ultimately LIGHT defeats DARKNESS.
· Matthew shows us a contrast. For the self-centered, Jesus brings an UNEXPECTED THREAT that leads to rejection. For the seeker, Jesus brings UNEXPECTED JOY that leads to worship.
1. For the self-centered Jesus brings an unexpected threat.
· Matthew’s birth story takes place just after the birth of Jesus with wise men traveling from the East to Jerusalem to see the one who has been born King of the Jews.
· Burst the Christmas Bubble – not at the nativity – sometime after the birth. Not told a number, nor their names.
· Don’t know where they are from – Arabia, Persia, Babylon… Likely astrologers studying the skies for supernatural signs. (A big no-no for Jewish people. These are pagans!) A star arose that pointed their way to the region of Bethlehem. (The discovery of a new star signified the birth of royalty in the ancient world.) They go to worship a Jewish king even though they weren’t Jews! (If they were from Babylon – had knowledge to OT from the time of exile) Maybe familiar with a prophecy in Num. 24:17 – “…a star will come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” They traveled for months to Jerusalem. The birth of Christ has worldwide implications – He’s not just a Jewish King!
· Travel to Jerusalem – the capital of Israel – where a king would likely be born.
· Seek out the king of Israel – Herod – maybe a child born in his house that will take his place as the new King of the Jews…
· Herod – a madman - half Jewish/half Edomite – appointed by the Roman government as a client King – He was a puppet of the Roman government. Jews were suspicious of him.
· He was prideful – rebuilt the temple and various other structures and a huge palace for himself. Through building, wanted to show the Jews how great he was.
· He was paranoid - He had his wife, mother, and brother killed because he thought they were conspiring against him.
· He was hungry for money – Known to tax people up to 50% of their income – and that didn’t include Caesar’s share or the tax collector’s share!
· So, when he hears about this newborn King – the paranoia creeps in. Was there really a newborn king who would threaten his reign?
· Sends for scribes – do the Jewish Scriptures say anything about the birth of this King? (Micah 5:2)
· Herod to wise men: “When you find the child tell me where He is so I can worship too…”
· For Herod – Jesus was the gift he didn’t want. (Disco ball - Some of you are constantly reject the free gift… Why? Jesus is an unexpected threat.)
o Jesus threatens your pride. Do you live life to say, “Look at me?” Do you point people to your accomplishments? Do you live to be noticed? To be taken seriously by others? To be accepted by people? You can’t live that way as a Christian – you live to say, “Look at Him!” (Galatians 6:14)
o Jesus threatens your power. We want to sit on the throne of our lives and make decisions to live the way we think is best. We want control, power, etc. But, if Jesus is the King, He is the only One who sits on the throne. He determines what’s best for your life and how you should live. You can’t be a Christ-follower and call the shots of your life. He calls the shots.
o Jesus threatens your prosperity. Maybe you live to get. Your approach to life is what can I gain? From my job? From my relationships? Jesus’ message is that real prosperity comes when you don’t live to get but when you live to give.
· For some, this is why we haven’t really given our lives to Jesus – the threat. Like Herod, we might identify ourselves with God’s people – but we refuse to get off our thrones. We refuse to surrender. If that’s you, you don’t really belong to Jesus just like Herod didn’t.
2. For the seeker Jesus brings unexpected joy.
· The star leads them to a home where Jesus was with his parents in Bethlehem. There, they find the child, and there they worship.
· They give gifts – 1 Kings 10:1-10 – Queen of Sheba brings gifts to King Solomon – camels, gold, spices, etc. when she heard of his wisdom. Now, one wiser than Solomon is here, one greater than King David – he is worthy of gifts – and not just gifts from Jewish people – gifts from everyone on the face of the planet. What Matthew is telling us is that Jesus isn’t just the King of the Jews. He’s the King of the world. Think about it. The Gospel of Matthew begins with this announcement that Jesus is the King of the world – Wise men, everyone, come and see.
· The wise men experience unexpected joy. These foreign magi had only thought they had lived the good life. They were wealthy, they were respected in their culture for their knowledge. They seemed to have it all – but the God of all creation – the same God who brought the lowly shepherds to the manger now brings the lofty wise men to the home of baby Jesus. He’s saying to the wise men, “In spite of everything you have, you’ve been searching the skies to find purpose and meaning, here’s purpose and meaning – a baby, born for you, who will die for you and take away your sins. Here’s your joy. It’s not in your possessions. It’s not in the signs in the skies. Your joy is found in a person – the Christ child.”
· Jesus either brings an unexpected threat or unexpected joy. This morning realize:
o God has been guiding you. Just as God orchestrated the stars in the sky to bring the wise men to Jesus, He has been orchestrating the events of your life as well. He has orchestrated your life in such a way to put you in just the right family, in just the right city, in just the right circumstances, so He might ultimately point your heart to Him. This morning, you are here because God has been guiding you to this moment – to respond to Him in faith. To believe that Jesus is the Promised King who has come to give you joy.
o God desires for you to experience joy. He’s been guiding you because He wants you to experience joy. (James Island – I want my kids to experience joy.) Joy has a name – Jesus. Think of all the places we look for joy: romance, money, career, children, etc. All come up empty! Money runs out. Romance often ends in heartbreak. Career is full of frustration. Children are stressful! Jesus offers real joy – because in Him, you are accepted just as you are. You are loved, you are forgiven, you are given real purpose. Jesus gives joy in the midst of darkness!
· Where has your search for joy taken you? To frustration and emptiness or to a person who gives complete satisfaction?
· After wise men worship, warned in a dream not to return to Herod, but to go another way. Herod doesn’t really want to worship. Angel of the Lord appears to Joseph – told to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. Herod orders all males under 2 in Bethlehem to be slaughtered. So much for peace on earth and goodwill to men.
· Jer. 31:15 –Babylonians took Jewish captives to Ramah. Families sold into slavery. Imagine pain of seeing children sold into slavery and you never saw them again. Mothers weep. Now, in Matt. 2 it’s happening all over again!
· Promise: Jer. 31:16-17: “One day your voice will cease its weeping, and your eyes cease from its tears, …. Your children shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the Lord.” (Jer. 31:16-17) The day where voices cease to weep has come – on that first Christmas - Evil doesn’t get the last word. Jesus does. It seems like evil always wins, but no more!
· Why won’t Herod have the last word? Why won’t evil win? Because Jesus came out of Egypt. Hos. 11:1-3 – looks back to Egypt and captivity. Notice the similarities between Matthew 2 and the Exodus. Herod like Pharaoh – ordering children to die. God had called His people out of Egypt before, tells them to obey and He will bless. They disobeyed. He calls Christ out of Egypt, and Jesus doesn’t fail. He obeys. He is the only One who has earned the blessing of God, but He doesn’t get it. Instead of blessing, Jesus gets cursed. Instead of a gold crown, He gets a crown of thorns. Why? He deserved blessing, but He gives us His blessing and He takes our curse. Believe, and you are blessed.
· In this dark world you can know that Jesus gets the last word. On the cross, when He died in our place, He cried out, “It is finished.” Sin and death were defeated. He rose from the dead proving that His work was sufficient to cover all of ours sin.
· Now, we await His return where He will make all things right. Do you know Him? Don’t let Him be a threat to your life, embrace Him and find joy.