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Love: The Promise For All Peoples

Advent 2020   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Sermon Title: Love - The Promise for All Peoples

Date: December 20, 2020
Speaker: Keith Meece

Announcements:

Christmas Eve (Thursday)- FaceBook LIVE @ 6pm
Next Sunday - Matthew Sparks will be preaching.
January 3 & 10 - Word and Prayer Series, Mark starting back up in 3rd week of January.
Prayer
(Start Countdown HERE)

Matthew 2:1-12

Introduction:
This week - Christmas
Shopping is almost done. Wrapping whenever no one is around.
Baking is underway.
Celebrations Party plans are set.
This Christmas has been greatly anticipated by many.
2020 has been a difficult year and people have placed HIGH EXPECTATIONS on Christmas bringing some kind of nostalgic PEACE to the uncertainty of the world we currently live in.
Question:
What happens when all presents are opened and all the decorations go back in boxes and placed in the Attic until next Christmas?
What if 2021 is the same or worse than 2020?
How can we have HOPE, PEACE, JOY things are still difficult in mid-January?
ADVENT is a time to slow down and remember the anticipated arrival of the first coming of Jesus. Over the last month, we have looked at how God’s people in very difficult circumstances, placed their hope in the coming of the Promised Messiah that would bring true peace and joy forever.
TODAY we wait with HOPE, by looking forward to the SECOND coming of Jesus. We can have great hope in desperate times… as we look to experience everlasting peace and joy when we are with Christ forever in His eternal kingdom.
Sadly today - Even Christians will place a false hope in a specific political party and be fearful of the other political party, forgetting that the Sovereign King eternally reigns, and nothing can keep Him from fulfilling His promises. He will even work through the evil that is in our present country, just like He has always done through history, to accomplish HIS propose today.
Church - We have been given every reason to stand firm in HOPE during these troubling times we live in.
The events surrounding the Birth of Jesus could not have been more difficult … but God worked THROUGH THE EVIL authorities in the world to accomplish HIS divine plan.
Matthew 2:1-12 - These verses focus on the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem to see the child that was born, King of the Jews.
Today, You will see how the traditional picture of the birth of Jesus that many people think of, may not line up completely with what the Bible actually reveals.
The Christmas Carol we often sing of the Magi that came from the EAST to visit Jesus is called “We Three Kings.”
The magi are never called “kings” in Scripture.
They were actually never at the place where the infant Christ was born like the shepherds, these men would have most likely arrived in Bethlehem a year or more after the Birth of Jesus.
All too often, our traditions do not actually line up with what the Bible reveals about these historic events.
Having a more accurate understanding will give us a deeper appreciation for what Christ has done because of HIS LOVE for the world.
Let’s dig in and see what the Bible says about this familiar event after the birth of Jesus.

The Arrival of the Magi

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
Matthew introduces us to the Magi translated “wise men.”
There is a lot of mystery about this guys.
We are not told their names, their number, or the specific country/countries from which they came.
We traditionally think that there were THREE because of the specific gifts mentioned in verse 11.
We do know that they were from the EAST. That is pretty general geographic area.

(SEE MAP)

The Christmas carol “The First Noel” FALSELY states: “They looked up and saw a star, shining in the east beyond them far...”
Matthew 2 states that these wise me were FROM THE EAST (vs. 1). The wise men actually need to travel WEST in order to find Jesus.
These men were high-raking officials with power and influence.
They would have been well-respected.
Serving prominent roles in both religion (pagan) and in politics in their native land.
Their powerful influence is evident by the wealth of the gifts they brought with them.
They most likely would have not traveled alone (large entourage)
We learn about men like this in the book of Daniel, and it is VERY likely that these men were influenced by Jewish teaching.
With their keen interest in the STARS, they were supernaturally drawn by a supernatural star on their journey to WORSHIP the ONE BORN King of the Jews.
Important to know that Matthew’s gospel account was specifically aimed at a Jewish audience.
The first people we see worshipping Jesus were ceremonially unclean shepherd boys that were NOT allowed in the Temple/synagogues and Magi from Gentile nations.
The center of Jewish worship was just five miles north of Bethlehem.
This promised Messiah was not merely the KING of the Jews; He is KING of all people in every nation.
The journey from the far east to the west has been estimated by some scholars to possibly be thousands of miles.
The wise men first arrive in Jerusalem - the capital city of the Jewish people. It would have seemed natural to find the child that is BORN king to be found there.
We get the feeling from Scripture that no one knew of the birth of Jesus.
These foreign officials would have created a stir within Jerusalem.
The questioning of the wise me is eventually reported to King Herod.

King Herod is Threatened

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a Ruler
who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And 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.” (Matthew 2:3-8)
Even at His birth, the opposition to Jesus had already began.
Vs 3 - Herod “was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”
A world leader was intimated by a baby. Why?
The Magi stated that they had come to worship the One BORN King of the Jews.
Background on Herod:
He was GIVEN control of Judea by ROME around 40 BC and was considered “king of the Jews.”
He was a vicious, tyrant leader.
Whenever threatened by anyone for his position, he would have them killed. (Even wives and children were killed by him when he didn’t trust them.)
NOW foreign officials with power and influence have traveled a very long distance to Jersualem to worship a baby BORN “King of the Jews.”
Herod is deeply disturbed by the possible threat to his position as king.
The concern was not only with Herod but others in Jerusalem, most likely including the religious community.
Herod brings together the Jewish leaders in the community (vs 4) made up of chief priests and scribes (another group that was ALWAYS opposed to Jesus) to find out where the CHRIST/Messiah would be born.
Chief Priests - Representing Jewish Worship
These men had become corrupt, religious politicians at the time of Jesus birth.
Scribes - Representing Jewish Law
lawyers who knew and taught Jewish law (OT Law and the man-made traditions that were developed/added to the law).
BOTH groups opposed Jesus throughout His ministry.
This leads to some great wisdom for us today:
The spiritual state of the priests and the scribes should caution us that:

Knowledge of Scripture alone does not guarantee a saving faith in Christ.

A person can know a lot about Jesus and never truly be saved.
The prideful rebellion in our hearts can never be transformed by mere church attendance and a superficial knowledge about God.
Way too often people can have a false sense of salvation.
When Herod questioned this group of Jewish leaders where the Messiah was to be born they answered by paraphrasing Micah 5:2 (we studied 2 weeks ago).
“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.” - Micah 5:2 (ESV)
Key: These Jewish leaders knew where the Messiah was to be born, but we can see that they made no attempt to go and see for themselves if the Promised Messiah had truly arrived.
It is frightening to KNOW THE WORD/Scripture and fail to respond to what is clearly revealed.
These religious leaders continued to ignore the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah through His ministry and even beyond the resurrection.
The NEXT time the label “King of the Jews” was ascribed to Jesus in Matthew’s gospel is when He was being beaten and mocked prior to His crucifixion .
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” - Matthew 27:11 (ESV)
In Matthew’s paraphrase of Micah 5:2, he adds a line toward the bottom of verse 6:
In reads:
“… who will shepherd My people Israel.”
This reference to shepherding is important: it too comes from OT prophesy. It is found in 2 Samuel 5:2 where God speaks to David.
“You will shepherd My people Israel and be ruler over Israel. “
Prophesy points to the fact that the Messiah would come from the line of King David and that one day the Good Shepherd would come as the Messiah King and lead God’s chosen people back to God.
This this what was see in & through the work of Jesus.
“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” - Matthew 9:36 (ESV)
Let’s look again at verses 7-8:
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And 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.” - Matthew 2:7-8 (ESV)
We discover later that Herod had NO intention of worshipping Jesus. This was a complete lie.
Herod wanted Jesus to be killed.
He pretended to want to worship and it seems as if the wise men initially believed Herod.
He sent the wise men way to travel 5 miles south to the city of Bethlehem.

The Magi Worship the King

9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 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. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:9-12)
May scholars believe that when the Magi set out for Bethlehem, this is the first time the star is seen MOVING.
This is truly a supernatural event. The star may have been stationary the entire time the Magi were making their way to Jerusalem., but NOW the star reappears and is moving and leading the way to Bethlehem to where Mary, Joseph and Jesus is staying.
Matthew says the Magi “rejoiced exceedingly with GREAT joy.”
For men that would have studied the stars, this would have been something they had never experienced… and then to lead them a few short miles to the home where Jesus was staying.
Decorative Mangers scenes today - often picture the wise men at the place where Jesus was born along with the shepherds. (Not what the Bible reveals)
vs. 11 tells us that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were settled in a home at this time. Later Herod determines that Jesus would be less that two years old based on what he found out from the wise men. (vs 7)
Matthew tells us that they enter the home, found Mary and Jesus and fell down and worshipped Him.
These great men of the EAST, nobility from foreign nations, are bowing down and worshipping a small child.
Don’t be too quick to skim over this incredible detail.
Men only bow in the presence of Someone superior to them.
That is what is happening when these great men fall down in worship before Jesus.
We can easily see why they were obedient to the warning in the dream to NOT return to Herod and tell of the location of Jesus (vs 12)

Extravagant Gifts: Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh

It was customary in the ancient EAST to bring gifts when approaching a person that was Superior.
(Don’t believe for a second that it was something like a scene from the Disney film “Aladdin”)
There are many commentators that speak how each of these gifts represent a type of symbolism linked to the life (and death) of Jesus.
God - Royalty
Frankincense - Deity (Worship/Service to God)
Myrrh - Humanity (Presented here at his birth and also offered to Jesus on the cross)
Some scholars suggest these items would have helped finance their trip to Egypt.
Though there is no mention of the significance of each gift from Matthew, we see that these men were presenting gifts that would have recognized that this child was BORN - King of the Jews.
They were acknowledging Jesus as a true King deserving of their worship.
We do see that Isaiah prophesied that these gifts would be presented to the Messiah.
“… They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.” - Isaiah 60:6b (ESV)
Take some time this week to continue reading the rest of Chapter 2.

What can we take from this familiar element of the birth of Jesus?

Our Christmas traditions can often distract or forsake the Biblical significance of the events that surround the birth Christ .
We can easily overlook some wonderful lessons in this passage alone if we don’t take the time to understand what is happening in Matthew 2.
Let’s look at a few observations:

People of faith are often found in places we do not expect.

We find several people throughout Scripture that we know very little of their background.
Examples:
Melchizedek
Jethro
Job
The Magi are examples of this too.
We must remind ourselves that God’s people are not confined to certain people or places.
I said a couple of weeks ago: “The Bible was written for you… but not to you.”
So, we cannot make the mistake that the Gospel is only for people like us in the American Culture.
When it comes to God’s kingdom, His grace extends to people in the darkest places in our world.
That is why Jo and I felt it was important to take Noah to Haiti when he was in elementary school. We wanted him to have a more accurate world view.
He understood at a very young age that much of the world was NOT LIKE southern Indiana, USA!
In our passage today:
It would have seemed that that the Jewish religious community would have been the first to go to Bethlehem on the slightest rumor of the Messiah being born. But that simply wasn’t the case.
But, unknown strangers from a pagan land, and a group on ceremonially unclean shepherds, were the first to rejoice at the birth of Jesus.
This KING was the Sovereign of all nations.
Side Note: Last week, Jordan told us about the Angels appearing to the shepherds. They would most likely been young teenagers. Jesus lived 33 years, so it is likely that the Shepherds would have been living when Jesus was crucified.
“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” - John 1:11 (ESV)
Look at these words from J. C. Ryle:
“What a mournful picture this is of human nature! How often the same kind of thing may be seen among ourselves! How often the very persons who live nearest to the means of grace are those who neglect them most! There is only too much truth in the old proverb, “The nearer the church the further from God.” Familiarity with sacred things has an awful tendency to make men despise them. There are many, who from residence and convenience ought to be first and foremost in the worship of God, and yet are always last. There are many, who might well be expected to be last, who are always first.” - J. C. Ryle “Expository Thoughts on Matthew”
J. C. Ryle is absolutely correct - We should mourn the fact that we have so many resources to know God and His Word - and yet the church often acts like we despise God’s Word. We have become so familiar with church that it has very little priority in our lives.
When Herod asked the Jewish leaders where Christ was to be born, they answered with the precise location.
Yet… they themselves never went to investigate for themselves.

The Magi are examples of Spiritual Diligence.

It would have been a very difficult and dangerous journey to Bethlehem.
They had their hearts set on seeing the One born, King of the Jews.
They most likely didn’t rest until they saw Him.
It would do well if all us followed their example.
What kind of diligence/sacrifices do we demonstrate to seek after Jesus?
What does our faith TRULY cost us?
These are serious questions that we must ask ourselves.

“I just don’t have the time to do anything more.”

Example: “Elf on the Shelf”
(Be careful) This Elf spends a lot of time figuring out how to get in to all that trouble in the days leading up to Christmas morning.
Yet - Many parents never take the time to tell about the Birth of Jesus from the Biblical Perspective.
We don’t have the time to read Scripture with our kids.
We don’t have to time to pray as a family.
We don’t have time to study the Bible (for ourselves) so we can speak Biblically to our family.
Church - We must seek to know Christ with diligence in our world.
COVID has been a tremendous test for Christians today on what they put their trust in.
Our culture has become more and more hostile to spiritual truth.
Our kids need to know that the Birth of Jesus is more than a fairy tell that that we show with a plastic Jesus under your tree.

The Magi are great examples of faith.

These men believed in Christ when they had never seen Him.
They believed in Him when the religious community did not.
They even believed when He was an infant. They worshipped Him as King.
Jesus hadn’t performed any miracles.
Jesus hadn’t given any great teaching.
There were no visible signs that He was God in the flesh.
They only saw a small child that was helpless and weak, fully dependent on His mother’s care.
YET - When they looked at Jesus, they believed they saw the Savior of the world.

“They fell down and worshiped Him.”

This is the kind of faith that God takes great pleasure in today.
We are truly blessed when we can demonstrate this kind of faith in our lives today.
“The God of two thousand years ago sovereignly arranged the stars in the sky, the God who sovereignly directed these magi to the Messiah, is the God who has sovereignly arranged your life and every detail in it - your family, your job, your school, your background, and your relationships. This God wants you to use your life to make the glad praise of Christ known among people everywhere. Whether you’re leading coworkers to joyfully worship Christ or you’re a student leading other students on your campus to be glad in Him, God wants to use you. Every believer has the responsibility and the privilege of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Live for purpose. Die for purpose.“
This is the LESSON we can take away from Matthew 2. We are unsure how these noble men came to faith, but God knows.
Matthew’s gospel account begins with the birth of the Savior and Gentile men from foreign lands, in faith, come to worship Him.
Look at how Matthew closes His account of the life of Jesus:
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
Actions Steps:

Take time to pray for and encourage a missionary family.

TB Paul and the NACEA Mission: If you would like to write an email to the Paul family, please call the office or email me, and I would be more than happy to give you that information.
(Picture of TB and Rani)
I just received an email from TB this week wishing my family and the Antioch family, Merry Christmas.
Pray from them… and the pastors and 55+ congregations.

Give toward the India Mission Christmas Offering.

You can still make a donation through the end of the year.

Begin to share the gospel to the people you see every day.

No one should be considered “unreachable.”
Look at what Matthew tells us what the Angel spoke to Joseph in verse 21 of Chapter 1:
“… She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” - Matthew 1:12 (ESV)
The significance of the birth of Jesus is seen in His death.
God love the world, so He sent Jesus (fully God and fully human) to live a perfect life of obedience. This was the kind of life that we could not live.
Jesus then stepped in and took our place. We were the ones that deserved to die because we broke God’s holy standard and that made us fully guilty of eternal death.
But… Jesus took our place and died our death.
Then Jesus rose from the grave in victory over sin and death.
Whoever believes in Him and places complete trust/faith in what He did on the cross will live forever in God’s eternal Kingdom.
This is what the birth of Christ was all about.
Today - We can fall down and worship just like the wise men.
Communion is a reminder of why Jesus was born fully human.
Prayer.
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