Summary: A look at the cost of our worship.
An Epiphany epiphany
Start with reading the passage – adding interpretation/teaching
Referring to the magi as “kings” – again not mentioned. Probably a poor translation at some time, or simply tradition that sounded nice – kings paying homage to the King of kings.
Where did they come from? – A tradition calls for one from Europe (West), one from Asia (East), and one from Africa (South). Possibly an evangelical bias at some time. The one reference we do have is verse 1 – Magi from the east.
Visiting on the night of his birth – not likely. They came to a house, not a manger as in Luke. I am told the Greek word for “child” here is different from the word for a newborn.
Three magi – nowhere are three magi mentioned, only three gifts. The gifts are possibly the source of the three magi
Meanings for the gifts – Gold (the standard of wealth for a king) for royalty, incense (used in worship) for divinity, and myrrh (a spice used in burials) for His passion. Nice story, but more likely these were ideal things to take along to pay for items needed along their journey.
Names for the magi – date back to the 6th century, but no earlier. Again likely to be just a tradition with little basis in fact. No names given in scripture.
So what does all this mean to us today? Why should we care, some 2000 years later, that 2 or 3 or 10 wise men came and visited Jesus after His birth? What difference does it make? Why is it important enough for Matthew to include this event in his account of Jesus’ life?
1. fulfillment of prophecy – Isaiah 60:6
2. Gentile access to Jesus. Magi were gentile, not Jew.
3. Bringing of gifts as part of worship. They wanted to worship Jesus v.2. They did this by bringing gifts to Him v.11.
Worship was costly to the Magi – both in time and in treasure. Don’t know how far they came, but some think it could have been Persia or Arabia. Would have taken a couple of weeks of travel to get to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Gifts were costly – gold, incense, myrrh – all valuable in trade.
Other examples of costly worship.
Elijah at Mt. Carmel – 1 Kings 18:16-45, esp. v. 36
Put his life on the line. Re-instituted the long-forgotten evening sacrifice. Had God not approved of his worship, he might have been killed.
Abraham offering Isaac – Genesis 22:1-19, but esp. v. 5
Went to worship God by offering his son as a sacrifice.
Without sacrifice, our attempts at worship our meaningless and empty. Without sacrifice, there is no worship.
Is our worship today costly? Do we make any sacrifice in our worship?
In other countries, people are putting their lives on the line by gathering for worship. Risking ostracism from families, risk their jobs or livelihood. Talk to Rev. Thanh about the cost of worshipping God in Vietnam for some current examples.
Here in the US, just attending worship is no big deal. (Some exceptions, I’m sure.) It may be considered passe, but there are no major risks, no major cost – no sacrifice – just to attend worship.
We’re all living close to our church – no major investment of our time in worship. Some do spend more of their time preparing for worship. (Musicians – choir and praise team – cleaning the sanctuary, prayer are examples). Worship must be costly, or it isn’t worship.
I think Matthew included this passage to show us that worship must include the giving of our possessions – our money. To be blunt, if you’re not giving, you’re wasting your time by just attending church on Sunday morning, because you’re not worshipping. Giving is an integral part of worship. You simply can’t worship without giving something that is costly to you.
I’ve been lax in my duties as Finance Chair by not arranging for a pledge campaign this year. I’m going to remedy that right now. Ushers have pledge slips that I’d like to distribute right now. I’d like you to make your pledge costly. Challenge you to increase your giving by 10% this next year. Pledge slip has information on the back to help you with figuring out how much that is. Example – giving $10 a week increases to $11.
How is your giving? Is it costly? Is there something you are giving up so that you can worship God by giving? If it’s not costly, consider increasing your pledge by 10%. Complete the slips, and include them in the offering when it comes around. If you need more time, take it home, pray about it, and bring the pledge slip back next week. There’s a part to tear off and keep as a reminder of your commitment. Don’t worry about the noise – you will be making a joyful noise to the Lord by ripping that paper now.