Summary: How Jesus was received at his birth illustrates how people have responded to Christ throughout history--and how they respond today.
“Reception for the King”
Mililani Community Church
December 22, 2000
Pastor Rick Bartosik
INTRODUCTION: Every December, my wife Diane wears a little golden pin on her United Airlines uniform. It’s a beautiful pin depicting the three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem. In her work as a flight attendant, people will sometimes comment on the beauty of the pin. She uses those situations as opportunities to be a witness for Christ.
She wore that little pin on her flight to Los Angeles this past week. She came to one seat, where there were two young girls, seven and ten years old. The seven year old said, "That’s a pretty pin." Diane responded, "Do you know what the pin means?" They both looked carefully at the three men on camels following a star. . . . .and then said, "No." They didn’t know what it signified. Then Diane explained, "It’s the three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus." "Do you know that story?" They both said, "No". They had never heard it before.
Over the next few hours as they flew across the Pacific, many people commented on the beautiful pin; but to Diane’s amazement, not a single one seemed to understand or at least did not acknowledge that they understood what it symbolized. She came to one lady with a six year old boy. The woman commented, "Oh, what a beautiful pin!" Diane said to her little son, "Do know the story of the Three Wise men following the star to find the baby Jesus?" But the mother interrupted and said, "No, he doesn’t . . . .and we don’t teach him about that." Not only did that little boy not know the story, his mother did not even want him to hear it, and intentionally kept him ignorant of it! She seemed to be offended that Diane would try to tell her son the story.
Throughout the flight, people were attracted to the glitter of the pin---but in every case, the people Diane met were either indifferent to its meaning, or did not understand its meaning, or in one case a mother did not want her little six year old son to even hear the story of the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the coming of the Wise Men.
Diane’s experience this past week is a very appropriate introduction to the message this morning---because the main purpose Matthew’s account of the coming of the Wise Men is to show us how the Lord Jesus was received by the world when He came. How he was received at his birth, anticipated the reception he would receive by Jews and Gentiles. It also illustrates how people have responded to Jesus Christ throughout history--and how they respond today.
There are three possible responses to Jesus Christ:
1. Some, like King Herod are immediately offended by Him, and filled with open hatred and rejection.
2. Others, like the chief priests and scribes, pay little attention to Jesus. They are indifferent to His claims; and like those religious leaders, they often don’t even bother to examine whether His claims might be true.
3. But others like the Wise Men, are led by God’s Spirit to seek for Him, and when they find Him they receive him gladly and worship him as their Lord.
TRANSITION> Let’s look this morning then at these three responses to the Lord Jesus Christ, as they are illustrated in our text by Herod, the religious leaders of Israel, and the Wise Men.
In verses one and two Matthew begins the story by telling us about. . .
I. THE COMING OF THE WISE MEN (1-2) READ.
Their arrival in Jerusalem took place several months after the birth of Jesus, perhaps more than a year after his birth. Notice that the family is no longer in a stable. They are living in a house (verse 11).
Many legends have developed around these men. We sing the Christmas carol: "We three kings of orient are," but the Bible does not say they were kings. It only says they were Magi or Wise Men. The Bible also does not say there were three. We don’t know how many there were. Only that they presented three gifts. And we don’t know that they rode on camels. We have added a lot of things in our traditions that the Bible does not tell us.
Who were the wise men and where did they come from?
Origen, one of the early church Fathers believed the wise men came from Babylon. He had good reason to believe this. We read about the wise men of Babylon in the book of Daniel.
The wise men were among the highest ranking officials in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar. They were the scholars of their time. They were experts in astronomy and astrology. Because of their knowledge in the fields of science, and mathematics, and agriculture, and astronomy their influence grew until they became the most powerful group of advisors to King Nebuchadnezzar.