Summary: The irony that those who should have recognized the signs of Christ’s arrival were completely oblivious while "foreigners" recognized them.
Mt. 2:1-12 ”Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign”
I want to begin by asking a question. How many wise men were there? Anybody venture a guess?
We typically say three, don’t we? The truth is we don’t know exactly how many there were. But we tend to say three because there were three gifts that given to Jesus.
As I said several weeks ago, I want us to read the Bible as though we are reading it for the very first time, as though all of these words are brand new to us. Because too often we have come to certain passages and simply assumed we knew and understood what was taking place here.
But it is exactly this attitude that can get us into trouble. As a matter of fact, it is this attitude which becomes the focus of our text this morning.
And it may be you thought this text was Matthew’s way of telling us that a group of wise men or Magi, possibly three, possibly more, came to worship the Christ child and offer the gifts, which is all a part of the Christmas story, an important part of the Christmas story.
But for the next few minutes, I want us to notice something else that is happening in this text that relates to this attitude as it is revealed as we compare the two groups we find in this passage of scripture.
The first group is, in order of appearance, the wise men. The second group is Herod and all those who live with him in Jerusalem.
The first difference between these two groups that we notice is their location.
According to Matthew’s account, the wise men came from the East. This means these wise men traveled a significant distance in order to find the “King of the Jews”. They had left the familiarity of home and traveled many miles in order to find Jesus.
The second group, Herod and the religious leaders live there in Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, Herod is in his home when these wise men show up and ask to see Jesus.
The second difference between the two groups of our text is their culture.
Since the wise men came from the East, and some believe more precisely from Mesopotamia that these were Gentiles rather than Jewish men.
On the other hand, with the exception of King Herod, the chief priests and scribes that surrounded him were all Jewish. These were God’s chosen people, God’s chosen vessel to share His grace and love with the world.
The third difference is that of sight. The Gentile pagans saw the sign of the star that pointed to the “King of the Jews” and those who should have seen the sign of the coming of the Messiah, the chief priests and scribes didn’t see or at least acknowledge the signs.
The fourth difference between these two groups is the response.
The wise men came in order to worship and to bring gifts of adoration to this new king.
King Herod and the chief priests and scribes heard from these wise men that there was a new king, we are told they tremble.
So let’s recap: The first group, the wise men, pagans from the Gentile world who should have had no interest in what was happening in Jerusalem, hundreds of miles away, leave their homes and security because they saw the star and followed it in an attempt to find the “King of the Jews” and to worship Him and to present Him with gifts.
While those who were there, the chief priests and scribes, who knew and were looking for the coming Messiah, and who knew the Old Testament scriptures and who had spent their life within those pages, didn’t see any sign, but when it was announced to them, they were frightened by what this meant.
Do you see what’s happening? Those you and I might have believed incapable of responding to the grace of God did and those who we thought should respond and should know what the grace of God looks like react negatively.
Now understand, it isn’t as though God gave these wise men more signs or more chances than His chosen people. As a matter of fact, if you look at the overarching story, the chief priests and scribes come from a long line of people to whom God had attempted to reveal Himself and yet they failed to listen.
And here is where the warning I gave several weeks ago and again this morning meets us practically. For we can think we know the scriptures so well and we can think we are so familiar with them that we miss the signs that God gives us as He seeks to speak to us.
Did you hear that? We can actually miss God’s speaking to us.