Summary: A sermon on how the world receives glad tidings on the coming of the Savior.
People like to hear dramatic stories. Dramas are plots made successful by contrasts: Romeo & Juliet, Twilight, Angry Birds, Maya & Sir Chief [a famous noontime Filipino sitcom]. We related to these stories because deep in contrasts there is a need for us to see victory to occur -- where the good triumphs over the bad, the beautiful trumps the profane. Somehow contrasts make us long for the beautiful to triumph over the profane. This is the reason why most of the times we go to movies. To feel good, to see the unfolding of justice in our eyes where the good triumphs over the bad.
The gospel drama is not an exception to these contrasts. In fact, our gospel story is built on contrasts. Take our verse today for example. Kings for the most part are born in palaces, ours is born in a manger. Kings are born with the revelry of the kingdom, ours is welcomed by smelly shepherds and foreign weirdos. Baby kings are wrapped in silk, precious garments, ours is hay and stubble. Our difficulty for this story is this must not be so. How can this be a good story?
Like any other story, we have to see the entire picture. The gospel story is a completed story, not a suspended anecdote. We will see in the gospel story a victory of life and a triumph of hope despite the context of difficulty and pain. In the gospel story: Somebody’s death becomes somebody’s life, technicolor in a monochromatic world, or a budding green plant from dark ashes.
There are many drama happening in our verse but let me focus today on a particular context: the context of the king. Two contrasts come in this simple idea: first, the king of Israel is born yet they were under the rulership of a pagan king; second, the king of Israel is born but welcome by foreigners.
The contrast gives us a glimpse of the ministry of Jesus. He enters situation regardless of its condition. Although the situation is dark and bleak, He enters in with the goal of seizing that moment with forgiveness, mercy life and salvation. Almost always, men give in during times of difficulty and pain, but the when Jesus enters the scene, He lifts up the broken hearted, cures the the pain, the sadness, the bitterness, the fear, the anxiety, the addiction, the anger.
THE WORLD RECEIVES GLAD TIDINGS ON THE COMING OF THE SAVIOR
Israel at this point has an ugly history of kings. You’d think Kings Solomon and David right? Probably. But the immediate history of Israel at this point did not paint a good picture. It was this historical backdrop that gives this verse its impact. Our story begins 700 years earlier, in the reign of a king named Ahaz. This story is the beginning of how Israel’s king forsook his Kingdom and how King Jesus announced its coming. In the years around 700 BC Ahaz, the king of Judah received word from Isaiah the prophet that two alliances up north are planning to invade his kingdom. But Isaiah told him not to give in because “God will is with us” Immanuel.
Ahaz did not heed the call and instead forged an alliance with a bigger pagan army, the Assyrians – disobeying the call of God. This was Assyria, probably the first dominant empire in the ancient world after Egypt. Ahaz was successful in curbing the Syro-Ephraimite alliance but was not successful in becoming a vassal, a slave state of Assyria. From this point began the puppet kings. The succeeding kings of Israel did not have the kind of freedom Solomon and David had because they were puppet kings. One king Manasseh was dragged with a nose ring to Egypt. The last king of Israel, Zedekiah 2 Kings 25 writes,
6 He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. 7 They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. (vv. 6-7)
The story of the Kings of Israel is a story of sadness. In Ezekiel 19 the prophet issued a lament to the princes of Israel saying, “No strong branch is left on it fit for a ruler's scepter” (Eze 19:14 NIV) referring to the end of days of the kings in Israel. When King Cyrus of Persia finally conquered Babylon defeating Nebuchadnezzar, he was more lenient and allowed Jews to return from exile led by Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. Yet even then we did not read of a king of Israel. The Old Testament closes in Malachi with Jews back in their promised land but still without a king. When we open here in Matthew, the apostle writes that the king was Herod. Herod was a pagan a king, a Roman king to be specific.