Summary: In this special visitation, we see that there are three different responses that we can have to the Child: we can oppose Him, ignore Him, or Worship Him
The Magi Visits Jesus – Dec. 24th 2006
The Scripture text this morning is Matthew 2:1-12.
This event is always associated with the Christmas story, even though it probably took place when Jesus was a little older. Most scholars believe that Jesus could have been already a year and a half to 2 years old when this event took place. But still, every nativity scene that we see, the 3 wise men are there in the stable. When we see a story about Christ’s birth on TV, the 3 wisemen are there. Every Christmas play that we see, the 3 wise men are there bringing their gifts to the Christ Child. Even the new movie that’s out right now, “The Nativity” the wisemen are present. So am I going to organize a campaign to banish the wise men from the Christmas story? No, but I do want you to be informed.
I want us to look at this event from the perspective of the different people represented in the text. The King has been born, and we see that there are three different responses to his birth. Herod the Great, the religious Jews, and the wisemen all respond to this birth in a different way. King Herod opposes the King. The religious leaders ignore the King, and the magi seek the King. And 2000 years later, these three responses are still present today. Some people oppose Jesus Christ, some people ignore Him, but yet, wise people still seek Him.
(pt 1) For those that oppose the King of Kings, we have the example of Herod. Verse 3 tells us that he was troubled when the wisemen inquired about the King of the Jews. As far as Herod was concerned, he was king of the Jews. Rome had given him that title. He had been ruling in Jerusalem for a long time and he didn’t want a Messiah coming along and ruining everything so he opposed the Savior with all of his might. Herod didn’t realize that this little baby was his only hope for eternal life, but yet with a jealous rage he tried to kill the Child.
But what do we know about Herod? Who was he? Why did he oppose the Savior? Well, because of the records of Roman historians, we actually know quite a bit about Herod. He was a Jew from Idumaen descent, which means that religiously he was a Jew but biologically he was not Judean but instead his ancestry was from the Edomites. In 587bc, Babylon conquered Judea and dispersed the Jews to different parts of the world. And when that happened, many of the Edomites moved into Southern Judea and settled there. This land in Southern Judea where the Edomites settled became known as Idumea, and even though Herod technically grew up in Judea and was a follower of Judiasm, the true Jews didn’t accept him as their king because he wasn’t from the line of David.
As an Idumaean, Herod’s ancestors were Abraham, Isaac, and Esau. Esau was the father of the Edomites, so with Herod on the throne this gives us a picture of the old struggle between Jacob and Esau. The Spiritual verses the carnal, the godly verses the worldly. But it also gives us a picture of the sins of the fathers being handed down to one generation after another. Remember, Esau, the father of the Edomites, was an angry man. When Jacob beat his brother out of his birthright and blessing, the Scripture teaches us that Esau consoled himself by saying, “The days of my fathers mourning are almost over…then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
Throughout biblical history we see that the Edomites were an angry bunch of people, who fought with Israel for hundreds of years…even though they were relatives. In the book of Amos, God says about the Edomites: “…I will not turn back (my wrath against Edom) because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked…” And this same anger ran through the veins of Herod. He was an angry man. He was a cruel man. He killed anyone who opposed him.
How did Herod come into power? Well, Herod’s father was appointed as procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar, and he in turn gave responsibilities to Herod within Galilee. When Herod’s father died in 40bc, Caesar Augustus was so impressed with Herod’s administrative abilities that he appointed Herod as "king of the Jews" and gave him rule and authority of Judea.
But of course the Jews themselves never looked at Herod as their king, he didn’t have the right pedigree. And even though Rome recognized Herod as the king of the Jews, the Jews themselves did not, and because of that, he was a paranoid man, always afraid that someone was going to try to steal his power. **If you are one who marks in your Bible, circle that word “born” in verse 2. Herod wasn’t BORN king of the Jews…he was appointed. So it was that one word that troubled him so greatly. Isn’t it ironic that Esau lost his birthright to his younger brother and Herod lost his appointment to the One who has the true Birthright? And so he grew more and more suspicious and paranoid about losing his power. In his later years, Herod became especially suspicious of his own family. He had his wife tried and executed for treason. He had her two brothers murdered. Then he became suspicious of two of his sons, so he had them put to death, and then weeks before he died, he had a third son executed.