Summary: Let us examine our attitudes as we come to Jesus
Christchurch, Brid 30-12-01
“Let us examine our attitudes to Jesus.” Mt 2: 1-12
Story: There was a curate who used to preach on his pet subject "Love" every Sunday, until one day the Churchwarden collared him.
“Curate”, he said as church wardens are wont to do “you preached a good sermon today but can’t you give us something new.”
So the Curate agreed to preach the following Sunday on the book of Revelation.
The following Sunday he got up into the pulpit and started on Revelation but was soon back to his favourite topic of "Love".
The Churchwarden in desperation picked up a copy of the Book of Common Prayer and hurled it at the pulpit.
Unfortunately his throw is not strong enough and he hit a young lady in the front row on the back of the head.
As she went down, she was heard to say: "Hit me again, I can still hear him."
I have to admit, there is a temptation, amongst preachers to speak on their pet subject. Why – because it is easier that being stretched to find something new.
So rather unwisely I asked Jonathan if he had any subject that he would like me to preach on tonight.
When e-mail came back that he’d like me to preach on the story of the three wise men – I groaned.
Not only wasn’t it my pet subject, but it was a subject that I could hardly muster up anything on - except the story I had recently read in Readers Digest.
Story: “What would have happened if there had been three wise women instead of three wise men.
1. They would have asked for directions to the stable locally instead of going to Herod.
2. They would have arrived on time and helped deliver the baby
3. They would have cleaned the stable and brought practical for the family to eat – like a casserole.
4. And there would have been peace on earth!”
As that didn’t seem particularly edifying, I was forced to go away and pray about what the Lord would have me share on this evening.
And it seemed to me that the Lord wanted me to focus on the different attitudes of Herod and of the Magi to Jesus. And compare the gifts they brought - and then see what we can learn from them.
So let’s look at the three major characters of the story.
It is interesting that the one title used about Jesus in the story is that of King of the Jews.
It is a title used about Jesus at the beginning of his life and also at the end. Mt. in the story of the Magi records it as follows:
“Magi from the East came to Jerusalem and asked “Where is the one who is born King of the Jews?”(Mt. 2:2)
And of course, Jesus’ death ended with an affirmation that he was King of the Jews nailed on the Cross above him. Lk records it as follows:
“ There was written a notice above him (on the Cross) which read “King of the Jews” (Lk 23:38)
For both Herod and Pilate incidentally too, the “King of the Jews” was a threat to their kingdoms.
For the wise men, the ’King of the Jews’ was to be worshipped.
2.1 The history of the man
Let me give you a little background of this “delightful” little man.
The Jews hated Herod because of his successful alliance with Rome. He had been appointed king by the Roman Senate in 40 BC and had gained control of the country by 37 BC.
So the fact that the Magi called Jesus - King of the Jews was a direct threat to Herod.
And Herod was paranoid. He had three of his sons, his wife and his mother-in-law put to death because he saw them as threats to his power.
Indeed the Roman Emperor, Augustus said, “It was safer to be Herod’s pig than his son”.
His murderous streak didn’t end with his death either. Just before he died, he ordered some of
Jerusalem’s most distinguished citizens to be arrested on trumped up charges and sentenced to death.
Their execution was to take place the minute he died. Herod knew no one would mourn his passing, but wanted to make sure that people mourned the day he died.
Because he was half Jew and half Idumean (i.e. a non-Jew), the Jews didn’t accept him, though he did to curry the favour of the populace by rebuilding the Temple.
He was a terrific architect. Rabbis often used to say:
"He, who has not seen the Temple, has not seen a beautiful building!"
And if any of you have been to Masada, you will have seen Herod’s magnificent palace - hewn into the side of the mountain – a feat of engineering that is breathtaking!