Summary: The fourth and final sermon in a Christmas sermon series
The Wise Still Seek, the World Still Hates, and God Still Saves
Text: Matthew 2:1-23
By: Ken McKinley
We know from our text that Jesus wasn’t born in the year “Zero”. He was probably born around 6 or 5 B.C. we know this because Herod was still king when Jesus was born and Herod died in March or April of 4 B.C. Our modern calendar was developed by Dionysius Exiguus, his calculations are off by 5 or 6 years. And we know that Jesus was about 2 years old when Herod ordered the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem, which happened just before he died. We also know that his Herod’s son, Herod Antipas ruled Galilee from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D. Now sometimes people will use these historical facts and try to dispute the Gospel accounts of Christmas, but they’re missing some facts themselves. The Gospel writers never gave any dates, they gave events, and the events that they write about line up perfectly with the historical account. It was Dionysius Exiguus (which by the way means Dennis the Short) who made the mistake when he created our modern calendar, about 500 years after the birth of Jesus.
Over the past three Sunday’s we’ve looked at the Christmas story. We looked at how Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem for Augustus’ census; we’ve looked at how there was no room at the inn and so Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger, we’ve looked at how the angelic host announced His birth to the shepherds in the field.
But the story of Jesus doesn’t end with Him lying in a manger.
Turn with me to Luke 2:21-38 (Read).
Jesus was circumcised 8 days later according to the command of God given in Genesis 17:12 and according to the Law given in Leviticus 12:3. It was at that time that He was given the name Jesus, the name that the angel told Mary she should name Him. Mary herself had to be pronounced clean by the priests, in accordance with the Law, just like every other Jewish mother. And then she presented Jesus to the Lord. That’s important because these earthly parents of Jesus observed all the requirements of the Law.
Then Luke introduces us to two people, Simeon and Anna. They were both devout believers and were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. So Simeon blessed God and then gave a prophecy to Mary concerning both Jesus and herself. He said Jesus is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel. Many people were looking for a political savior, a physical king who would help them throw off the yoke of Roman bondage. To the people like that, Jesus would result in their “fall,” to the Pharisees, those legalistic religious leaders, who had twisted the Scriptures in so many ways over the years, Jesus would result in their “falling.” But Simeon also said that Jesus was destined for the “rising” of many as well.
Now; like the Scriptures say, this was 8 days after Jesus was born, and Mary and Joseph were taken aback by this, but what they didn’t know is that God was bringing another surprise their way, let’s look at our text again (Read vss. 1-7).
Wise men came from the East to worship Jesus. Now there are several things we should see here. First of all, these “wise men” are gentiles. They aren’t Jews, they are from the east, probably Persia (Modern day Iran). They were Magoi, that’s the actual word that we translate into “wise men,” in other words they studied astrology, medicine, religion, and a type of eastern philosophy. Again history tells us that these Magoi usually traveled in large groups. Even if there were just three men, they would’ve had an entourage of slaves, apprentices, and other workers. There may have been 50 or more in the group of Magoi. We often think there were three of them, because they brought three types of gifts. And that’s another thing we should look at. When the wise men came, they came to worship, and in worshiping, they brought gifts. Worshiping the Lord is not just limited to singing hymns and choruses. Our entire church service should be one of worship. The songs we sing, the music that’s played, the tithes and offerings we bring, the preaching of the Word. It’s all included in worship.
So these wise men, say, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews, for we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him…” Now remember, Herod was extremely paranoid, and afraid of loosing power in Judea. So he starts asking questions and says, “When did you first see this star?’ And when they tell him, he tries to be tricky and says, “Well go on and search for Him, and when you find Him, come back and tell me where He is, so I can worship Him too.” Now look at verse 9 of Matthew 2 (Read). The star went before them. In other words; the star was moving from north to south, from Jerusalem to Bethlehem! It moved, and then stopped, over where the “young Child” was. So Jesus wasn’t a baby anymore, He was a “young Child,” at this time, and this “star” led these wise men all the way from Persia, or where ever it was they had come from, and then suddenly stopped over the home Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were staying in. Now here’s what’s incredible to me. The Chinese astronomical tables make mention of the appearance of a star or comet in 6 B.C. over the Middle East, specifically the land of Israel.