Monthly Archives: December 2016

Matthew 1:1-18

Title: News Stories

Text: Matthew 1.1-18

 

Introduction: Last week I mentioned that some stories are in some Gospels and other stories in them all. Most of the Gospels though chose the stories that worked with their themes – their goals. We have the genealogy of Christ in two Gospels; however, both are different: one traces the lineage of Joseph and the other of Mary. Matthew’s is found in chapter 1.

So we ask the question of last week: why? Why did Matthew use this genealogy list? It can be quite boring if you just read it like this: rd v7-10. There really is more here. I believe Matthew wants us to see more than a list of names.

On July 17, 1983, a small pro-Soviet Indian newspaper called the Patriot published a front-page article titled “AIDS may invade India: Mystery disease caused by US experiments.” The story cited a letter from an anonymous but “well-known American scientist and anthropologist” that suggested AIDS, then still a mysterious and deadly new disease, had been created by the Pentagon in a bid to develop new biological weapons.

“Now that these menacing experiments seem to have gone out of control, plans are being hatched to hastily transfer them from the U.S. to other countries, primarily developing nations where governments are pliable to Washington’s pressure and persuasion,” the article read.

The Patriot’s article was subsequently used as a source for an October 1985 story in the Literaturnaya Gazeta, a Soviet weekly with considerable influence at the time. The next year, it ran on the front page of a British tabloid. After that, it was picked up by an international news wire. By April 1987, it was suggested that the story had appeared in the major newspapers of more than 50 countries.

The problem? The story was patently false.

Ill. Cont.: Dr. John Johnson, CEO of Edgeward Economics asks in his Huffington Post article: How bad is the fake news phenomenon?

A man who was “self-investigating” a fake news story was arrested after shooting his assault rifle in a Washington, D.C. pizzeria.

President-Elect Trump fired a member of his transition team for sharing fake news.

And the Wall Street Journal is attracting new readers by promising their stories are “created, curated and checked in a real newsroom.”

The Pope jumped on the Fake News bandwagon this week and condemned it, calling it sin. Well, I’d have to agree – bearing false witness is one of those forbidden activities on the most famous top 10 lists ever: The Ten Commandments.

One older gentleman being interviewed said:  I miss the days of getting news the old fashioned way – having Walter Cronkite tell you.

Boy isn’t that true. With the Brian Williams scandal of NBC and the bias reporting in the media, whom can you trust? Many citizens feel like they can’t trust the news, newspapers or professional journalists.

Transition: Well here’s a news story that is different than most stories you hear. 1st of all…

I.     This story is true (1)

exp.: That’s what makes it so good: it’s true – as opposed to false! This isn’t star wars or some fairy tale. V 1 opens with this claim: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Here is a person and here is where he comes from.

This passage before us today outlines just what is important for us to realize, to absolutely know that it is valid and true. You see, the genealogy, especially for the Jew, validates one’s lineage and one’s heritage. What Matthew is declaring to us is that His story isn’t a myth. It isn’t false. This story you’re about to read is true.

News is supposed to be something that is simply reported. News has become relative to whatever anyone wants it to be. There was a time when news was something that you heard and for the most part, could believe it to be factual: 1. A building burned; 2. people died. News today seems to be like people are just trying to give you advice about what you should do or what you should believe or how you should feel. Reporters aren’t giving reports anymore: they’re citing their opinion. This story is different, though. Matthew is saying: The story you’re about to read is true…

t.s.: 2ndly, it is also real.

II.    This story is real (1-17)

exp.: Jesus was born to a momma and a daddy (16). He lived a life out in the public, which was witnessed by many. His story is real as opposed to fake.

I’m going to wonder aloud. I’m not passing judgment, mind you. I’m just wondering. I wonder if we hurt the Christmas story by all of the other false stories we tell during holiday times. I don’t just mean Christmas. I mean, any holiday – pick one. I don’t want to betray the fun some of your families have – our family, too – but if we tell these stories that are false, if they’re not real, then we run the risk of making this story appear false.

Daddy is that true? Well, no baby, it’s not. What about that one? No, little Johnny, that one isn’t true either. What about… eventually, the child comes to the nativity and wonders: is that one true? Let me encourage you: Yes, Virginia, There is a Messiah named Jesus.

Now, there are many who would lump Jesus in with all of the other holiday fables; however, I want to assure you that the parents of Jesus, which you see in the nativity, were real people. Their names are included in the two genealogies.

Here’s something else I wonder: Do we as preachers contribute to this delusion that the Christ story is a fable? Here’s what I mean:

ill.: When I was younger I preached a sermon on the Wise men: Wise men still seek him, Wise men still find him, Wise men still worship him. Are you a wise man? I was proud of that message. Now, not so much! By the way: I got an A for that sermon in my first preaching class!

app.: Here’s why I would be critical of a pastor who preached that message today: this story isn’t recorded for us to hold up as a moral to be taught. Be like them! I didn’t say this at the end of my sermon, but I could have said: And the moral of the story is… No, that was story recorded because it is true. If Mr. Cronkite could report on this, he’d say: And that’s the way it was…

t.s.: it is true… it is real…

III.   This story is unpredictable (1-17)

exp.: Here’s what I mean by that: many stories written throughout time appeal to the romantic or the daring or the adventurous. Those stories are patterned after this story. But what makes this story different is that it isn’t predictable. For example, most genealogies are used for validation.

ill.: Ezra 2.59 reads: 59 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel…

At the end of the list of names and their numbers, Ezra continues: 62 These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 63 The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.

Other genealogies were used because it gave the person prominence. That’s what Ezra does when he presents himself: rd 7.1-6;

Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest— this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.

The lineage was important (as demonstrated by Ezra) because it validated who they were and where they came from. Often times certain family members were removed if they gave a poor reference. The genealogy of Christ doesn’t remove people who might make Jesus look bad. Matthew presents a genealogy quite different from that of what we find in most genealogies. The first difference is:

  • Characters; in his genealogy you have prostitutes and kings; Manasseh and Rahab; I would say that Manasseh was probably the most evil king in Israel’s history. He is like the lowest of how low these kings get. Rahab appears to run a brothel. That would at a minimum make her a pimp. We don’t know all of her history, but we classify her as a prostitute. You have David and Tamar: David probably the greatest king throughout their storied history, and yet – an adulterer, a murder, a liar. Indeed, Bathsheba isn’t even mentioned by name, but rather we read in v 6 that she was the wife of Uriah. For those of you who don’t know: David had a group of men who were kind of like the Secret Service. They were his closest military warriors. Uriah was one of those Mighty Men. David had an adulterous relationship with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Then, in order to cover his sinful behavior, he had Uriah killed. So, it is interesting for us that Mathew doesn’t just say: David, Solomon, Rehoboam. Instead, he mentions Uriah by name, drawing attention to this man’s sinful behavior. Tamar played the prostitute with her father-in-law (Genesis 38). She pretended to be a cult prostitute of a pagan deity. Characters… the 2nd difference is…
  • Gender: most genealogies are patriarchal; You’ll note the four women listed here:
    • Tamar (3)
    • Rahab (5)
    • Ruth (5)
    • Bathsheba (6), some folks add
    • Mary down in v16; would be the 5th; I put her in Luke’s list; however, it is interesting to note the similarities between these women and Mary. There is a 3rd difference:
  • Race or Ethnicity: Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites; Ruth was from Moab; Most Jews would only name Jews in their genealogy to show purity to their heritage.

app.: Matthew demonstrates for us some people with shady stories in the genealogy of Jesus which I don’t think we could have predicted if we’d had written it ourselves.

t.s.: The Good News is a true and a real story. It is filled with characters you could not have predicted would be listed. And finally,

IV.  This story really is Good News! (17)

exp.: Mark 1.1 begins with: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The word gospel translated into English is most literally: good news or a good message. rd v 17; 14 generations in the 1st section and 14 in the 2nd; and ditto in the 3rd. Actually, if you count them up it’s 13, 14, 13 respectively. But from what I understand this was a common practice to alternate and use a name to start the next section with which you just finish with – and you count it both times.

I’ve heard of people through the years playing math tricks with this passage. The term is Gematria (Geh-may-tree-ah) and it concerns the numeric value of Hebrew words; I’m not smart enough to give any credence or discredit them, but let me just give you an example: the numeric value of the name David in Hebrew is 4+6+4 = 14; There are 14 generations in each section: Abraham to the Kings; from the Kings to the exile; from the exile to Christ. David is the 14th entry; But listen – I think there is more to this than just numbers. But there is a point made by Tim Keller dealing with this issue of numbers that makes a lot of sense to me.  This is especially highlighted for me since taking a sabbatical. Here’s what we learn about the 4th commandment and the ties to it.

  • The Sabbath is the 7th It is to be a day of rest; it’s what God did; it’s what he has commanded us to do;
  • 7 Sabbaths from the Passover to Pentecost;
  • Every 7th year – the fields were to lie fallow (rest);
  • 50th year was the year of Jubilee; The plan of God was for the Jews, his people, to set their slaves free; and the forgiveness of debt; the restoration of land to the family to which it belonged; etc.
  • In our text, we have six 7’s. Christ ushers in the 7th Seven; there is something very special about this new era. It should be a time of rest, and freedom from bondage, restoration.

t.s.: this story is so unique; the genealogy brings truth and reality; it doesn’t dress the story up, but instead presents parts that most people would avoid (gender, race, black sheep); it presents us with hope, that by faith, we can find peace, rest, forgiveness.

Conclusion: And isn’t that really where Matthew is pointing us – to the Christ who would bring us all of these things and more? And that is the real news story today…

But, I think all of this still points to one overall arching fact. The fact that this good news is evidence that God keeps his promises. All of these stories add up to a really long time! Many people looked with hope for the promise, but never saw it realized. And that’s where faith comes in! These people looked forward in faith that God would do as he promised. They understood that God is a covenant keeper.

So, yeah, this story is good news for you and me today because it is true and real and filled with messy people. But what’s more, it is good news because God keeps his promises. And because of this, you and I can look forward to the promises yet to be fulfilled.

Let’s pray:

Invitation:

 

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Matthew 2

Title: Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?

Text: Matthew 2

Introduction: Matthew 2 is unique to the Christmas story. Luke doesn’t tell these stories. Neither do Mark or John. When I was younger, I would often wonder why one of the gospel writers would choose to tell a story that the others didn’t. What was it about that particular story? Take this story, for example: why?

Well, I’ve come to understand through time that each writer has a purpose to his book. You can usually find their purpose set up at the beginning and the end of their books. In hermeneutics we call this the top and the tail. For Matthew we find a phrase here and at the end of the book: The King of the Jews. Pilate asks Jesus plainly: Are you the King of the Jews? Here, the wise men come seeking this one who has been born King of the Jews. Bookends. Top and tail.

But there is more: within each story are lessons for us. That is probably closer to the answer than the top and the tail. Paul wrote in Romans 15: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. God is using Matthew’s stories to draw us in and show us a little about ourselves. So let’s looks for ourselves. I’ve outlined Mt 2 for us like this:

  1. Feeling Threatened
  2. Coming Undone
  3. The Paradox of Christ’s Kingdom

Transition: let’s begin with point #1…

I.     Feeling Threatened (1-10)

exp.: Boy! Who wouldn’t? Think about this: you’re a king. You’re sitting on your throne. A large delegation comes from a far away country. Their camels are loaded with gifts. These magistrates, these important political leaders from this a far away country enter with pomp and circumstance. Why have you come to see the King? We’ve come to inquire as to where is this one who has been born King of the Jews? Our text says that Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him. And rightfully so, because Herod was well known for his treatment of those he thought threatened his throne. His wife…which by the way, he had a few, but she was his favorite…he had his wife killed because he thought she wanted her son to take his place. Oh, and he killed his son, too (others in his family, as well). I’m sure the thought was: whatever you make the King think, don’t make him think you want his throne!

The King summons the religious leaders as to where ‘this one’ would be born. They consult the Scripture and find that he is to be born in Bethlehem. So Herod tells them and sends them on their way with this one ‘request’: when you find him, let me know, in order that I too may come and worship him. And we know he’s lying!

But, God was at work protecting his son. So, he warned the Magi in a dream to go home by a different route. And so they did. Not only did God warn them in a dream, but he warned Joseph, too. So, Joseph packed up his family and fled to Egypt.

When we get to v 16, we read that Herod was furious. That alone demonstrates his heart for us. But he went further – he wanted this baby king dead; rd v 16:  16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

ill.: I think it is interesting…timely maybe, that at this time in our history, there are many refugees, millions even, fleeing that part of the country…fleeing from war, persecution, famine and, like this family here in the Bible, oppression. This past week a refugee became disgruntled and jumped a curb at Ohio State University. He then jumped out of his vehicle and started slashing people with a knife. He didn’t kill anyone, but himself. He injured something like 11 people. So, this issue is before us, almost on a daily basis. If you think about it, Jesus and his family were refugees. They did like many are doing today; they fled across the border to Egypt where there was a large Jewish population.

app.: Now, these two stories (the Somali refugee and King Herod) point us in the direction I think Matthew is wanting us to go. We want answers. Why would someone go off like that? – Either one of them? Some would argue against the rich and the powerful. They did this! Think Trump and the post-election demonstrations going on across the US. Others would argue that this comes from the poor, disgruntled people: those on the other end of the spectrum. But I think Matthew’s point is that the answer is a much larger section of people. Think really big because the Bible teaches us that this wickedness is in every person’s heart; including yours and mine.

Transition: which brings me to my 2nd point…

II.    Coming Undone (3)

exp.: this can actually be seen in two ways:

  1. Coming undone: as in coming apart; losing it; trying to kill or destroy what threatens your kingdom and authority. This is what we see in King Herod of Matthew 2.
  2. Coming undone: as in recognizing Jesus as King and removing yourself from the throne of your heart. Surrendering to Jesus and crowning him Lord and King of your life.

You see, this 2nd definition is much harder to accomplish. Your and my natural tendency is to become angry and fight against giving up our heart’s throne.

Jeremiah 17.9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Think about this: if you want to be king of your own heart and someone comes and tells you that you don’t belong there – that there is someone who is really the King – you’re going to fight that. Those are fighting words. When someone says that Jesus is Lord and if anyone would come after him, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow him, they’re calling for total allegiance. No one can serve two masters: either you’re king of your heart or Jesus is. King Herod isn’t the only one with this problem. You and I suffer from the same malady.

Romans 8.7 tells us why it is that way: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. “Hostile toward God”; you and I have a natural tendency toward self-preservation and self-centeredness. We think to ourselves: No one is going to tell me what to do.

Even if you’re a Christian, your natural tendency is to fight it. So a battle rages everyday. We have to fight it every single day of our lives because it isn’t natural to surrender our heart. That is why it is so hard for us to pray. I’m talking about intense, “get on your knees and fight like a man,” kind of prayer.

Paul really brings this to light in Romans 7, where he says: 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Why is this? It is because you and I have a little king Herod inside of us that wants to fight to sit on that throne.

app.: But, when you and I come to the realization the this story of Christ, born in a manger is true, we must surrender to that – every day. That is why you and I must become undone – not the King Herod way, but the Isaiah way and say: Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

t.s.: Well, part three is…

III.   The Paradox of Christ’s Kingdom (19-23)

exp.:  As we’ve been making our way through Isaiah on Wednesday nights I’ve been struggling with the prophecies concerning this King Jesus. My struggle is identifying exactly which ‘coming’ of Jesus Isaiah is talking about. You see, according to Scripture, Jesus is coming twice. The 2nd coming will be in power. It will bring to an end all evil and suffering. When Christ came the 1st time though, it was in a totally different way. That’s what threw so many off – and still confuses many today. For example:

  • He wasn’t born into pomp and circumstance; his 1st bed was a feeding trough for animals. He wasn’t born in a palace in Jerusalem, but rather in a home in Bethlehem to common, poor folks.
  • He grew up in Nazareth. Matthew 2.19-23 teaches us about the family’s return to Israel. Rd 19-23; Instead of Judea, they returned to Galilee; instead of Jerusalem, they went back to Nazareth. That doesn’t mean much to you and me, but for Israelites, they new that Nazareth wasn’t the place to be from. In John 1.45 Philip found Nathaniel and told him they had found the Messiah – the one Moses and the prophets wrote about. Philip said: Jesus, of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Nathaniel replied: Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

ill.: Do you guys remember the movie Blast from the Past with Brennan Frazier? In that movie, Adam, played by Frazier, is warned by his mother to avoid women from Pasadena. I’m guessing people from California found that funny. But, for you and me, those of us not from California, we understood what she was saying: Can anything good come out of Pasadena?

app.: here’s where I’m going with this: This 1st time around Christ did things in a way that didn’t draw people naturally to him. For some reason, God has chosen the weak things to confound the strong and the wise. He’s always done that:

  • Isaac over Ishmael
  • Jacob over Esau
  • Leah over Rachel – the one who was not loved over the one who was…
  • He chose the Jews to be his people in a land that isn’t even very attractive. How odd of God to chose the Jews. Why not Rome or Greece or Babylon – some rich, powerful nation? No, that hasn’t been his style.
  • Oh the list goes on: David over his older brothers; Ephraim over Manasseh; Abel over Cain;

app.: Here is what Matthew is leading to: Jesus, through his weakness would bring victory and salvation to the World. He would save us – not with a sword, but on a cross. He would never really own anything, never really travel anywhere outside of the few miles he lived. He would never acquire degrees, or accolades. He would never hold office or invent something that everyone needs. He wouldn’t become rich and powerful.

t.s.: So, what? Where do we land when we come to this conclusion?

Conclusion: I think we all need to go through these three steps.

  1. Feeling Threatened: we need to recognize that feeling and desire to be king of our lives. We need to see that rebellious attitude we have toward God. We need to see that by nature, we are at enmity, we are enemies, we are hostile toward God’s declaration that he must be King and not us. We must identify that threat. And then 2ndly,
  2. Coming Undone: Then, we need to come undone! Not like Herod, but rather like Isaiah. We must recognize our tendency and desire to be king of our own hearts and then surrender all of that to God. The Bible calls that repenting of our sin. It means acknowledging that God is right and we’re wrong. When He calls s sinners, and says that all have sinned – all have rebelled – that there is none righteous, no not one – He means you and me. And that means daily taking up our cross, denying ourselves as king and following him.
  3. Living the Paradox of Christ Kingdom: to quote St. Francis of Assisi:

It is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Make me an instrument of your peace,

I want to know what its like to follow you.

When men look at me, I want them to see,

The Light of the World inside.

 

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