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: 4 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:
- Feeling Threatened
- Coming Undone
- 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:
- 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.
- 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: 7 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.
- 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,
- 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.
- 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.