Each week Pastor Grant posts the sermon text for the coming Sunday, some of his research for reflection, along with some conversation starters for you to comment on. You are invited to share your thoughts on the text by commenting on this post. To share a comment, “click” the title of this post, or the link at the end of the post (COMMENTS), and you will be directed to a page where you can share your thoughts, reflections, questions, illustrations and/or applications.
NIV Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Research for reflection…
“On January 6 western Christians celebrate the feast of Epiphany, which takes its name from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning disclosure, manifestation, unveiling or appearance. At the simplest level, on Epiphany Christians commemorate the “appearance” of the magi from the east. But on closer inspection, what are the ramifications of the baby in the manger? What does His birth manifest or unveil? What about the cosmic signs and the provocative language that this helpless baby is a newborn king? Will he really inaugurate a new reign and rule in which, according to his mother Mary, God will depose tyrants and send away the rich as empty-handed beggars? The magi who traveled long and hard to worship Jesus with extravagant gifts remind us that He is not only the King of the Jews; he’s the King of all nations and peoples. In contrast to our propensity to privilege one ethnicity or people (usually “mine”) over another, to view one’s own people as exceptional to God and others as at best unexceptional, and to exclude other people who are different (usually “yours”), the pagans from Persia show that God welcomes the worship and the gifts of all people everywhere.” Dan Clendenin in Pagan Magi and Power Politics: The “Disclosure” of Epiphany For Sunday January 6, 2008.
“The people of Israel had long waited for the rightful heir to the throne, but God announces his arrival first through these Gentile Magi. An expectation had circulated in the world of the first century that a ruler would arise from Judah. Suetonius writes, ‘Throughout the whole of the East there had spread an old and persistent belief: destiny had decreed that at that time men coming forth from Judea would seize power [and rule the world].’ Israel’s prophets had long spoken of a period of world peace and prosperity that would be instituted by a future Davidic deliverer (e.g., Ezek. 34:23-31). This belief had penetrated beyond the borders of Israel, so that others were looking for a ruler(s) to arise from the land of Judea.” Michael Wilkins in Matthew (NIVAC)
“The irony of the story of the wise men is that the religious insiders, those who knew the Law and the Prophets and who ought to have rejoiced at the Messiah’s birth, were either indifferent to what they knew or, worse, were entangled in a plot against the Christ; whereas the outsiders, those who were about as distant as could be, theologically and geographically, from concern about the Jewish Messiah, end up joyfully lavishing gifts upon him and kneeling before him in worship.” Thomas Long in Matthew (WBC)
“The final years of Herod’s reign were characterized by constant domestic problems. His ten wives had produced offspring who contended against each other for his throne. As he became older, he grew increasingly paranoid, and he had a number of his own family members imprisoned and executed.” Michael Wilkins in Matthew (NIVAP)
“When the evangelists looked back into the ministry of Jesus with the insight they had gained after the resurrection, they saw that the baptism which began the ministry was already a Christological moment revealing to those who had the eyes and ears of faith that Jesus was God’s Son endowed with the Spirit during the ministry. They also saw the same sequence of proclamation and the twofold reaction of acceptance and rejection. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went forth proclaiming the good news (Matt 4:23). On the one hand, some accepted him as having the power of God and paid him homage as ‘God’s Son’ (14:33). On the other, the Pharisees rejected him; and ‘all the chief priests and elders of the people’ (27:1) delivered him to the Roman ruler to be put to death. If the sequence of Christological revelation, proclamation, and twofold reaction was verified in relation to the resurrection and the baptism, it is not surprising that it holds true in the infancy narrative as well. Matthew 1 told us of a Christological revelation by an angel of the Lord in reference to the conception of Jesus; Matthew 2 is the story of the proclamation of good news and the twofold reaction it received…Thus understood, ch. 2 is the necessary completion of ch. 1 in the sequence of revelation, proclamation, and two fold reaction. The gospel is good news, but that gospel must have a passion and rejection, as well as success.” Raymond Brown in The Birth of the Messiah (The Anchor Bible Reference Library)
Questions for conversation…
What questions does this text raise for you?
Why do you think the ‘religious insiders’ were uninterested or opposed to the Christ-child, while the ‘religious outsiders’ were drawn to the Christ-child?
God used a star in the sky to draw the Magi to Jesus. How does God draw people to Jesus today?
Who do you identify with in this story?
What applications or illustrations would you use to explain this text to a friend?