"Now the reception of Jesus Christ was on this wise."
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise," begins the account of the birth of Jesus the Messiah, and at the beginning of the 2nd chapter of Matthew, it could just as well begin the words that I have placed at the heading of this message.
The arrival of the magi in Jerusalem must also be viewed in the context of all that had transpired in Jerusalem during the previous year. The miraculous pregnancy of Elizabeth and the miracles accompanying the birth of John were well known to those in Jerusalem (cf. Luk. 1:10, 21-22; 2:57-66). So, too, the birth of Jesus was announced to the shepherds, who came to see the babe, and who proclaimed what they saw to others:
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them (Luke 2:17-18, NIV).
The presentation of Jesus in the temple was the occasion for the Spirit-filled proclamations of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:21-38) could hardly have occurred in secret.
There are three responses to the coming of the Messiah into the world in our text today.
1. The magi diligently search for the infant king to present gifts and to worship Him.
2. Herod the great also seeks eagerly to find the child, so that he may put him to death.
3. But the vast majority of those who live in Jerusalem are seemingly unwilling to travel five short miles to the south of the city of Jerusalem to Bethlehem where they could have found their promised Messiah.
1. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews, and Should be Honored as Such.
2. Jesus is to be Worshiped not just by Jews, but by all the Nations of the World, as Represented by the Wise Men from the East.
3. God Uses His Universe to Make his Son Known and Worshiped. This is His Great Goal in all Things - that His Son be Known and Worshiped. He uses stars and dreams to bring people to their object of worship: Christ the King, the Messiah
4. Those who come to know the saving grace and truth that is in Jesus Christ enter into continual worship of their Lord and Saviour, the King of all Creation.
KJV Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
We don't know how the wise men got their information that there was such a king coming. But it is clear that Herod got the message: these fellows are not searching for a mere, ordinary, human successor to me. They are searching for the final King, to end all kings. And, of course, unlike Anna and Simeon in Luke 2, that is the last thing Herod was looking for. He didn't even know the simple Scriptures about where the Messiah was to be born.
So he asks the scribes, and the one text that they focus on is Micah 5:2, "And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler who will shepherd my people Israel." Now that doesn't sound very extraordinary either. The reason is that the only purpose for which the scribes quoted the text was to answer Herod's question: Where? And the answer is Bethlehem.
But what if Herod had asked them, "Who?" They might have read on in Micah 5: "(2) His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. . . . (4) And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth." So this king is not just coming into being in the womb of his mother Mary. "His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." Or, as John's Gospel says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). And this king would not be limited in his realm to Israel. "He will be great to the ends of the earth."
Jesus is threatening to those who do not want to worship Him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Micah 5: 2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily/secretly called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
In conclusion, let us read from Isaiah's writings, using his personal experience to help us get a grasp on what worship is.
KJV Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 Then said I, 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.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
Worship places us face to face with the greatness of the Creator.
Worship is the inward act of the soul which recognizes it nothingness before the magnificence of God, its sin before His purity, its ignorance before His Omniscience, its feebleness before His power.
Worship has no heart for self, it lies silent there at the foot of the throne, conscious of only two things, the insignificance of self and the greatness of God.
Worship flows from our heart when we receive the acceptance of the Almighty God through His offering of Himself for us through the Messiah.
Worship only begins when faith acknowledges the Almighty Creater and Redeemeer.
Worship is the stimulus to sincere, truthful and loving action.
May we worship our Lord God and Saviour in spirit and in truth.
Pastor Orval Wirkkala