What If the Star Had Never Appeared?
· We concluded last week that…
o Matthew’s dual purpose is to show Jesus as the Messiah and fulfiller of Old Testament prophecy and to help establish a fledging congregation of Jewish Christians with His life and teachings.
o Let us look at the birth of the King.
The King’s Birth
· We are going to look at the birth of Jesus in this way, by asking this question, ‘What would have happened, had the star not appeared?’
· The issue of familiarity
o You have heard the saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” and children?
o Familiarity also breeds inattention.
§ When you hear something so often, you have a tendency to think ‘I already know that’ and your brain turns off.
§ The Christmas story is so familiar to us that our brains turn off because we think, ‘Oh I know that…’ and so your brain gets bored and, desiring something to chew on, consequently checks out.
o We are born again Christians not ‘bored again’ Christians.
o So check-in here– don’t check-out – keep reading! ‘There are probably some things that you may not have noticed in this ultra-familiar passage.’
Matthew 2:1–18 (ESV)
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,
· Note the components of verse one
o Jesus was born
§ ‘Born’ – (Gr.)gennaobeget, bear, bring forth – same word as 1:16.
§ Note, Jesus was born but the Word pre-existed – John 1:1
o Bethlehem of Judea
§ The town of Bethlehem is located approximately 5-6 miles south of Jerusalem.
§ It is the birthplace of kings being the birthplace of David the king (1Sam. 17:12) as well as the birthplace of Jesus the King.
§ In the first century, it had a population of between 4-5 thousand.
o Herod the King
§ Herod the Great, father of Herod Antipas (Antipas who was the Herod that had John the Baptist beheaded and before whom Jesus stood trial), a cruel and despot king as were many of the rulers of that day.
§ Herod the Great was Idumean by birth.
· Idumea was the Greek name for Edom and was located 50 miles south of Jerusalem.
· Edom originated from Esau
· Jacob and Esau were twin brothers and so this Christmas story features Esau in the person of Herod trying to hunt down Jacob in the person of Jesus.
· Herod was a butcher where people were concerned – a cruel and wicked despot
· He was a builder where his works were concerned.
o He built, theaters, amphitheaters, fortresses, whole cities and the Temple which took an extraordinary amount of time to construct.
o He died a gruesome death (his genitals were eaten with worms) shortly after the events of the wise men.
· One of the special significances of knowing the story of Herod (You may ask, ‘Why would anyone want to know the story of such a jerk?’) is that his death is a matter of historical fact. Herod died in 4 B.C.
· So, what does that tell you about the Christian calendar that was supposed to start at year zero with the birth of Jesus?
o Couple this with the fact that Jesus was two years old at the time of the visit of the wise men.
o What it tells you is that the A.D. calendar is approximately 6 years off.
o How does that help us studying the Bible?
§ You have to factor at least 6 years into your Bible prophecy time line.
o Wise men from the East
§ They are am interesting bunch, these wise men, when you start drilling down into them.
§ Only the little that is mentioned in these verses is what is certainly known of them, that is that they…
· were from the east,
o Meaning they were outside Israel or Gentile
o If they came from Babylon, (which was east and who had wise men as part of their culture), then the trip would taken months to get Israel.
o Which means they were pretty serious about finding this king.
· followed a star to find Jesus
· brought gifts,
· were familiar with the prophecies concerning the king of the Jews
o they were not looking for a Messiah. They were looking for a great king.
· were sensitive to and or had dreams as part of their spiritual belief system.
§ The primary capital city of Jerusalem
§ The epicenter of Jewish-ness if you would.
§ The core of religious racial bigotry – if you were not fully Jewish, you were nothing.
§ Some Jews thought that Gentiles only existed to serve them.
2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 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. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
· Now after this long segment did you observe closely the sequence of events?
o The Star Appears
o The Wise Men inquire
o Jerusalem tumults
o Herod inquires
o Herod lays a trap
o The Wise Men find Jesus
o The Wise Men are warned of God on a dream not to return to Herod
o Herod gets angry when he realizes his deal fell through
o Herod Murders the Male Children two years old and down.
· Did you observe how one event precipitated the next event?
· These events end in the death of between fifty-sixty, two-year old male, children as some scholars estimate.
· But, ask yourself the 50 million dollar question, ‘What would have happened if there had been no star?’
· Then none of this sequence would have taken place and 50 innocent two year olds would not have lost their lives.
· What is it about our Bible reading that when we read stories like these little ones being slaughtered that it does not register with us?
· Part of it is desensitization
o You know we read these stories in the Bible and we are so desensitized by all the murder and death that we take in on a day by day, week by week, etc. by etc., basis that SWOOSH it just never registers with us as it should.
o Fifty children died!, each one just as precious to their parents and grandparents as yours are to you.
o Have you ever seen images on television coming from 3rd world countries that have just experienced some major devastation like flooding or a tsunami or a great earthquake? You see the images of those parent crying about their children. Do you think that just because we are American that our children mean more to us than those children mean to their parents?
· So, when you understand this sequence in Matthew 2, now you must ask the question, ‘WHAT IS SO IMPORTANT ABOUT THIS WHOLE STORY’?????
o What is the big deal with the star?
o What is so important about these wise-men?
o What about these children?
· Some have conjectured that this whole deal was about funding Mary and Joseph’s trip to Egypt with the gifts they brought – the gold, the frankincense and the myrrh.
· I am telling you that that CANNOT BE! the main reason.
o No, that is a side issue that some have made into a main issue.
o One of the secrets to being successful in life is to keep the main thing, the main thing!
· The main thing here is not a pile of money!
o God could have gotten money any number of ways to Mary and Joseph without causing the death of 50 children!!!
o No, money is way too low a value for the point in this episode! It is a side issue not the main issue!
· Who were the wise men?
o THEY WERE GENTILES!!!!!
o They represent people of all races
o They represent people of all cultures
o No, theses wise men who bowed to the KING of KINGS were Gentiles!
· The visit of the wise men had to do with the proclamation that the Gentiles were a part of the Messiah’s salvation, that Jesus was not just a Jewish Savior.
· The Most High God wanted all Gentiles to understand how important they were to his heart.
· The star was dispatched and the course of events set in motion for this purpose. The Magi appear in Bethlehem, albeit unbeknown, to them to prove the love of God to foreign nations of men. God sent them to that end.
· If we now fast forward approximately 40 years or so, we come to Cornelius in Acts 10.
· The church, having begun in a blaze of Holy Spirit activity, is at this point nothing but a Jewish church.
· Those coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus are Jews and Jews only.
· Saved Jews are witnessing to unsaved Jews and the entire plan of God is in danger.
· So, enters a supernatural move of God again. An angel is dispatched to a Gentile and a vision befalls Peter a Jew and the two are united and the precedent reset, – the same precedent, THE SAME PIECE OF ROAD, already paid for 40 years before by the blood of 50 innocent children.
o They finally got it!
o They finally understood!
Acts 11:18 (ESV)
18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
· The apostle Paul is then called as the establisher of this truth, that is, an apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13) which he fulfilled but at a terrible personal cost (2Corinthians 11:23-28).
· But, what about the cost of truth?
· The tremendous idea to be grasped here is the prodigious cost of truth, the high and lofty price that often has to be paid in the kingdom of men to establish a spiritual truth among them.
· How vital it is that we understand this and how important it is that we properly value and handle rightly the treasures of spiritual truth that have been provided for us?
· How motivated should we be to never allow a spirit of compromise to sway us from holding fast to things which we have heard?
· When we compromise the truth of the Word of God, we dishonor the sacrifices that have already been made for us by those that have gone on before us.
· Our mindset ought to be instead to honor those witnesses in the cloud (Hebrews 12:1) who have gone on before us, like these little children, and paved the way of opportunity for us in order that we, in our day, might say we are of God and we are Gentile!
YOUR VALUABLE PURPOSE
· Ask yourself this question:
o Who is really responsible for the death of these children?
· Many lay the blame squarely at the feet of Herod the Great.
o What a butcher he was…
o What a mad man he was…
· What about the devil, was he to blame for these children’s death?
o Yes and no!!!!
§ Yes, in that he was desperately trying to destroy Jesus and
§ Yes, in that all murder and all death emanates from him.
o But a resounding NO!!! on this singular point…
§ Had Israel done its job as a nation of people, had Israel fulfilled its purpose to be a witness of God to the Gentiles, there would have been no opening for the devil to get in and facilitate the murder of innocent children.
· There would have been no need…
o for the star
o for the wise men
o for the message to be proclaimed to the Gentiles because they would have already known and have already been introduced to the God of Israel.
So as we close today here are some Bible verses on the subject of ‘Purpose’.
Ask yourself, are you fulfilling your purpose?
1 John 3:8 (NKJV)
8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV)
11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
Proverbs 16:4 (ESV)
4 The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.