Nativity

Matthew 02:01-23, “Responses to the Newborn King”

Bible illustration c.1900

Bible illustration c.1900 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(This is a slightly modified version of a previous post with a new recording added.)

A Merry Christmas to you! Today we want to talk about that very first Christmas, the coming of Christ into the world and the ways that people responded to him. How do you feel about Christmas, about the coming of Christ into the world?

  • Joyful, happy, thankful?
  • Indifferent? It doesn’t matter! What’s the big deal?
  • Angry? Hostile?

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We see all these responses to the birth of Christ.

What is your response to the birth of Christ?

How do you feel about the coming of Christ into the world?

Through the years we have received many birth announcements from proud parents. The birth of a child is usually a happy event that people pray for, wait for and plan for. Parents and family and friends are excited as the day approaches. Everyone wonders if it will be a boy or a girl. Today with ultrasound, it is sometimes possible to know before the birth whether the child will be a boy or a girl, but the birth of a child is a joyous occasion. Sometimes a special bedroom is painted and prepared. Gifts are given. A husband worries about getting his pregnant wife to the hospital on time. It is a happy time and the proud father and mother want everyone to know about the birth of their child.

Of course, that is not always the response. We live in a Genesis 3 world, a fallen world where people are broken and often live shattered lives. We live in a world where multiplied millions of babies are not welcomed. Married couples generally rejoice when they learn that soon in their home they will hear the pitter-patter of little feet and the chitter-chatter of little teeth. But that is often not the case when a woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock. An unexpected child becomes not a cause of rejoicing, but the subject of shame or simply an inconvenience to one’s plans for education and career. A relationship that was thought to start in love ends with cold hearts that stop the beating heart of an innocent pre-born child. In the culture of death that is found around the world today, millions of babies are aborted and discarded. We live in a confused world that rejoices at the birth of some babies and insists on the right to kill others. It’s called pro-choice, but it means the right to choose to kill the innocent, those who have the inalienable right to live. We will see in our story today that at the first Christmas, babies were slaughtered in the attempt to find and kill baby Jesus.

But first…

The Birth of Prince George Alexander Louis

Just over two years ago on December 3, 2012, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, announced that his wife, Catherine, was going to have a baby. The world was watching and waiting. This birth was greatly anticipated. Finally, on 22 July 2013, Prince George Alexander Louis was born.

“Gun salutes signalled the birth in Bermuda, in London, in New Zealand, and in Canada; the bells of Westminster Abbey and many other churches were rung; and iconic landmarks in the Commonwealth realms were illuminated in various colours, mostly blue to signify the birth of a boy…” Lullabies were composed. Songs were recorded. “Commemorative coins were issued by the Royal Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, and Royal Australian Mint; the first time a royal birth had been marked that way.” All to celebrate the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis.

The Birth of the Prince of Peace

Another Prince was born 2000 years ago: the Prince of Peace. This birth had been announced 4000 years before his birth. Down through the ages, precisions were made:

  • Descendant of Abraham
  • Tribe of Judah
  • Descendant of King David
  • Born in Bethlehem
  • Born of a virgin, for this Prince would be the Son of God.

And then he was born. John says it like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:1-3 ESV).

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 ESV).

In spite of the prophecies and announcements, the world was not watching:

  • No guns signaled his birth.
  • No decorations were put up in Jerusalem
  • No commemorative coins were issued.

The birth of the Prince of Peace passed mostly unnoticed. Except for

  • Some shepherds who had been keeping watch over their flock that night.
  • A multitude of heavenly angels, an angelic choir singing, “Glory to God in the highest.”
  • All the angels of heaven worshiped this child:

Hebrews 1:6 ESV And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

  • And old man Simeon in the temple recognized that this was the Christ child, the Promised One.
  • And the old woman Anna who had spent years in prayer recognized him as…
  • And there was that star in the East bringing wise men from Babylon or beyond

Yes, finally the word got out. It became known that a most special birth had taken place. How would people react?

Matthew 2:1-23 NLT Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” 3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.'” 

7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” 9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. 

13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” 

16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A cry was heard in Ramah– weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” 

19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

This story in Matthew 2 shows us that there are different responses to the coming king.

So how do you respond to the Coming King?

1.Some people, like Herod, are hostile to King Jesus.

How would you like to be your own king? No one to tell you what to do but yourself? That’s the way most people try to live.

1.1.Herod was troubled (2:3).

Matthew 2:1-3 NLT Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” 3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.

Why was Herod disturbed? Herod was disturbed because he was King of the Jews. Notice the accent that Matthew puts on this in verses 1, 3, and 9.

Matthew 2:1 ESV 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,

Matthew 2:3 ESV When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;

Matthew 2:9 CSB After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was– the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was.

Rome had appointed Herod king in 37 B.C. But the wise men had spoken of a supernatural star that had announced the birth of a king. Notice that they asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” They were not talking about someone who would be appointed king at some point in history. They were talking about one who was born king, one who by His very nature is King. The Bible calls Him King of kings and Lord of lords. He is not nominated or appointed. He is not elected and he cannot be voted out of office. His kingship does not depend on your vote. He does not become king by some parliamentary procedure, and he cannot be removed from office by a motion of no-confidence. Jesus was born King. It is his nature to rule. Look at the prophecy of Micah again in v. 5-6,

” 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.'”” (Matt. 2:5-6 ESV).

whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Mic 5:2 ESV)

Jesus is the King who stepped down from his throne in heaven to become the babe in Bethlehem. No wonder Herod the king was troubled.

  • He was troubled because wise men had come. 
  • He was troubled because they had spoken of one who was born king of Israel.
  • He was troubled because a phenomenon in the heavens had announced the birth of this king.
  • He was troubled because the word of the wise men had been confirmed by the Scriptures.
  • He was troubled because this newborn king was going to be a ruler who would shepherd God’s people Israel.

Herod was troubled. Herod was King of the Jews and would accept no challengers. Herod was not even Jewish. He was not a rightful heir to the throne, but by political savvy, he had convinced Caesar to name him King of the Jews. Now he hears about the one who was the son of King David, the legitimate heir to the throne, the one whom all the Scriptures had pointed to. Herod was a man who, because of jealousy, had killed his favorite wife. He had killed two of his own sons. Herod would accept no rivals. He would attempt to kill the newborn King.

History has had its fill of men like Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein. This past few years we have seen rulers in North Africa and the Middle East and North Korea kill thousands of innocent people to maintain their position as ruler.

King Herod would not hesitate to do away with a child who was born King of the Jews. So when Herod was troubled, everyone was troubled. Someone has aptly said that Herod was more interested in saving his throne than in saving his soul!

1.2.Herod made an inquiry from the chief priests and scribes to find out where Christ was to be born (2:4).

To kill the newborn King, Herod must find out where Christ was to be born. He determined from the chief priests and scribes that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.

1.3.Herod made further inquiry from the wise men to find out when Christ was born (2:7).

Herod pretended to be sympathetic to the wise men. They had come to worship the newborn king. They assumed that everyone would be rejoicing. They assumed that everyone knew about his birth. But the people did not know. Perhaps they had not seen the star. Perhaps they did not know what it meant. The wise men came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” It was clear to them that the birth had already taken place. They were asking people in Jerusalem where the newborn king was to be found. There were no Christmas lights. There was no celebration. The word reached Herod. Herod was troubled, but pretended to be glad about the news.

He had been informed by the scribes that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. 700 years before, Micah had prophesied that the ruler would come from Bethlehem. Herod knew now where to look, but he had to be careful. The wise men had seen a star. They would now know where to find the child. He took the wise men aside to speak to them privately. This was not the time for his advisors to figure out what he was up to.

Herod would tell the wise men where to look, but first he wanted some information from them. When had the star appeared? Why did he need to know this? He did not say.

“Bethlehem,” he told them. “You will find the child in Bethlehem. Go and search out the child diligently. Find out exactly where in Bethlehem he is. Then come tell me so that I can go worship him as well.”

Perhaps the wise men thought it strange that the king would know that the child was to be born in Bethlehem but had not known that the child had already been born. How strange that he would ask foreign diplomats to find the child for him rather than going himself to worship the child.

He told the wise men that he too wanted to worship the child. How happy the wise men must have been. There was no display of jealousy. The king wanted to worship the Christ child.

But no! Not at all. He had asked when the star had appeared because he wanted to know how old the child must be. He wanted to be able to identify him, not to worship him, but to kill him.

The wise men never needed to know. The wise men would never be the wiser. They would go to Bethlehem. They would find the child. They would worship him. They would return to Jerusalem to tell King Herod where to find him. Then Herod would go and kill him. So much for the newborn king. Herod would not tolerate any rivals to his throne.

But King Herod is not sovereign. There is a God, the one and only true God, who is sovereign and who rules over the affairs of men on earth. This all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise God, warned the wise men in a dream not to return to Herod. The plans of the King of Heaven and Earth would not be thwarted by some measly earthly king. The wise men were warned not to return to Herod, so they returned to their home country by another route. At the same time, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to get up and to take the child and to flee to Egypt. There was no time to lose. In the middle of the night, Joseph woke up and took the child and his mother and fled to Egypt.

Herod waited for the return of the wise men. They did not come. When Herod saw that the wise men had not returned when they should have, he was furious! He knew when the star had appeared to the wise men, so he sent and killed all the male children less than two years of age in Bethlehem and in all the region. Herod would stop at nothing to kill any concurrent to the throne.

It has been said that Herod is the picture of those who ask questions about Christ without any intention of acting rightly on the knowledge they receive. There are many who ask questions about Christ. Perhaps it’s out of curiosity. Perhaps it is in an effort to discount Christ’s claims upon their lives. But many are not sincere inquirers. They have no intention of submitting their lives to the Kingship of Jesus Christ.

But King Herod asked questions not simply out of curiosity but out of hostility. Herod is the picture of those who are hostile to Christ and to God.

There are God-haters today. People who try to kill God from the thinking of others. Christopher Hitchens was a well-known atheist. He did not believe in God and did not want anyone else to believe in him either. In 2007, he wrote God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. It was just one of many books and articles that he wrote to put an end to God. He hated the very idea of God.

On Thursday, December 15, 2011, Christopher Hitchens died of esophageal cancer – too many cigarettes and too much alcohol. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that, the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). But God himself takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Ezekiel 33:11 ESV …As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…?

There are many God-haters in the world today. They know about God. They know that he exists. But they don’t want him interfering with their lives. They will be king of their own lives. No other king will sit on the throne of their heart. They are their own god. They worship themselves. They show their hostility to God by breaking his commandments and living as they want to.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way;” (Isa. 53:6 ESV).

We have all been hostile to God at some point in our lives. The good news is the rest of that verse: “and the Lord has laid on him, the iniquity of us all.” This child was born to die. He came to bear our sins, to take our place in judgment and to show the righteousness and the love of God the Father.

How about you? Do you live your life every day in submission to the King of kings and the Lord of lords? Or are you the ruler of your own life, the captain of your own ship? Who sits on the throne of your heart?

Some people, like Herod, are hostile to King Jesus.

2.Some People, Like the Chief Priests and Scribes, Neglect to Honor the King (2:1-6).

The distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was only five miles (eight kilometers). But the chief priests and scribes, who should have been excited about the news of the newborn and long awaited King, did not bother to go see him.

Some people are not openly hostile, but they fail to honor Christ with their lives. There are three kinds of people like the chief priests and scribes who may fail to honor Christ as King:

  • Intimidated
  • Indifferent
  • Ignorant

2.1. Intimidated. Oli fraet!

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; (Matthew 2:3 ESV)

King Herod is troubled, so everyone is troubled.

After the birth of Jesus, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 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.” King Herod knew whom to consult: he assembled the chief priests and the scribes of the people. These were the people who studied the Scriptures and knew the Law and the Prophets. The wise men were looking for the newborn King, so Herod asked the chief priests and scribes where the Christ was to be born. They were able to respond without hesitation:

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, 

Not only were they able to tell King Herod where Christ would be born, they were able to tell him why:

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.'” (Mat 2:5-6 ESV)

There was no hesitation. There was no lack of clarity. They did not tell Herod that there were different opinions and interpretations. They didn’t tell him that no one really knew for sure where the Christ would be born. These people knew the Scriptures.

There is no other book like the Bible. It is God’s Word. God has declared things before they happen so that when they happen we will know that He is God and there is none other beside him and no one like him. He declares wonders that we cannot imagine and they come to pass.

He had declared that the Promised One would be born of a virgin, and that he would be born in Bethlehem.

The scribes and the chief priests know about the coming king. They know the Scriptures, but they choose to ignore what they knew. For one reason or another, they turn away from the truth and vainly hope that there will be no consequences.

These people are sometimes intimidated by others.

Verse 3 tells us that when Herod the king heard that the wise men from the east had seen a star announcing the birth of the King of the Jews, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. The king was troubled, so they were troubled. The scribes were those who copied and studied and taught the Old Testament Scriptures. The coming of the Messiah was the hope of the Jewish nation. Finally, the promises of God, the prophecies of the Old Testament were being fulfilled. Their hearts should have been filled with joy, but they were troubled because the king was troubled. They were intimidated by the king. The king’s concerns became their concerns. They were troubled because of their fear of the king.

There are people today who do not honor King Jesus because they are afraid of what others will say. They are afraid of what their family will say. Or religious leaders. Or the chief of their village. The Apostle John tells us that

“many even of the authorities believed in [Jesus], but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (Jn. 12:42-43 ESV).

Who do you honor? Some people are intimidated.

2.2.Others are indifferent: they don’t act on what they know.

They know that Christ came, that he lived, died and rose again, but it does not matter to them. They live as if he never came.

Christ had come. Here was the hope of the Jewish people. God had given the promises. The long awaited Messiah had been sent. A special star announced his birth. Foreign dignitaries had come a great distance to welcome the newborn King. But the people who know the Scriptures were troubled and didn’t bother to go walk eight kilometers to Bethlehem to see what God had done! Shepherds and wise men came to see him. Angelic hosts sang, “Glory to God in the Highest!” But the chief priests and scribes did not care to go see him.

There are people who know what the Scriptures teach. They know what they ought to do. They know they need to repent. They know they should obey the Scriptures. They know who Jesus is. But they don’t want to change. They don’t want to trouble themselves to submit to the one who was born King.

These people are not ready to submit to another King.

Churches are filled with people who are religious. Many of them know their Bibles. They can answer questions about the Bible. They can quote Scriptures. They’ve heard the promises of God all their lives. They keep thinking that someday they will get right with God. Someday they will let Jesus be King of their lives.

Perhaps you are faithful to church every Sunday, but you have not submitted to King Jesus. You are trusting in your good works, in what you know, in your church attendance, but you have not submitted the control of your life to King Jesus. You keep thinking that everything will be alright, that someday you’ll get right with God. The Bible says, “Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation.”

Some people are religious. They know the Bible. They know that Jesus is the King. But they do not honor him as King. They refuse to submit to his Kingship.

Some people, like the scribes, fail to honor the King. They are indifferent.

2.3.Others are ignorant: they just don’t know.

They don’t come to the King because they haven’t heard that the King has come. They don’t know.

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? … (Romans 10:13-15 NLT).

Some people are hostile to Christ. Some people simply neglect Christ and their own salvation.

3.Some People Like the Wise Men Worship the King.

This story starts with the arrival of wise men from the East. They have seen evidence of the birth of the king.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1 ESV).

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:19-20 ESV).

Who have these wise men come to worship? They have come to worship…

  • The one who was born of the virgin: 

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18 ESV).

  • The one who was conceived of the Holy Spirit:

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:19-20 ESV).

  • The one who would save his people from their sins:

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”” (Matt. 1:21 ESV).

  • The one who is born King. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2 NLT).

  • The one who is God with us:

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)” (Matt. 1:22-23 ESV).

They have come to worship God.

They know that nothing else matters so much as the birth of this King whose star they have seen. This King is the purpose of their lives. They travel many weeks from the East, perhaps from what we call Iraq or Iran today. The Jews had been exiled in Babylon. Many of them were still there.

Perhaps these wise men had learned about the prophecies of the coming of Christ through the Jews who lived in Babylon.

How much of this did they know? How much had been told them by Jews in Babylon? They knew that this child was a king. They knew that he moved the heavens for they had seen his star. They knew that he was worthy of worship.

Worship is not a style. Worship is not singing about worship. Worship involves the entire person in adoration of the most glorious being that exists. Worship is total agreement with God. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Worshiping God in spirit is worshiping him from the heart. It is not just singing a worship song; it is singing from the heart. It is spiritual.

Joy:

“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” (Matt. 2:9-10 ESV).

“And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. ” (Matt. 2:11 ESV).

Worshiping God in truth: according to the truth about him.

“Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11 ESV).

Gold: Sign of royalty. The enfant was the newborn King.

Frankincense: Incense was used for the worship of God

Myrrh: For burial

Jesus was born to die. He was born to take your sins and mine upon himself. God alone could take away our sins.

What is your response to this one who was born king?

  • Neglect? Fail to honor him as God?
  • Hostility?
  • Worship?

REPENT: Let us repent of our sins. It may be natural for us to lie, to steal, or to commit adultery, but it is sin. The Fall has corrupted our natures and made us sinful.

BELIEVE: We need to believe that Jesus is the Savior. He is God with us. He is theKing.

FIND A BIBLE-BELIEVING CHURCH. Read you Bible. Pray. Seek the Lord. Come worship the King.

Sign-Off

Let me encourage you to find a Bible-believing church where the Word of God is preached, taught, and lived, and where the Bible and only the Bible — not someone’s vision or some other book — but the Bible and the Bible alone is the one and only final authority for what we believe and what we do. There is no other foundation than the Word of God.

Joy Bible Institute is accepting applications for the coming school year which begins March 2. If you believe that God has called you to full-time Christian ministry and are a member in good standing with a Bible-believing church, we would be happy to consider your application. JBI may be the school to help you prepare to fulfill the ministry that God has called you to do. You can download an application or fill one out online at joybible.wordpress.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.

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Luke 01:26-38, “The Virgin Birth of Christ”

LUKE 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and

  1. bear a son, and
  2. you shall call his name Jesus. 32
  3. He will be great and
  4. will be called the Son of the Most High.
  5. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
  6. 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and
  7. of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy– the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26-38 ESV).

PRAYER

We have in this first chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, the marvelous story of Christ’s coming into the world. This is the most amazing story.

THIS BIRTH WAS PREDICTED.

We all know that when a woman becomes pregnant, the birth of a child can be expected nine months later. Today, with ultrasound, doctors can often predict whether the child will be a girl or a boy. We use the expression in English: “She’s expecting.” Or, “they are expecting a baby.”

But the birth of Christ was predicted some 4000 years before. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned and were put out of the Garden, God in His mercy promised that the many times great grandson of Eve would crush Satan’s power:

And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NLT).

God announces in the Garden of Eden that one would come and reverse sin’s curse, that one would be born of a woman.

This is what the Apostle Paul refers to in Galatians 4:4,

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman(Gal 4:4 NLT).

But we have all been born of a woman. How would we know when the promised one had come?

Down through the ages, time and time again, precisions were made so that no one could mistake when the promised one arrived.

  •       God promised Abraham that it would be through his offspring that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. If God was going to become a man, he had to do it through a human family, and he had to choose a man, a family, a people, a nation. God chose a people, not to exclude others, but to be a channel, to bless all the nations of the earth.
  •       Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, prophesied that the promised one, the one we call the Messiah or the Christ, would be of the tribe of Judah, one of his 12 sons.
  •       God promised King David 1000 years before the Christ’s birth that the Messiah would be a many times great grandson of David.
  •       Micah 5:2 predicted 700 year before Christ’s birth that he would be born in the little village of Bethlehem.
  •       Isaiah 7:14 predicted 700 years before Christ birth that he would be born of a virgin:

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14 NLT).

Many more prophecies tell us of that first coming of Christ, his life, his death, his resurrection, his return, and the kingdom that he will set up on earth when he returns.

No one else fulfilled the prophecies concerning his coming.

ILLUSTRATION

When a country sends an ambassador to a foreign country, that ambassador does not arrive unannounced. The host country has received all the documentation and is very well aware of the qualifications and the identity of the ambassador. And when that ambassador arrives, he has proper ID. He has proof of who he is. Otherwise, anyone could arrive at the airport and claim to represent another nation. I could claim to be an ambassador from the USA, but I would be “giaman””,” a fraud, because I have received no authority to represent the USA.

A country would not negotiate with a man who claimed to be an ambassador unless that man had the proper ID and documentation, the proper credentials to prove that he was who he said he was, that he represented the country that he claimed to represent, and that he had the authority that he claimed to have.

Why would you trust your eternal salvation to anyone but Jesus Christ?

Jesus warns us about false prophets, and false christs, thieves and robbers, those who claim to come in his name. Many have come. Many announce other messages, other teachings, other gods, but they were not sent. Jesus alone has the credentials. Before him, all the prophets pointed to him. After his earthly ministry, all true servants of God point back to Christ. This is what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:5,

“You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5 NLT).

All true servants of God point to Christ.

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. When they asked John the Baptist questions as to who he was, whether he was the one to come, John denied it: “I am not the one to come. I am not the Christ.” John was a prophet of Christ. He pointed to Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

What other religious leader had prophets pointing to him? What other religious leader ever had a forerunner announcing his coming? Who announced the coming of Muhammad, or Joseph Smith? No one. The true prophets all pointed to Christ. He is the promised one. Why would you follow anyone else? These are questions that you need to think about if you are following anyone but Jesus Christ.

THE UNIQUENESS OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH

The story of the birth of Christ points to the “one of a kind” character of Jesus Christ. In all of human history, never had a baby been born to a virgin. Never would it happen again.

No other mother could make the claim to being a virgin. No other boy or girl has ever been born without the intervention of a human father.

No other man, woman, boy or girl has even been born of a virgin. No leader, no president, no prime minister, nor religious leader. Buddha was not born of a virgin. Bahaullah was not born of a virgin. Sun Myung Moon was not born of a virgin. No one else has ever been born of a virgin.

Of course, this is not the only unique characteristic of the life of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures speak not only of his virgin birth

  1. Virgin birth
  2. Sinless life
  3. Miracles
  4. Substitutionary death on the cross
  5. His bodily resurrection from the dead
  6. His ascension to the right hand of God the Father

No one can compare with the incomparable Christ. And yet, this miracle, the virgin birth, as one writer said,

is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible—far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.

And so, as we approach Christmas this year, we celebrate not only the birth of a baby, but the coming of God to earth.

virgin birth: The biblical teaching that Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother

Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit and without a human father.

Why a virgin birth?

The doctrinal importance of the virgin birth is seen in at least three areas.

1. It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord. Just as God had promised that the “seed” of the woman (Gen. 3:15) would ultimately destroy the serpent, so God brought it about by his own power, not through mere human effort. The virgin birth of Christ is an unmistakable reminder that salvation can never come through human effort, but must be the work of God himself. Our salvation only comes about through the supernatural work of God, and that was evident at the very beginning of Jesus’ life when “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5).

2. The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person. This was the means God used to send his Son (John 3:16; Gal. 4:4) into the world as a man. If we think for a moment of other possible ways in which Christ might have come to the earth, none of them would so clearly unite humanity and deity in one person. It probably would have been possible for God to create Jesus as a complete human being in heaven and send him to descend from heaven to earth without the benefit of any human parent. But then it would have been very hard for us to see how Jesus could be fully human as we are, nor would he be a part of the human race that physically descended from Adam. On the other hand, it probably would have been possible for God to have Jesus come into the world with two human parents, both a father and a mother, and with his full divine nature miraculously united to his human nature at some point early in his life. But then it would have been hard for us to understand how Jesus was fully God, since his origin was like ours in every way.

When we think of these two other possibilities, it helps us to understand how God, in his wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that his full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of his ordinary human birth from a human mother, and his full deity would be evident from the fact of his conception in Mary’s womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.1

3. The virgin birth also makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin. As we noted in chapter 24, all human beings have inherited legal guilt and a corrupt moral nature from their first father, Adam (this is sometimes called “inherited sin” or “original sin”). But the fact that Jesus did not have a human father means that the line of descent from Adam is partially interrupted. Jesus did not descend from Adam in exactly the same way in which every other human being has descended from Adam. And this helps us to understand why the legal guilt and moral corruption that belongs to all other human beings did not belong to Christ.

This idea seems to be indicated in the statement of the angel Gabriel to Mary, where he says to her,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy– the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

Because the Spirit brought about the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, the child was to be called “holy2

Why Mary?

In some circles, Mary has been exalted to the position of a mediator between God and man. It is stated that she was born without sin, that she never died, but ascended into heaven where she ever waits to intercede on our behalf.

The Scriptures paint another picture of Mary. Very little is said of this one who was “highly favored.” Later in the Gospels, each time that Mary is mentioned, Jesus puts distance between himself and his mother. One day the crowd told Jesus that his mother and brothers wanted to see him.

“Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” 48 “Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 “Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers.” 50 “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” (Matthew 12:47-50 NLT).

On another occasion, as Jesus was talking

“…a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother– the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” 28 “Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 11:27-28 NLT).

Jesus is saying that the greater blessing is hearing the Word of God and doing it. You can be as blessed as Mary who heard the Word of God and did it.

Notice how Jesus puts distance between himself and Mary in John 2.

At the wedding in Cana, Jesus said to his mother, “What have I to do with you?” or “What is there between you and me?” Mary would have to learn that she could not come to Jesus as his mother, but as his disciple.

After Jesus gave her to the care of John, there is only one more mention of her in the New Testament. In Acts 1, Mary is found in the upper room with 120 disciples who are praying and seeking God. She is never mentioned again. She is not found in the epistles of Paul, nor in the epistle of James, the brother of Jesus and son of Mary, nor in the epistles of John who took care of her. This obedient Jewish girl became a disciple of Christ, not a mediator between God and man for we read in 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Mary was born like all other children; she needed the Savior to whom she miraculously gave birth. She became his disciple, she lived for him, she died and was buried, and she will be raised with all those who are dead in Christ on that resurrection day.

While some have constructed many myths about her which have no biblical support, others have frequently reacted adversely in refusing to see in Mary the model of one who, in the words of Jesus, did the will of God, who heard the word of God and obeyed it. This episode in the life of Mary is a wonderful example for us of voluntary submission to the will of God.

The Place

Some six or more months before… The angel Gabriel: Jerusalem and Nazareth, some 70 miles away. Not the inner sanctuary of the Temple, the lowly village of Nazareth.

The reputation of Nazareth. Not a large city, perhaps 15,000 which was a fair size in those days. Major highway between Tyre, Sidon and Jerusalem, between Egypt and Damascus. Merchants, Roman soldiers, Greek travelers. City of ill-repute. Nathanael who lived close by asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

In the midst of this city was a young Jewish girl, a virgin. Mary was a descendent of King David through Nathan (physical descent). Joseph was a descent of David through Solomon (legal descent). But 1000 years had passed since the glory of the Davidic reign, and this teenage girl who was engaged to be married not to a king, but to a carpenter.

The Presence of the Angel

There is no doubt that Mary was a godly teenager. She was a girl who sought God, who wanted to please him, to do his will. The record is clear: she had kept herself pure. God had seen her. He knew her heart. So he sent his angel Gabriel to give her the message. There are special blessings for those who love God and keep his commandments. Angelic visits are few and far between, but divine visitation is not confined to temple courts or palaces of earthly kings. Any humble heart may be honored by a messenger from heaven. And while most of us will never see an angel, if we seek his face, and seek to do his will, God will visit us and bless us.

Gabriel greets Mary as one who is “highly favored.” She is not one who gives divine grace, she receives it. God had decided that she would give birth to the Messiah. Mary is also greeted as one who enjoyed God’s special presence: “The Lord is with you.”

The Promise to Mary

Gabriel had come to announce a special promise to Mary. 700 years before, Isaiah had prophesied in “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (7:14).

      Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

         31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

The Puzzle

These wonderful words puzzled Mary. She wanted direction. “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” She did not doubt the word of Gabriel as Zacharias had done. She did not ask, “Can this be?”

God wants to do some great work in our lives. He wants to delivers us from harmful habits. He wants to make us soul winners. He wants to make this church a great witness to this city. We read in his Word what he wants do in our lives. Do we respond like Zacharias or like Mary? Ephesians 3:20 says that he “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

Mary had asked, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man.”

         35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

She would give birth to the Messiah. But he would be not only the Messiah; he would be the Son of God.

In Genesis 1:2 the Holy Spirit overshadowed the waters of the earth and brought for creation. The Holy Spirit would overshadow Mary and begin the new creation.

Let us be clear about this. God did not have physical relations with Mary as some think. Such a doctrine is blasphemous. God worked a miracle in the teenage girl so that without sexual intervention she gave birth to Jesus. Mary remained a virgin until after the birth of Jesus.

You see, God does not have a body. Jesus tells us in John 4 that God is spirit. That is His nature. He does not say that God has a spirit, but that God is spirit.

The Bible does speak of the arm of the Lord, that it is powerful to save. It speaks of the eyes of the Lord going to and fro throughout the earth. The Scriptures use terms like these to help us understand that God is all powerful and that He is all knowing. The Bible also speaks of the feathers, the wings, and the pinions of God,

“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:4 NLT).

but I have never heard anyone suggest that God is a type of bird. These figures are simply to shows us that God is our protection.

That is why the Bible says that God is invisible.

Colossians 1:15 ESV He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

1 Timothy 1:17 ESV To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 11:27 ESV By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

Why is God invisible? He is invisible because He does not have a body. Now you can hear my voice, but you cannot see me. Nonetheless, you know that I am not invisible. You know that if you were to walk into this radio studio, you would see me sitting at a chair and speaking into a microphone because I have a body. I am not invisible. God is invisible because he does not have a body.

And that is one of the reasons why God became man. Notice this conversation between the Father and the Son, a conversation that took place in the members of the one true God before the Father sent His Son into the world:

“That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer. 6 You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. 7 Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God– as is written about me in the Scriptures.’“ 8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time (Hebrews 10:5-10 NLT).

And so, the Word became flesh. He lived among us, John says. The disciples looked upon the

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” (John 1:14 NLT).

He was fully God and continued to be fully God, but he took on himself full humanity. Fully God and fully man: God made visible! He told Philip: “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father.”

Yet, fully man. He would fast for 40 days and experience hunger (Matthew 4). In John 4, he was weary at the well in Samaria. On the cross, he was thirsty. And then he did the most human thing of all: he died.

Yet, that’s why he had to be born. He was born to die, to die for you and for me. The Father prepared a body for the Son, that He might offer it as a sacrifice in our place, a sacrifice for our sins. He was born to die.

Nor is it correct to say that Mary is the mother of God. Mary is never called the mother of God in Scripture. She is called the mother of Jesus. Gabriel said that “The holy one to be born would be called the Son of God,” and not because of Mary, but because of the miracle worked by the Holy Spirit.

Mary would receive an encouragement to her faith: her cousin Elizabeth, who was past the age of childbearing, was six months pregnant. God is not limited by the ordinary. He can do, and does, extraordinary things. God is not imprisoned within that which men call the natural; but for his own purposes, he can act in a way men can only describe as supernatural.[1] “With God nothing shall be impossible.” Or better, “For no word from God shall be void of power.”

The Focus Of This Story

Mary is the servant of the Lord. She is the servant that God uses to bring His Son into the world. And yet, we need remind ourselves that Mary is not the focus. She is not the reason for the appearance of Gabriel. The focus of this story is on the child that would be born.

. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and

  1. bear a son, and
  2. you shall call his name Jesus. 32
  3. He will be great and
  4. will be called the Son of the Most High.
  5. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
  6. 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and
  7. of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;

therefore the child to be born will be called holy– the Son of God.

36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

The Posture of Mary

Mary’s posture was that of a servant: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word.” Barclay: “I am the Lord’s servant. Whatever he says, I accept.”

We think that it was wonderful for Mary to have been chosen by God, and it was. But what of the reproach? What of her reputation? Mary was 17 or 18 years old and engaged to Joseph. There is no reason to believe that he was an old man. What would he say? We know from Matthew’s Gospel that Joseph was going to divorce her because he knew that he had never been with her. Mary was not believed by the one she loved. What about the accusations? The shame? Even the possibility of being stoned? Perhaps one of the reasons she went to be with Elizabeth for three months was to avoid the shame.

Why did she go to see Elizabeth? Was she trying to get away from suspicious looks from her family members? Then why Elizabeth? Elizabeth was much older, past the age of child bearing, but she was pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary recognized that God was doing something in Elizabeth’s life. God had worked a miracle in Elizabeth’s life and she would give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. Elizabeth would understand the miraculous. Elizabeth would be more inclined to believe Mary’s story… 2013-12-09.

And yet, when she arrived at Elizabeth’s, the baby that Elizabeth was carrying, leaped in her womb and and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She exclaimed with a loud cry, “…why is this grated to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Jesus in the womb is the LORD God. The focus is on Christ.

Let us note that the unborn child is not a tissue or a substance or something to be expelled or aborted. Young woman, however you became pregnant, the child you are carrying is the image of God. God is weaving that child in your womb. That child belongs to God. God is trusting you to protect that child and to raise it to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, there may be shame. And perhaps this is one of the reasons why she accompanied Joseph on the long and difficult voyage to Bethlehem when she was “great with child.”

(Why Mary?)

Mary and Joseph were chosen to be parents to Jesus. They were chosen because they were godly. They loved God. They knew His Word. God entrusted to them the responsibility of raising the Messiah.

It is not always easy to accept God’s will; but it is always best. Mary was submissive, and she gave the world the Savior. His name would be Jesus for he would save us from our sins.

Mary could have said, “I now have the promises, so I will exert my force, my character, and my energy, to bring forth the promised thing. I have the promise. Now I will bring forth a child without a man.”[2] Had this been her response, she would never have had the child.

Nor was Mary totally passive. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said. This is active passivity. She took her own body, by choice, and put it into the hands of God to do the thing that he said he would do, and Jesus was born. She gave herself, her body, to God. We must not think that we can accomplish the promises of God by our own strength. Nor must we think that we have no part.

We cannot break the power of sin over us by our might, nor can it be broken without our participation. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said. Pray, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” Pray with David,

      “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:13-14).

You need more fruit in your life. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.

You need to be baptized into the Holy Spirit. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said. Actively seek the Lord.

You need to be a soul winner. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.

Let us wait with expectant hearts. Through the Christ child which he gave for all of us, God will accomplish in us all that he has promised to do.


             [1]See Morgan, Luke, p. 24.