(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?
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.
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:
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.
“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?
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.
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.