| Click Now to Order.
Let me begin by saying, “Merry Christmas” to each of you.
This morning our text is Matthew 2:1-12, the passage of scripture that
describes the wise men's search for the Messiah so they could worship Him
and give Him gifts.
"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of
Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star
in the east, and have come to worship Him.'  And when Herod the king
heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  And gathering
together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire
of them where the Christ was to be born.  And they said to him, 'In
Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet,  And
you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders
of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler, Who will SHEPHERD My
people Israel.'  Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained
from them the time the star appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem,
and said, 'Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have
found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him.'  And
having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they
had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over
where the Child was.  And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly
with great joy.  And they came into the house and saw the Child with
Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their
treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they
departed for their own country by another way."
When I read this text, the first question that comes to my mind
is, "How did these wise men know to seek Jesus?" In a minute, we will explore
that question together, but before we do, I want us to ponder another question:
"Why did God warn the wise men not to accept Herod's invitation to return?"
The obvious answer lies in what Herod did after Jesus was born, Look at
Matthew 2:16: "Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi,
he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were
in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according
to the time which he had ascertained from the magi."
What kind of man was Herod? Was the slaughter of innocent children
we just read about his only act of atrocity, or were there others?
By and large, Herod was an evil man, but he did have his moments
of kindness. During the famine of 25 B.C., Herod melted down a gold plate
he owned to use to purchase corn to feed the starving people. (Barclay,
p. 19) Good for him. Unfortunately, that just goes to prove
that even an evil man can rise to an occasion and do the right thing.
Unfortunately, evil ran in the family. Remember, it was
Herod's son that killed John the Baptist at the request of his niece. Why
did his niece want John killed? Because her mother, who was the wife of
Herod's brother, was involved in a scandalous affair with King Herod, asked
her to make the request of the king. Why would the King honor such a dark
request? He was cornered. After she danced for him, he pledged to do whatever
she wanted because she pleased him. (Matthew 14: 1-12)
These killings weren't isolated incidents. The Roman Emperor,
Augustus, said it was safer to be Herod's pig than his son. Herod had killed
3 sons, his wife and his mother-in-law because he saw them as threats to
His murderous streak didn't end with his death either. Right before
he died, he ordered some of Jerusalem's most distinguished citizens to
be arrested on trumped up charges and sentenced to death. Their execution
was to take place the minute he died. Herod knew no one would mourn his
passing, but wanted to make sure that people mourned the day he died. (Barclay,
Against the darkness of King Herod's reign, King Jesus was born.
No wonder people longed for a Messiah that would bring justice into the
land. So why did these outsiders, the wise men, know to seek Him? The chief
priests and the scribes give us some help in answering the question. When
Herod asked them where the Messiah would be born, they quoted Micah 5:2,
giving him the answer: Bethlehem.
But then what did the chief priests and scribes do? Nothing. Wouldn't
you expect that they would drop whatever they were doing and run to meet
their Messiah? After all, they were the religious leaders of the day, the
Messiah's birth had to be big news. But they did nothing. Why didn't the
religious leaders join the wise men in worshiping Jesus?
Is it possible their religious activities so filled their lives
that they didn't have room for worship of the Messiah? Could their mind
be so occupied with their traditions and customs that they missed celebrating
the birth of the King of Kings?
We wouldn't know anything about being too busy at Christmas time
to worship the Lord, would we?
So back to our question, "How did these wise men know to seek
Jesus?" Biblical literacy, that's how. In Numbers 24:17 the scripture says,
"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come
forth from Jacob, And a scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush
through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth."
All the way back in book of Numbers, Moses mentioned that there
would be a star that points to the Messiah. Look what they said in verse
2, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star
in the east, and have come to worship Him."
These wise men showed unusual wisdom by seeking the Messiah. And
they showed great understanding in the gifts they gave. What is more fitting
than gold? A present fit for a King!
What about frankincense? Why did they give it to Jesus? Frankincense
was the scent used in temple worship by the priests to cover the smell
of the sacrifices. Jesus was the king of kings, but he was also the "great
high priest." Hebrews 2:17 says, "For this reason he had to be made like
his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and
faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement
for the sins of the people."
But why Myrrh? In Jesus' time, people used Myrrh to embalm their
dead. A thoughtless gift for a baby shower? Not this one. These men, in
their wisdom knew that Jesus was born to die. Hebrews 10:10 says, "And
by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body
of Jesus Christ once for all."
Christmas is made even brighter when we fully realize that Jesus
was born so He could die. And that we can experience new life, because
our Messiah came, and died, and rose from the grave.
And that is the greatest Christmas gift of all times.
Have you accepted it? What a tragedy it would be for you
to leave this gift unwrapped. Christmas day 2005 can be more than
a holiday for you or even a religious observance. It can be the greatest
day of your life, the day you accepted the greatest gift of all times.
If you’ve never unwrapped this gift, I call on you to do so today.
Romans 10:13 says, “For, "every one who calls upon the name of
the Lord will be saved." (RSV) You can call upon Him today, and He
will save you. In simple faith, tell him you want to accept Him as
your Savior and serve Him as your Lord.
Don’t leave this gift wrapped. Open it today.