I never get tired of the story. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus are phenomenal! The prophecies being fulfilled, the order of events, the people surrounding the story, are all fascinating. Some of the people involved with this phenomenon called Jesus are down right mysterious. Think of the Magi that Paul spoke about last Sabbath. Who were they?
Turn to Matthew 2:1. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem...
This is a painfully brief description of the Magi and leaves more questions than answers. The word, "magician," comes from Magi. If you check for Synonyms of the word "magician" in your computer, you will come up with words like, "conjurer, illusionist, necromancer, sorcerer, and wizard." Some of these are worse than others, but they are not synonymous with the word "Magi" in the context of Matthew 2. If one could have checked their computer in the day of Christ's birth for synonyms for "magician", they would have come up with words like, "wise man, counselor, philosopher, and ambassador." So where do we get the word "kings" for these men? This comes from the prophecy in Isaiah 60:3 which says, "Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." So, why do we say that there were three of these men? The only thing that I can come up with is that three types of gifts were given.
Where did they come from? The Bible simply says, "the east." This could mean the lands of Arabia, Syria, Mesopotamia, etc. The same land from which Balaam came who was also considered a magi. It is also interesting that they knew the Hebrew scriptures. They seemed to know of Daniel and the book of Numbers. Numbers 24:7 is actually part of the fourth prophecy of Balaam as he tried to curse Israel for king Balak. He says, "I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel."
So these wise men stepped out in faith and left everything to find Jesus. They left their homes, their families, and their work. They took their time, their money, and their effort. They made an incredible journey following a new star in the dark in order to find the Light.
You will need your hymnals close to you throughout this sermon for we will be using them. We will remain seated as we sing these hymns together. Turn to hymn #137, We Three Kings. (Sing all five stanzas.)
We three kings of orient are; Bearing gifts we traverse afar, Field and fountain moor and mountain, following yonder star.
Born a king on Bethlehem's plain, Gold I bring to crown Him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I; Incense owns a Deity nigh;Prayer and praising, all men raising, Worship Him God on high.
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom: Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and sacrifice; Alleluia, Alleluia! Sound through the earth and skies.
Now look at Matthew 2:2 ...and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Why did the star lead them to Jerusalem when Jesus was born in Bethlehem? Was it to announce Jesus' birth? Was it another chance for the Jews to accept Jesus? The leaders were not ignorant! They knew the Scriptures. They were aware of Zechariah's vision. They had knowledge of Simeon's prophecy. They had heard the shepherd's report. They had seen the star in the sky. Now, these pagan wise men show up later with more evidence. "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" Can you hear the confusion and disappointment in their voices as they ask this question? There should be celebrations in Jerusalem. This was the center of Hebrew worship! Where is the pomp? Where are the parades? There were songs in the heavens, why was no one singing on Earth? Turn to hymn # 120, There's a Song in the Air (Sing first and second stanzas.)
There's a song in the air! There's a star in the sky! There's a mother's deep prayer and a baby's low cry! And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing, For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King.
There's a tumult of joy o'er the wonderful birth, For the virgin's sweet boy is the lord of the earth. Aye! The star rains its fire While the beautiful sing For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
Turn now to Matthew 2:3. When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. This is one of the saddest verses in the Bible. Not just King Herod heard the news of the wise men, but all of Jerusalem. Not just King Herod was disturbed, but all of Jerusalem.
Read verses 4-6. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"
Bethlehem, or in Hebrew, "Bet Lechim", is literally translated as, "House of Bread." Bethlehem was known as the "Bread Basket of Judea" because of the fields of grain surrounding it. Imagine, the "Bread of Life" coming from the "House of Bread!" Turn to hymn #135, O Little Town of Bethlem (Sing first and third stanzas.)
O Little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above they deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by; Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in the tonight.
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven. No ear may hear His coming; but in this world of sin, Where meeks souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
Look at verse 7. "Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
Herod had no intention of worship. He had murder on his mind.
Look at verse 9. After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.Notice how their response differs from all of Jerusalem. They are not "disturbed." They are "overjoyed!"
Look at verse 11. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Imagine the amazement of finding the object of their sacrifice and journey in a poor man's home. But, amazingly, their faith in Him is still strong. Even though things don't work out as planned, they still trust in Him! Even to the extent of still presenting Him with their treasures. These gifts are given simply out of love for there is no hope of reward or favor from one born into such poverty. I imagine that they asked the same question as those who proceeded them in worship: "What child is this?" Turn to hymn # 141. What Child is This? (Sing first and last stanzas.)
What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary's lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, king, to own Him, The King of kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him.
This is Christ the king, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the babe, the son of Mary.
Back to the question, "Why didn't the star take the wise men straight to Bethlehem? Perhaps we can only guess, but what really seems important is this thought, "Jerusalem, the center of all the hub-bub and activity of the Jews is not where Jesus was found. Can we find an application to our day? To our churches? They, too, are the center of religious activity, for learning, for doing, and for being. This is all well and good and vastly important. We need our churches for these and other reasons. But where is Jesus?
One of the church's primary functions is to point the way to Jesus (just as the Sanctuary service was supposed to do in Jerusalem). As important as it is to be part of the church, there is another factor to be considered. It is the trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to find Jesus. Don't be a sign post pointing the way to Jesus and never take the journey yourself. Don't be a bridge that helps others to cross while you stay put, where it is comfortable. This trip requires daily personal effort, time, and commitment to follow the star a bit further to a spiritual awareness of Jesus. It means seeing past our own noses. It means being quiet enough to hear Him speak. It means letting go of feelings that limit ourselves and others. Pride, selfishness, prejudice, and all those other feelings, which are nothing more than our own personal fears working against our spiritual growth and that of others.
Standing before Herod, the wise men announced that they had come to worship the King. Worship was the reason they were in Jerusalem. There was a great deal of worship happening in Jerusalem, but most of it did not include the worship of Jesus. Our weekly attendance at church says to our neighbors, friends, family, and fellow church members that our intention is to worship the King. But if our spiritual journey stops just because we have found God's church, then we will become like the people of Jerusalem. If we do not continue to follow that star, we will not find the King. For finding Jesus is a daily journey of drawing closer to Him. If our Journey stops here and we search no more, we will lose sight of that star, of the Spirits guiding. When we loose sight of that star, then we, like the people of Jerusalem, become fearful of the Savior's coming.
The signs of His coming are around us once again. Does that bring fear or joy to your hearts? If we keep our eyes upon that star and continue our quest to know the King, then any sign of His nearness will affect us like those other wise men who sought Him long ago. We, too, will be overjoyed!
Sources: Desire of Ages by Ellen White
Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary vol. 5
Hymn of Praise: #143, Silent Night, Holy Night Scripture: Matthew 2:6 Hymn of response: #125, Joy to the World
Return to McDonald Road Sermons Index
Return to McDonald Road SDA Church Home Page
McDonald Road Sermons converted to HTML and
last updated 10/26/2003 by Bob Beckett.