Where Is He? - Encore Christmas 2015 Sermon
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Delivered By
Pastor Ed Dinkins
Delivered On
December 25, 2016
Central Passage
Matthew 2:1-20
Third Sunday Service

Data Commentary - "The Visit of the Wise Men (Magi)" - Author: Dr. Allen Ross, Besson Divinity      

    "No other gospel account has this narrative of the wise men visiting Jesus. And so we have to look into the rest of New Testament literature to see if there is anything that will contribute significantly to this. There is not a great deal that we can find that is exactly the same in its teaching, but if we look for the theme of homage to Jesus, that opens up several passages.  You can spend as much time in these related passages as you wish.   The story of the Magi fits into an important part of the plan of God. It gives a little picture of what is yet to happen; but it also instructs people to submit to Christ as the wise men did in paying homage to him.

     In the time of Herod the Great, the Babylonian captivity was ancient history - but the people were still under the domination of foreign powers, now the Roman Empire, and they were still longing for one who could champion their cause and throw off the bonds of Rome. The Bible prophesied that Messiah would come and be such a champion, delivering the people from oppression and bringing in an age of peace. I suspect that Herod soon realized that the setting in his day was right for the prophecy to be fulfilled. But he was not the king who would fulfill any prophecy--he was not a righteous man, not even a Jew.

     If you read closely in Micah 5:2 the prophecy also tells us something else about this ruler: “whose origins [lit. goings out] are from of old, from ancient times [days of eternity].” This final section of the verse by itself could be given a couple of different interpretations; but when put together with other prophecies about the Messiah, it becomes clear that it reveals that Messiah was pre-existent, that He had an ancient history of activities before “coming forth” in Bethlehem. Micah was somewhat contemporary with Isaiah, and Isaiah said this king would be “Everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6). Later, Daniel would see this “Son of Man” in heaven receiving kingship from the Ancient of Days, clearly revealing that the Messiah was sent into the world (Dan. 7:9-14).

     Here we learn something about the way the New Testament draws on the Old Testament. These folks knew their Bible, especially the parts that told of the coming of Messiah. When they quote a line from the Old Testament, they intend their citation to be a link to the context. They are not simply proof-texting; they are using a key verse from the passage to show that the fulfillment has begun to unfold. By recording the answer of the scribes to Herod, Matthew has reminded his readers that Jesus is this promised Messiah who was to be born in Bethlehem, and that His “goings were from everlasting.” This is why in Matthew’s view it was fitting for the wise men to worship Him.

     Now there are some other Old Testament passages that are significant for the interpretation of this chapter. But since Matthew does not mention them, you would have to work a little harder to find them. A good commentary on Matthew might include them; if not, you would have to read up on Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. We are here concerned with why these Magi from the east come to look for Jesus and worship Him, and why they bring treasures to Him. In other words, what is the significance of this whole event?

     Isaiah 49a prophecy about the restoration of Israel after the captivity, begins to focus on the image of the “Servant of the LORD” for its revelation. Isaiah’s use of the “Servant” has several levels of meaning, but ultimately the “Servant” in the relevant passages (Isa. 49--53) refers to the Messiah. According to Isaiah 49 the “Servant” not only will restore the fortunes of Israel (which means in this chapter the “Servant” cannot be Israel, not in the final analysis), but will also be a light to the nations, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth (v. 6). Ultimately this prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In verse 7, then, it adds that kings and princes will bow down before this chosen one, this Servant. The idea of homage from the nations is repeated in verse 23. It is likely that the complete fulfillment of these predictions of the homage of kings and princes to the Servant of the LORD will be at the end of the age (see also Isa. 52:15). But at the first coming of Jesus, there were token events, previews of that ultimate homage, that made it clear that Jesus was the one to whom this adoration and homage would come.

     Isaiah 60 also predicts how in the Messianic Age the glory of the LORD will arise and cover the land. And at that time nations will come to the light, and kings will be drawn to the brightness (v. 3). And the wealth and the riches of the nations will be brought to the city of the Holy One (v. 5). The gifts of the Magi probably are a foretaste of that great homage to come at the end of the age, showing that this child is the one to whom all homage is due.

      "What is this passage revealing to us about the plan of God in Christ Jesus? We would probably say that it reveals the proper response to the revelation about Jesus is one of faith and worship. It does this by telling the story of the wise men who responded to the revelation God had given them by coming to look for Jesus, and when they found Him they worshiped Him. The story does not get into any major theological discussions about Jesus, or about worship; but it does hint at all these things through their actions and through the prophecy of Micah, and through the response of Herod.

    One of the ways to develop an application (the “so-what”) of a passage, is to try to identify with the humans in the story. You will find in most stories the action works on two levels, what the Lord is doing, and what the people are doing. The Lord is doing something because of what the people are doing, or the people are doing something because of what the Lord is doing (which is the case here). By identifying with the people in the story, you can draw some lessons.

    Well, in this story we have Herod. He certainly represents the response of the unbeliever to the news of the coming of the Messiah. He wants to know about it, but is not interested to go four and a half miles to see for himself. In fact, he is more concerned that the presence of the Christ will interfere with his power, with his position, with his lifestyle. The world is filled with people who like Herod want to know, but are not actually looking for the One who will save people from their sins.

     But there are the wise men, the focus of the story. The primary application would call for identification with these men. In other words, the way of faith looks for God’s provision of a Savior, and finding it in Jesus, submits to Him and worships Him, even though it may not yet be clear how it will all work out. Over and over again the gospel will call for faith; but as the passages unfold it will be clear that faith in Jesus will be well founded."


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