Three Men and a Baby (Matthew 2:1-12, 16)

December 11, 2022

Series: Holiday Sermons

Book: Matthew

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

All right, here we go. It is good to have Khalid James here today. If you’re visiting with us and you didn’t know, we sent him on a mission to the south campus of our church. But he’s back today, and I do have a request, please, if anyone can get his car keys from him and then just hold on to them, that way he can’t go anywhere. We love you, Khalid. So I’ve been the one giving you a countdown each week. Christmas is now only two weeks away. Ready or not, last night my family attended the Christmas party here at the church building. We had a blast. I feel like we almost won the Deck Your Vehicle contest. Almost. That only counts in horseshoes, right? Yeah. And hand grenades. Yes. I didn’t want to go there, but I guess we just did. But we almost won the deck your vehicle contest. David Maddox was announcing the winners, and we were right there on the edge of our seats, and he says, the winning car for Deck Your Vehicle is a black- and we’re like, ugh, Cadillac.

Your preacher doesn’t have a Cadillac. I was hoping it would be a black Chevy, but anyway, we did whatever we could to get the judges to take a second look. Look from this angle look from that angle. I guess it just did not work. But I do feel like the party gave our family at least an extra push that we needed to get in the Christmas spirit. If we weren’t there yet, we’re certainly there now after last night. As we left, one of my children said, I really needed that party. That was great, especially the movie. What a surprise. I hadn’t seen that one before. Klaus so good. It was very goo. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but it was a good movie, and, man, I felt the Christmas spirit. It was cold last night. For Floridians, I could wear a sweater, and yeah, and I didn’t sweat. I actually needed the sweater. So thank you to all who planned it, organized it, served. You are truly Santa’s elves. So thank you very, very much.

So in the spirit of Christmas today, our sermon title is Three Men and a Baby. Now, if you’re 40 or over, you get the reference. If not, it doesn’t matter. The title today is Three Men and a Baby. Please go ahead and turn your Bibles to Matthew, chapter two. Matthew, chapter two. It’s the famous narrative of the wise men. And one of the things that I really love about this time of year is the Christmas music. And I want to try to end some of the debate here today about exactly when you should start playing Christmas music, when you should start singing Christmas music. And I’m hoping, as your preacher, I can try to end the controversy now and tell you that Christmas music should officially begin the day after Thanksgiving, which is the second best holiday, Keith, right? So I’m just declaring that now. But I will say we are Christians. We’re living by the grace of Jesus. If you’re really desperate, November 1 is forgivable. November 1 is acceptable. I’ve had many years where I’d be like, could we start this in October? And Amy said, no, we cannot do that. But anyway, I don’t think I helped you at all, did I? But when it comes to Christmas carol’s, christmas hymns, I will say the lyrics in those songs, the ones about Jesus, the hymns, the carols, the lyrics in those songs about the miraculous birth of Jesus, those could preach to us all year long.

They really could. And I hope you take the time. They’re so familiar sometimes that we’re just getting caught up in the melodies, the harmonies and how it sounds. But the words preach, they really do tell us about the gospel and the miraculous birth of Jesus and how incredible the plan of God is for us to know Him and to love him. And a very familiar theme in our Christmas carols is, of course, following the star, right? You’re going to hear a lot about the star, if you haven’t heard that already, and specifically the wise men who travel across the world to find the newborn king. One example is the Christmas carol, we three Kings. That’s kind of ironic. They’re not really kings, but sorry, I ruined that for you. But anyway, we three kings, right? And you probably know the chorus very well. Oh, star of wonder, star of night star with royal beauty bright westward leading, still proceeding guide us to that perfect light and I hope as we sing the carols the next few weeks, that you can begin to ask yourself these questions. And ask yourself these questions today. What can we learn?

What are we supposed to learn from this famous journey of the three wise men? What are we supposed to get from this really somewhat mysterious story that Matthew puts in his Gospel. Right. But most important, what can we learn about ourselves in response to the birth of Jesus? All right, let’s go to Matthew, chapter two, to help us answer those questions. Matthew, chapter two, verse one. “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem and Judea during the time of King Herod, magi or wise men, they came from the east to Jerusalem, and they asked, well, where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and we’ve come to worship him. When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him. 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.” Then in verse five, “In Bethlehem, in Judea, they replied, for this is what the prophet has written. But you, Bethlehem, and 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.” And that’s from Micah five, verse 2. 700 years before Jesus. Verse seven. “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and he said, you go and make a careful search for this child. As soon as you find him, report to me so that I too may go and worship him.” Verse nine. “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. 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.” In verse twelve, “And after having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” Verse 16, “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and in its vicinity who were two years old and under in accordance with the time he had learned from the magi.”

All right, so with that narrative in mind, remember our questions. What can we learn? What are we supposed to learn from these famous three wise men and and what can we learn about ourselves in response to Jesus? So here in this classic sacred text, we will find three responses. Three responses to the birth of Jesus. And what I’d like for you to do today is consider which one of these responses to Jesus best describes you. Three responses. And the first one we’re going to take a look at and spend the most time on is number one. Some people seek the truth of Jesus. And many of us, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve grown up with the song We Three Kings. We may have a picture in our minds, of course, of these three wise men with funny looking hats standing next to the manger and holding the baby Jesus, right? And that’s where we get our lesson title from today, three Men and a Baby.

Now, I don’t want to be a Grinch here about Christmas, but if you look at the text, we do need to do some fact checking here. We have three gifts, but nowhere does it say three wise men.

Don’t want to ruin it for you. It’s fine if you picture three, and I’m going to say three. And that’s the title of the sermon. And it’s neat and tidy that way. But we have three gifts. We don’t know how many people were there, and they probably traveled with an entourage anyway. But I do love the Far Side cartoon that has a fourth wise man. But this wise man got turned away because he brought the gift of a fruitcake. So again, I’m throwing in some not so subtle hints about gifts for your friends. Some people may like fruitcake. All right, go for it. If you make a really good one. But yeah, I think the fourth wiseman, the story goes that he was turned away because he brought fruitcake. All right? So he’s rejected. Also verse eleven, we know here specifically that the wise men met Jesus at his home. How do you picture it? Right? It’s at his house. And so it was not at the very famous manger, right? You see that? Am I ruining Christmas right now? I’m sorry, but it’s fine. However you picture it. I just want to do a fact check here.

But it is relevant because in fact, at this time and you know how the Bible works, it’s not like chapter to chapter is the next day, right? Jesus likely was a toddler by this time when the wise men show up and you see sadly later on, Herods like, kill all the boys who were two and under according to that time frame. So Jesus, who picture kind of a little kid running around, he’s probably walking by now.

So for the Magi, they’re mysterious, right? They come from the Persian Empire. And as we know, what history would tell us about what Magi were, these were professors in their society. The scholars, the teachers. They were highly influential. They were very close to the king. They weren’t kings, but they were influential in that society. They would have been trained in medicine, history, prophecy of all different types of religion, astronomy, Renaissance men, if you will. They knew a lot. They were smart dudes. Today, they would have had their own YouTube channel with thousands of subscribers, okay? They would study the stars, the planets, the skies, and they would consider philosophy and think through the deeper questions of who am I? Why am I here? And how do I fit into the universe? And most importantly, what is truth? That million dollar question, what is truth?

And it’s important to know how far they traveled to get to this baby or to this toddler. Jesus. They traveled 1000 miles to get to Jesus? 1000 miles. Let that sink in. That’s a far travel today. Right, one way back then 1000 miles would take you six weeks. Six weeks of travel. And you think about, why would they do this? This seems kind of random, right? Why would they do this? Why would these magi travel 1000 miles from home? And here it is. These men are seeking truth. They want truth. They want answers. So they completely stop their lives to see the child said to be the king of the Jews. And just imagine for a second the ridicule they would have received from family and friends or neighbors as they start to pack up for this trip, right? Where are you going again? What are you doing? Who are you going to see? You don’t even know. Are they born yet? Where? Where are you going? You’re going away for how long? What is it? What’s it called? Jerusalem? What religion again is this? Imagine what that would have been like. People don’t you’re not really wise at all. I thought you were a wise man. You guys are crazy men. You’re mental. There’s something wrong here.

And that’s exactly what it looks like and what it sounds like when you truly seek Jesus. That’s the perception, all right? It always has been, always will be. Christianity, following Jesus, is not something you slide into and is culturally acceptable and looks and sounds, right. No, it is different. It’s radical. It’s a radical decision that completely goes against the grain and the norms of culture. And if you’re trying to fit into society, if you’re trying to fit into your culture and how your culture thinks, you’ve picked the wrong dude to follow. It’s not how that works. We try to fit all that in together. That’s not how it works. It doesn’t fit. So the magi here, they know a baby’s been born. They see the special star. They don’t know exactly where it is. They have a general direction. They know this baby is supposed to be a king. They don’t even know his name. They just show up in Jerusalem seeking truth. They stop everything. They risk everything with really only a handful of facts. They bring expensive gifts, they’re prepared. And then with absolutely no background and no Christian background or Jewish background here zero experience growing up in a country or a church learning about Jesus. What do they do? They bow down and worship this Jewish child in a foreign land. That’s what it looks like to seek truth.

This is also what it looks like to seek truth. Every time someone is baptized into Christ and says Jesus is Lord for the rest of their lives, that’s seeking truth. That’s the beginning of truth. And Christina did that recently. Amen. That’s what it looks like to begin seeking truth, saying I’m no longer Lord, Jesus is. I’m no longer king. Jesus is. I may not understand everything, come what may, no matter what I learned along the way, I’m trusting Jesus with my life. And for those of you who haven’t made this decision, you have to ask yourself, what am I waiting for? All right? How am I getting there? What steps am I taking to make Jesus the Lord of my life?

Having a responsible urgency to follow Jesus? Do not procrastinate. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Get out there, find Jesus, don’t miss out. And I’ll tell you what. Jesus for you is not 1000 miles away. In fact, he’s so close to you right now. We’re going to talk more on that later. On the other hand, I’d say many of you today in our audience, you’ve made that radical, life changing decision to follow Jesus many years ago. But what about today? Would you do it all over again right now in 2022? Would you do it now? Would you still travel 1000 miles to get there? Or would that be too inconvenient to do it now? Would you stand up and stand out from your culture and give up everything to follow and obey Jesus?

These magi, they inspire me. They challenge me. These are our forerunners in the faith. These aren’t Jews who grew up with this. These are gentiles, right? They challenge me. And you know what they do? They eliminate any excuses you and I may have. They traveled 1000 miles to find out about Jesus. What’s your excuse when you stay home? Three men and a baby.

This is what it looks like to seek the truth of Jesus. And yet some people, that would be me, crazy, stubborn people like you and me, we can also fight the truth. We fight against it. And here’s what I mean. Look at King Herod’s response to Jesus in verse three. Says King Herod is very disturbed. And it’s not just him. That’s the vibe. It says among all the people in Jerusalem, they’re disturbed to hear this news of a possible new king. And disturbed here means to shake violently or to be fearful. And that’s the effect, right, that Jesus can have on us. He shakes us up. He shakes up our way of life. There are expectations that come with following this incredible man. And King Herod, he fears the truth. He fights back. He pushes back against Jesus.

And just to talk some about King Herod. There were many King Herods in the New Testament. This specific King Herod, he was a very powerful man. He actually was the king of the Jews for at least 40 years, right? That was his title, King of the Jews. And he was a very progressive, innovative king. He was a champion for Jewish culture. This man built cities, theaters, palaces, temples. He built a fantastic infrastructure for the Jews, and they had great financial success with him. And in my opinion, this may be why Jerusalem is uneasy with the news of possibly having a different king. They know he’s nuts, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. But he’s getting things done for them. He has created a great life for them, and they sense a disruption of that way of life. So despite his accomplishments, you may know this about King Herod. He was definitely your typical narcissist politician. His religion was politics, progress, and power, not obedience to Yahweh. King Herod killed his brother in law. King Herod killed his mother in law. King Herod killed his wife and his own sons. Why? Well, he was cut throat. He feared losing his political position. That’s why he stayed in power for 40 years. Caesar Augustus said this of King Herod, it’s safer to be Herod’s pig than his own son.

Now, we hear all that, and it’s like, whoa, that’s extreme. But I don’t want us to lose sight of the fact that this is the dark place all of us can go because of fear, fear of losing control. I know I struggle with that. In order to do what we want to do, in order to live our own truth and go on our own path. I’ll tell you what we get in a mindset, we won’t give a second thought to hurting those people who are close to us, because I want to fulfill my desires, my way, my truth. And there’s just damage along the way, especially those close to us. That’s what sin can do. That’s what fear can do. So Herod, he fears anything, anyone that could possibly take away his control or threaten the way he wants to live his life. So in verses one and two, the magi, perhaps naively, innocently, they come to King Herod, of all people, for help. You would think, okay, yeah, I want to talk to this guy, the Jewish king. And instantly, Herod begins to fight the truth. He fights the truth there’s a new king and that he possibly may need to now obey him. And I want to borrow a popular saying from the world of sports now. There’s a lot of talk about the greatest athletes. And when someone has a really good game, an athlete even may say of themselves, I am him, or he is him. And one thing that’s becoming a reality here is King Herod is not him. All right? Jesus comes on the scene, I am him. You and I are not him. Jesus and Jesus alone is him. Jesus is the GOAT, all right? The original.

And for us to make this personal here, when faced with the fact that Jesus is him, that sounds all good until he starts challenging parts of your life that you don’t want touched. Jesus says, I want everything. If you want real life, give away your life, right? And so when Jesus says, I am him and this is the way it’s going to be, we can push back. Right? Here comes a human being claiming to be God, claiming authority over our lives, our decisions, our relationships. Here’s a man expecting us to live by his moral code, his dusty old rules from long ago. His expectation of sexual identity and sexual purity established in the Garden of Eden. Jesus says, yeah, that’s my expectation. It hasn’t changed. And as a culture, what happens is we’re uncomfortable with that. We feel like we’ve evolved and we have better ideas. And so we, we push back. We look for loopholes, we deconstruct God’s commands, we start cutting and pasting the Bible. We choose the parts of the Bible that we like and we’re willing to obey. And then we begin to throw out the parts that make us really uncomfortable.

Why do we do that? Why is that human nature? We’ll like King Herod deep down, what happens? We fear loss of control in our lives. We fear that we cannot do what we really want to do. We don’t trust God. We trust ourselves more than God. And we fear what society will think of us. There’s a new King in town and it’s going to cost us everything we value the most just to follow him and obey him all the days of our lives. King Herod eventually died, but his spirit lives on today.

I’m telling you, no one’s immune to this red, blue, purple politics. Public school, Christian school, home school, urban, suburban, living in the sticks. All of us can drift from Jesus. We’re all tempted to just push back against the core truths of the gospel and the church based on our own triggers, our own comfort, and our own sinful nature.

So I appeal to you today, don’t live in the spirit of King Herod. And none of us are that far from it. Okay? Stop fighting the truth. Begin seeking the truth today.

And then last but not least, the Gospel of John says in John one, verse eleven, and Tyler is going to talk about this, the birth of Jesus in the context of the Gospel of John next Sunday. But there’s something very insightful here in John one, verse eleven. It says, Jesus came to his own people, but his own people did not receive him. Ironic and sad. And the last response that leads us to our last response here we see in this narrative is some people just ignore the truth or we procrastinate on the truth. And that’s what I was referring to earlier. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. We could miss out. And this is the one I most related to before I became a Christian. It’s also the one I can easily drift into now, even as a Christian of 22 years. Instead of seeking the truth and living by the truth and and, and being transformed by the truth. And my character continue evolving because of the truth. I can really become a stale religious Pharisee. Always learning, but never really changing, right? It’s just knowledge. It’s just being there, but it’s not transformative.

And look at verse four what Herod does. He gathers all the best and brightest theologians, the Bible lawyers, the religious leaders. These were the best. I mean, they knew. And the King asked, well, where is this chosen one predicted to be born? And I can hear the whispers now, what? I hope he asks us a harder question. My kid could have answered that question, Herod. You really are a politician. Herod should know this. And it’s quoted here 700 years earlier, the prophet Micah predicted the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem and this was common knowledge in Jerusalem. Little children learn this from their parents early on in their classes, it was talked about all the time. We’re waiting on the Messiah and he’s going to be born in Bethlehem. So these men that Herod brought together, you can understand who they are. And again, we’re, we’re trying to figure out how we respond to Jesus. The good, the bad, the ugly, right? These guys would have been the professional churchgoers. They would have had A plus on attendance. They know the Bible, they have access to the Bible. Unlike the Magi, they grew up in a country where the truth of Christ was part of that culture. And you look at the map on this one. In contrast to the three wise men going 1000 miles, Bethlehem is only 6 miles away from Jerusalem. 1000 miles. 6 miles. I mean, it’s literally bethlehem is literally a southern suburb of Jerusalem. Back then that was a safe journey on good roads. You could walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in 2 hours. It’s a two hour walk. 6 miles. It’s the same distance I drive to this church building from my house in Waterford Lakes. 6 miles. It’s nothing but here’s what’s so scary, and this is why I’m pointing this out is from what we read about the same religious group over the next 30 years, we have very little evidence that they even lifted a finger to check out the rumor that the long awaited Messiah had finally arrived and was born in Bethlehem. They didn’t put this together. I mean, maybe they were too busy with their religious routine, too distracted with their politics and there was a lot of that going on.

Maybe they just wanted to keep the status quo and coast. It’s sad. They were 6 miles away from Jesus and missed it. 6 miles from forgiveness, 6 miles from eternal life and they missed it. They were so close to the one and only truth. They had built their entire religion around it and they missed it.

And that’s the danger we face here in our own country. We’re a country that actually still celebrates the birth of Christ. We have a whole two week holiday around it. And I’m not one of those people who like, we need to put Christ back in Christmas. I’m not on that bandwagon. It’s more like we need to put Christ back in Christian. But that’s what I’m talking about here. It’s just more that, man, we actually this is part of our calendar.

And we got to see the real and present danger here that our children face growing up in the church. So very close to the truth. Singing all the songs, but having really no idea what they really mean and the truth that it is in their lives. So close to the truth. Something so sacred is so close and yet could be so far away.

So some people ignore the truth. I know I did. I mean, we have access to the Bible, the freedom to read it. We’re the insiders, you and me. These are the kingdom kids that have grown up in the church. These are the people that know enough of the facts and yet choose to do nothing or to walk away from it. We get distracted. We choose to ignore the truth. We can get obsessed with other things. Relationships become much more important. Video games, sports, as I said, romance and how we want to do it. And then we start treating Jesus in a casual way. We become to the wise men saying, hey, have a good trip, guys. If you find the Messiah, let us know. If being a hardcore Christian here at this church works for you, let me know. Maybe I’ll see you later. For now, I’m just going to stay where I’m at.

I would just appeal to you today, and this is a message for us, for our children, for our children’s children, and for a generation yet to be born. Jesus is not some Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale. We can’t just mess around with this. This is the real thing. Jesus is him. God in the flesh. Do not ignore the truth. Do not procrastinate on the truth. If you got problems with some of the things that God says in the Bible and that Jesus said, you need to dig into that and find out what that is. And so we just need to submit to until we completely understand, if we ever do. Jesus is him. If you’re on the side of Jesus, you listen to Jesus. You never ever treat him casually. Your access to the truth is a sacred gift. Seek the truth while you have the chance. And I think so many times we can just be drama queens and make out our lives to be harder than they are. None of us here had to travel a thousand miles to get to Jesus.

God loved you so much, he handed Jesus to you. And many of you grew up with it. You didn’t have to go 1000 miles to figure this out. You’re blessed. You’ve been given a trust. Get the help you need. It’s right there in front of you to get close to Jesus. All of us stumble and fall and we have our bad seasons of life. No time like the present to get close to Jesus and get help to do that. In a world filled with lies, the truth that your heart really longs for is right in front of your face. It’s Jesus.

And then we close here. We’ll go back to what happened with the Magi. I love verses 10-11. These men were filled with joy. They found what they were looking for. 2000 years later, the joy of the Magi is now your joy too. In verse ten of Matthew, chapter two, it says when the Magi saw the star, what they were overjoyed. Joy to the world. The Lord is come, let earth receive her King. And then it came to the house. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary. This scene is so strange. Who bows down to a toddler? But they did. They saw the child and the mother Mary and they bowed down and they worshipped him. They knew they were in the presence of God. They didn’t understand the whole thing. But they knew enough that they were in front of the holy, the holy of holies, God Himself in the flesh.

And I’d appeal you today you’re going to have many times to sing these songs and to think about Christmas. It’s going to be a lot of fun for so many of us. A lot of things will be going on. But to understand that we do have a choice of how we respond to the birth of Jesus and how we respond to the truth of Jesus. Don’t ignore the truth. Don’t push back against the truth. Make a decision today to keep on seeking the truth. It’s a perfect, sacred truth. And you’ll have a joy that simply cannot be quenched. And this joy is only found when you seek Jesus. Hold nothing back. Jesus is him. If we seek Jesus, if we follow Jesus, we obey Jesus. If we trust Jesus, our best days as Christians are right in front of us.

Let’s bow our heads now and pray. We’re going to remember Jesus for his sacrifice on the cross and just thinking through and celebrating that the entire reason he was born was for truth. The entire reason he was born was that he knew he needed to die at a young age and suffer for us and become that sin sacrifice that we needed on the cross. So let’s remember Jesus at this time in prayer and as we take the cup in the bread, let’s pray.

Our Father in Heaven, holy, holy, holy is Your name, holy are You Lord God Almighty, you’re worthy of all of our praise. Thank you for the Creator, you, who died for his creation. Thank you for the Judge that took the judgment. Thank you so much for Jesus, God in the flesh. Father, help us to connect with that at this time. Help us to embrace the truth even if times it’s it’s painful giving up our throne and giving up our kingship and submitting to Jesus. Father, we know, as the scriptures say, you have great plans for us to to be prosperous and successful. And we know we can only do that by following Jesus all the way to the cross.

Thank you that he took the punishment we deserve. Thank you for the cup symbolizing his blood. The bread that we’ll take now that helps us to remember his body that was born to die and to born to die on a cross for us. We love you, God. We thank you for the freedom we have in Christ. Help us to choose Jesus over and over and over again. Thank you for his resurrection. Thank you for the eternal life we have to look forward to because of Jesus. We pray all these things only in Jesus name to you. Amen.

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