Responses to Christ

An exposition of Matthew 2:1-12. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, December 12, 2010.

They were strange and mysterious visitors from another world.  They appeared suddenly, unannounced and in equally dramatic fashion they left and were never heard from again.  All kinds of stories have circulated concerning them.  Some far-fetched and obviously legend.  Others are more reasoned and have the ring of truth about them.  But the fact is we know very little.  Our knowledge of their visit and their mission is scant to say the least and yet they are an important part of the Christmas story.  “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?”  Tradition tells us that there were three of them.  That they were kings and their names were Casper, Balthasar and Melchior.  The problem is that none of that can be supported by the text of Scripture.  These are legends created during the Middle Ages with no historical foundation.  The cathedral at Cologne boast of have their skulls in a golden casket.  Their boast is more in keeping with the sensationalism of a sideshow barker than with than with actual history.  Another myth is that they were present at the stable in Bethlehem while the reality is that they were most likely a year and a half or two years later.

It is this last bit of truth that drove one of my college professors to put her Nativity scene on one end of her dinning room table with the wise men at the other end of the table.  She used to say, “I realize it won’t taken them two years to cross my table but at least they’ll be delayed!”  The Christmas story is so bound to legend and tradition that we often loose sight of the deeper issues surrounding the dramatic arrival of God incarnate.  God in the flesh.  This evening I want us to examine the biblical account the coming of the Magi and its significance for us.

Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Keep in mind that Matthew the former tax collector is writing to a Jewish audience and declaring that Jesus of Nazareth is in fact the Messiah the rightful king of Israel and God’s anointed deliverer.  He is writing from Palestine sometime between AD 58 and 68.  He is not writing a biography he is writing a Gospel – a selective history with a purpose.  His purpose is to show that Jesus is the one Israel has been anticipating for thousands of years.  He began by giving His genealogy demonstrating his claim to the throne of David.  Then he told of the miraculous events leading up to His birth and the purpose of His coming – “He will save His people from their sins.”

Now Matthew gives His account of the birth of Jesus.  Unique to his account is the story of the Magi and their dealings with Herod the Great.  It is interesting to note that Matthew writing to Jews, concerned with presenting Jesus as the rightful heir to the throne of David, includes this account of Gentiles being brought to the cradle of Christ by the working of a sovereign God.

If we are not careful we can come to the Christmas story and miss the forest because of the trees!  We can be so focused on the people and events surrounding the story that we miss what they might teach us.  As we explore our text I want you to see that:

The people and events surrounding the birth of Christ mirror the various responses of men to the person of the Lord Jesus.

We find in our text three responses representative of man’s response to the Savior.

  1. First of all, in Herod we find the response of hatred and hostility.
  2. The religious leaders demonstrate the response of apathy and indifference.
  3. The mysterious visitors from the East represent the response of worship and adoration.
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