Peninsula Community Church
What does Christmas Mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.
December 23, 2018
Matthew 2:1-6 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
I am not sure that you have had experienced this but we have on a few occasions. We love to get in the car and drive around to see what is around us. Being a lover of Civil War history we had heard about Harriet Tubman’s birthplace in Maryland and thought it would be fun to visit this site. So off we go. We traveled past Cambridge into the middle of nowhere and into a very desolate area. Upon arrival, we found a placard that stated that they thought this was the location. There was no home and all that was in front of us was an open field. As we were standing there taking in this moment suddenly we began to hear shooting in the field adjacent to us. It was in that moment that we decided it was time for us to leave and leave quickly. How disappointed we were as our journey did not produce the results we had hoped for. While our journey was disappointing, the wisemen’s journey was anything but disappointing. They found the Savior. Your journey does not have to be disappointing either as you will find the Savior if you seek Him.
Today, we finish our look at the meaning of Christmas through the eyes of the wisemen. Over the last few weeks we have looked at the journey of the wisemen. We have looked at the gifts of the wisemen. We have looked at the worship of the wisemen. Today, we will focus on the One that made this journey possible and is in fact the destination of their journey. You see from the beginning of their journey, the focus of the story has been and continues to be on Jesus. Over the last couple of weeks we have learned much about the Christmas story through the eyes of the wisemen.
As we read through this passage, we find three illustrative word pictures used to define the work and mission of Christ. First, we find that He is a baby. In this, we see the innocence, purity, and promise of His birth. The Jewish leaders had a different experience. They were looking for a warrior. They were disappointed and disillusioned at the news that the Messiah was born as child in a manger because that is not how a king would come. While they thought that their king should come on a white steed with regalia of a King. What they found was a placard in the middle of an empty field.
I am not sure about you, but I have often wondered if this was one of the reasons God did not call the religious leaders to the manger. If sent, I wonder if they would have missed Christ as they were misguided in their focus and in their purpose. It is amazing to me that instead of the religious leaders, God called, the shepherds, the lowliest of all people in society to find Jesus. He called those who were unbelievers, the wisemen. In the process they all believed and walked away with a new found faith. You see God was not calling the religious but those who needed Christ and were genuinely seeking Him.
Secondly, there is the picture of Jesus as a shepherd. What a visual picture for those of Jesus’ day. What a statement for Christ’s ministry. For us, we may not see or grasp the value of this designation, but those who witnessed Jesus’ birth and lived in that area knew the incredible value of this designation. It is a powerful illustration of the work of Christ in our life. He is the shepherd. He is our shepherd. As shepherd, Jesus’ birth was a fulfillment of Micah 5:2. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
David caught a vision of this work of Christ when he penned the words of Psalm 23. After all remember David too was a shepherd who became a king. In this Psalm, the work of the Lord, as the Shepherd, is defined. It is in this Psalm that we find His mission. Listen to David’s words. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
How amazing is the ministry of Jesus as the shepherd? He was and continues to be our shepherd. He is our provider so that we do not lack what we need. He leads us to a place of rest and peace as pictured in the green pastures and the still waters. He is a restorer of the soul. When we are distraught and feel we are losing it, He comes and restores us. Notice, that He restores the soul which is that inner part of our being that only God can touch and revive.
As the Shepherd, He leads us down the path of righteousness. This righteousness is worked out in our thinking, our actions, and our feelings so that His name is glorified. Because He is the shepherd, even when we confront the worst of all circumstances, He is there. He is walking with us through death and the greatest fears of our life. He brings reconciliation even with our enemies. The reconciliation is so great that He invites us to dine with our enemies so we can move forward with our life rather than being stagnated by a lack of forgiveness. He anoints us and leads us into His mission, so we find fulfillment and a fresh perspective.
The third description is that of a king. The wisemen saw Jesus for who He was. They saw Him as the King of the Jews. They traveled the distance they did to find the King. What they did not see in Herod, they saw in Jesus. What they did not see in themselves, they saw in Christ. Because of their experience, they knew He was more than just the King of the Jews, He was and still is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Jews missed the opportunity to find Jesus. This was in part because they had a misunderstanding of God’s intent and purpose in establishing His kingdom. Most Jewish leaders had political aspirations. They wanted political power and position. Jesus on the other hand wanted their heart.
From the beginning, the political and ecclesiastical leaders did not trust Him. His ethical teachings, His irreproachable moral character, and His undeniable lineage constantly jeopardized the security and aspirations of the Jewish leadership of that day. Herod needlessly feared Jesus. Pilate was unnecessarily suspicious of Him. They lost sight of the fact that Christ had not come to set up an earthly kingdom. He had come to be the King of redemption. His Kingdom was to be a spiritual kingdom. He was to reign in the hearts of men and women. You see they had never bargained on a spiritual kingdom. They missed the fact this was a heart issue and not a political or religious issue.
As we think about His kingdom, we are aware that His kingdom is present now but there is also a kingdom that is to come. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray your kingdom come; your will be done. As such, we invite His kingdom into every situation we encounter. The truth is nothing matters apart from His kingdom. Just as Christ penetrated the hustle and bustle of His day, so today Christ can and will invade any and every situation we have to make a difference.
The wise men of old inquired, “Where is He who has been born King?” Today, many are asking the same question. “Where is He?” For some, they are on a path to find Him and others are just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They are ignorant of His purposes and His calling. They for searching for a Jesus that does not exist. They want power and position but that is not the intent of God’s heart. But we will find Him when we seek Him. And seek Him we must.
The Bible says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He was King yesterday, He is King today, He will be King tomorrow. By virtue of His kingly office, He was the only One in Heaven qualified to redeem a lost world. Had Jesus Christ been less than He was, He could not have made atonement for our sins. Fully aware of our inability to pay the price of redemption, Jesus Christ gave Himself as a ransom for us. At the end of every presidency one of the last things they enact is clemency and a pardon of crimes committed by certain people. One greater than any president or ruler did that for us upon the cross.
But that was yesterday. What about today? Many people are asking, “Where is the Kingdom of God today? If He is a king? If so, where is His kingdom?” His kingdom as then now reigns in the heart of man. So the question for us is “Does Christ reign in your heart?” Is He Lord and King of your life? The Bible says, “If we confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus as Christ, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we will be saved” Romans 10:9. You may say, “I believe in Christ.” But have you made Him King of your heart. The reason for this is that if He is not Lord of your heart then, He does not have complete control of your life.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom