A Tale of Two Kingdoms (Sermon Notes from 12/6/2015)

Let’s start out by doing a little exercise (no – not that kind of exercise). In the next 20 seconds, please write down on a sheet of paper 3 things God is doing right now in your life, family, community or church.

Could you list 3 things? 2 things? or even 1 thing God is doing? If we can’t list 3 things God is doing, then we’re missing what’s happening right in front of us. Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence among God’s people. The same thing happened when Jesus was born.

Matthew 2:1-12  says After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 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.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 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. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6     “ ‘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.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 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.”

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. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. “

The first thing we need to do with this passage is know the main characters and their actions. Obviously we need to talk about Jesus first. He is the Son of God who is also called the Messiah, Son of man, Redeemer, Rock, Lion of Judah, Alpha and Omega and the Savior of the world. He was born in a stable and then placed in a manger because there was no room for him to be born in the inn. His purpose for living and dying on the cross was to reconcile all of creation with God.

The Magi were wise men who came from the east. We don’t know exactly where they came from although many scholars believe it was from Mesopotamia. They came to Jerusalem looking for the “King of the Jews” because they had seen his star in the sky so they followed it in hopes it would lead them to the newborn ruler. Evidently, they expected all of Judea to be celebrating the birth of their king. Why else would they go to King Herod and ask where the new king was? It was very dangerous to ask this question to a sitting king when the new king wasn’t from the his bloodline.

King Herod ruled Judea for 37-4 B.C. The Roman Senate appointed him to be the king of the Jews even though the was a descendant of Esau, which meant he was really an Idumean.  He is known as a master builder because of the grand palaces and public building that were built under his leadership. He was, however, a ruthless king who executed some of his wives and children because he thought they were conspiring against him. His brutality became so well known that the Roman Caesar said it was “better to be Herod’s pig than a member of his family.” He didn’t know anything about the birth of the new king when the Magi asked about him. This led Herod to call together the chief priests and teachers of the law to see where the Christ was to be born.

The chief priests and teachers of the law were the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. Their job was to interpret the Old Testament law and then teach the people how to follow and apply it to their lives. They told Herod the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. It is obvious that neither King Herod (the king of the Jews) nor the chief priests and teachers of the law had any idea their Messiah was born. They completely missed it. They couldn’t see what God was doing right in front of them.

When the characters in this passage learned of the birth of the Christ, they had various reactions. King Herod opposed the King. He was more concerned with building his own kingdom than he was with building up the Kingdom of God. Jesus was a threat to what he wanted to do in his own life. Herod didn’t have room for Jesus. As a matter-of-fact, Matthew 2:16 says Herod ordered all of the male children that were under the age of two who lived in Bethlehem to be killed.

The chief priests and teachers of the law ignored the King. They were longing for the Messiah to appear and deliver the nation of Israel from the Roman Empire. The problem was Jesus didn’t fit their expectations. Even though Bethlehem is only five miles from Jerusalem, not one of them went to check for themselves and see if Jesus was really their Messiah. This is a good reminder that just because we know God’s word doesn’t necessarily mean we know God or understand what He’s doing.

The Magi sought the King. They were seeking the truth and they didn’t stop until they found it. Once they found Jesus, they were overjoyed. They worshipped him and gave him gifts.

Let’s look at one more reaction to Jesus. Please fill in the blank. I’m _________ the King. Are you like Herod – too busy building up your own kingdom to have time for Jesus? Are you like the chief priests and teachers of the law – wanting a Savior but looking for someone who is different than Jesus because he doesn’t fit your expectations? Or, are you like the Magi – searching for the truth and willing to do whatever it takes to find it? 

If you can’t name 3 things God is doing right now, you’re more like Herod and the chief priests / teachers of the law than you’re like the Magi. God sent Jesus to redeem us because he loves us. Take time to look around and see how God is showing his love right in our midst.

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