December 26, 2021

Reactions To Jesus’ Coming

Passage: Matthew 2:1-18

The most significant world event of 1809 was the fall of Austria by the hands of Napoleon.  In the same year two prominent world leaders, William Gladstone and Abraham Lincoln were born, but they didn't draw any attention.  Today no one really mentions the fall of Austria, but the names of William Gladstone and Abraham Lincoln are read in books and seen on buildings and street signs.  You see, reactions to events differ from how significant they were at the time or became over time. When we mention the name Ceasar Augustus, the reaction today is very different from what it was when the Roman Empire was at it's strongest.  At that time Ceasar Augustus ordered a census and the only reason was to see how much further the Roman Empire expanded its borders.  And during that time a young couple made the 80 mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  Something the prophets wrote about for centuries was about to come into fulfillment, but it gone unnoticed.  The reaction was like, “So what?”  “Who cares about a Jewish child being born in Bethlehem when Rome is making such an impact on the world”, must have been the thought of the Ceasar at the time.  Yet, the impact of the birth of that Child on the world would be beyond comparison.  To this very day it confronts people.  “What has the coming of Jesus Christ done in your life?”, is a question that confronted every person again on Christmas.  But every day of the year the same question is asked, “How will you react to Jesus' coming till the end of your life?”  And just like the time when Jesus was born there will be different reactions by people.

Let's consider Reactions To Jesus' Coming from Matthew 2: 1-18.  We see 1 The Devotion Of The Magi.  The role of the Magi was so different from what many people want to believe.  They place Jesus in the manger with Joseph and Mary close to Him, animals around them in the stable and then there are the shepherds.  But they also place the Magi there as they knelt down and opened the treasures they brought Jesus.  We see so many Christmas cards with all that which I just mentioned.  How empty some say the Nativity scene would be without the Magi!  But we have to understand – it was only about a year and a half to two years after Jesus was born that the Magi came to Judea and inquired from Herod where the One was Who was born King of the Jews.  And then they followed the star and when it stopped above the house, they were filled with joy.  They came to the house and saw the Christ Child with His mother and they worshipped Him.  Foreign people went a very far way just to show their devotion to Christ the Lord.  And their gifts signified that as well – gold, incense and myrrh.  It was gifts worthy of a king; it wasn't ordinary gifts.  That visit of those Magi was the highlight of their lives.  After that their lives were fulfilled and they showed undivided devotion to God.  They didn't go back to Herod as he requested.  No, they took another route when they went back to their country.  The response of devotion to Jesus my friends, is something that we should portray after Christmas and every day of our lives.  We should show the deepest reverence for Emmanuel, God with us!  Dr. Billy Graham had rallies for a whole week in Boston many years ago.  Each night the last person to leave was a boy – 9 or 10 years old.  Graham could tell that he came from a poor family.  The last night he walked up to the boy and asked, “Son, how did you get here every night?”  The boy answered, “I walked.”  Graham asked, “How far?”  “Three miles one way”, the boy answered.  “But where are your folks?”, the Evangelist continued.  “O, they don't love Jesus a bit like I love Him.  They would never come.  But for Him I would walk 6 miles every day of my life.”  How would you rate your devotion to Jesus Christ?  What is His presence worth in your life?

Then we see that 2 Joseph Obeyed God.  Joseph is easily ignored in the Christmas Story.  The emphasis is always on Jesus, Mary, the Shepherds and the Magi.  But after that first Christmas, life would never be the same for Mary and Joseph.  Doctor Luke, usually went into great detail about important events in the life of Jesus and the early church in both his Gospel and the book of Acts. In Luke 2:39-40, he summed up the 12 years after the first Christmas like this: “When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee.  There the Child grew up healthy and strong.  He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was on Him.”  Not anything was expressed about the character and life of Joseph.  But Matthew recorded essential truths about Joseph.  Let's look at verses 13&14, “After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  'Get up!  Flee to Egypt with the Child and His mother', the angel said.  'Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.'  That night Joseph left for Egypt with the Child and Mary, His mother...”  After the second dream Joseph demonstrated the same thing as when he had his first dream – obedience to God.  When Mary became pregnant, he didn't want to disgrace her and thought he would quietly divorce her, but God told him not to leave her.  So, when he woke from that dream he took Mary home as his wife.  And now in the second dream about fleeing to Egypt to save Jesus' life, Joseph was obedient again.  He didn’t waste any time.  He didn’t wait until morning.  “...during the night...”, he got them packed and headed out to Egypt.  In the middle of the night, God said, “Get up and go!”  Joseph didn’t argue with God. He didn’t ask God for “Plan B.”   He didn’t wait to try and figure it all out.  He just obeyed.  I think we all will agree that obedience to God speaks of the true character of any person.  Most of the heroes of faith that we read about in Hebrews 11 demonstrated obedience – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab and the list is getting longer and longer.  And now, we are asked, “Will the coming of my Son again get you to re-prioritize your life?; will it get you to look at your schedule and decide how you will plan to unconditionally obey?”  After Horatio Spafford lost his son of scarlet fever in 1871 and all of his business in the Chicago fire also in 1871 and all his daughters drowned in 1873 when they crossed the Atlantic with their mother, he still obeyed God.  He wrote the hymn “It is well with my soul.”  Do you and I have unconditional obedience that we vow to Jesus Christ after Christmas?

Lastly we get to the ugly reaction to the birth of the Christ Child in Matthew 2 – 3 The Deep Resentment Of Herod.  He perfected resentment to Jesus' coming.  But before we talk about that, let's look at the person Herod.  He was a mean, vicious person.  History has a lot to say about him.  Caesar Augustus was quoted to say that it would be better to be King Herod’s pig than his son.  Pigs were protected by law ... Herod’s family weren’t.  King Herod had already killed 2 of his own sons, when he had them strangled.  He also killed one of his 10 wives, his favourite wife, because he thought that she had been unfaithful to him.  Later he found the proof that she wasn't unfaithful, but nothing could bring her back.  He wasn't heartbroken about that.  He just moved on. We all can make mistakes, you know.  But really no one was safe with Herod around.  Herod also killed his 18 year old brother-in-law, because the Jews liked him better than they liked King Herod.  Let's just just say that he was perhaps the most obsessed person to win a popularity contest.  And then came one of the worst things we find in the entire Bible.  Herod's jealousy of Jesus and rage to the Magi when they outwitted him, brought the worst out of him.  He ordered all male babies 2 years and under to be killed.  And so the prophesy from Jeremiah 31: 15 was fulfilled, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”  You know my friends, there are still the Herod's in our world, the ones to give the order with the deepest resentment in their hearts, “Away with Jesus!  He just doesn't fit in.”  We see and hear those who react to Jesus' coming with anger.  They even go public with that.    By God's grace I am as far away from those reactions as one can be.  Jesus has my loyalty and obedience; He has my deepest devotion and reverence.  Is that the commitment you have for Him as well?  May we all respond after Christmas by saying, “I will follow You Jesus, all the days of my life.”

Amen.                                                                                                                                                      Rev. Willem. H. van de Wall