Today’s Reading: Matthew 1-4
Today’s Reflection: Matthew 2:1-3
1) 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, 2) 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.” 3) When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Usually when the nativity story is told at Christmas time it is a happy tale, with three wise men happily heralding the arrival of the baby who would become the saviour of the world. But as the Bible account notes the arrival of those wise men (number unspecified) was met by Jerusalem and it’s king with dismissive suspicion. The birth of Christ was regarded not as a blessed event, but rather as an invasion. Three surprising points, and what they mean for us.
1) The people who were supposed to have been waiting for Jesus didn’t even know about His arrival. When the wise men arrive, asking where the new born Messiah is, the chief priests are able to tell them and Herod right away that the child was born in Bethlehem. But were it not for the wise men, the Jews wouldn’t have even known the Christ had come. They weren’t watching for the signs. The ones Jesus came for were completely unaware their salvation was at hand.
How many of us as believers have become complacent and lazy in our faith? We’re supposed to be vigilantly watching for Jesus return and spreading the word to all the earth, but many of us act as if life will just go on as it has. Will we be caught by surprise by Jesus second coming the way most of the Jews were surprised by His birth?
Luke 21:34-35 – 34) “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35) For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
2) The people who the Jews looked upon as ‘unclean unbelievers’ were the ones who came seeking their Messiah. The wise men were not of Israel. The Bible describes them as having come from the east. But they came not just to see a spectacle, but to worship the Messiah for themselves.
There are many non-believers who are looking for the Messiah (even if they don’t know that’s what they’re looking for) and when they find Him they will join the body of Christ. Will those who have been raised in the church be heading out at the same time?
John 10:16 – And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
3) When King Herod, the political leader of the Jews, came to know about the birth of the Messiah, he responded with violence rather than worship. Herod found the location of the Messiah, but didn’t go himself to worship. When the wise men were leaving Herod asked them to return to him with a report, but his intent was to kill the child. Finally, when God warned the wise men not to return to the king, Herod had all of the male children in Bethlehem massacred in an attempt to wipe out the Messiah (Matthew 2:16-18). Herod clearly looked upon Jesus’ birth as an enemy incursion, a threat to his authority, a threat that needed to be wiped out.
So the birth of Jesus was a happy event for some, but not all. Least of all for those for whom prophesy of the event was given. But for many of these people, like Herod, holding on to the scraps of power they had was more important than obedience, truth or the salvation of the people. Before we’re too hard on them, are we really any different? We all have our churches, our denominations, our doctrines, our books, our prophets, our traditions, all of the religious things that make us comfortable. But are we really recognizing Jesus as Lord and Saviour? Are we truly functioning members of the body of Christ? Is the love we are to show one another as fellow believers (John 13:34-35) too difficult, so we settle into cliques, or jump from church to church when conflicts arise? Are we reaching the un-churched world as we have been commanded (Matthew 28:18-20)? Or is Jesus call to ‘go’ and ‘tell’ the Gospel an inconvenience—an alien invasion to our pre-programmed church life, met with the violence of ignoring His truth in favour of holding on to our traditions?
We forget, Jesus wasn’t born to be a cute cultural touchtone. His incarnation was an act of war, the culmination of a rebellion against the enemy force that has taken charge of this planet. And ALL of us were on the side of the enemy force at one point (Romans 5:8-10). Some of us still are. Accepting Jesus as Lord, as well as Saviour, means denying ourselves—our comforts and our interests—and following Him. If we refuse to do this, when Jesus returns we won’t see it coming.
Matthew 24:42-44 – 42) Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43) But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44) Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.