Text: Mathew 2:1-12†† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ŰThe Epiphany of our Lord
The Good the Bad and the Indifferent
††††††††††† In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ:† just one day short of two weeks ago we celebrated Christmas and reflected once again on the wonderful story of how our Savior and God was born our brother in human flesh.† It was a great work of the Lord; at the time arguably his greatest work to date.† And so itís right that we spend some time in meditation upon the mystery of the incarnation and praising God our Father for sending us his Son.† But whatís interesting to me is that the Church in its ancient wisdom has allocated just twelve days for observing Christmas.† Today, as I mentioned earlier, we begin the season of Epiphany, the theme of which is showing forth and making known to the world this Jesus who is Godís Son come to earth.† And for this purpose the Church allots a period of four to eight weeks (depending on the date of Easter).† And I think thereís a message here for us.† Itís this: yes, Christmas and what God did then is terrific; but at least as far as the Church is concerned, the greater task is getting people to know this Jesus and letting them hear what has to say. The miracle of Christmas does no good unless people get to know the Savior whom God sent.
And with this in mind, with todayís Gospel
reading we see that the Epiphany got off to a rather slow and erratic start.† I mean think about it:† the long awaited hope of Israel, the Christ
for whom Godís people have been fervently praying for more than two thousand
yearsóheís come: the promise is even now being fulfilled.† Heís alive and well and has been living with
his folks in
That is, of course, until the arrival of the wise men, which we heard about this morning. And whatís interesting here is that the people in Jerusalem were completely unmoved by the eyewitness testimony of Jewish shepherds and a pair of pious senior citizens, but they get all stirred up about the arrival of a few Gentile eccentrics who say that theyíre pretty sure an important Jewish king has been born because, after all, they read it in the stars.† From a Jewish perspective, youíd think this latter testimony would carry the least amount of weight.† But this is the one that gets King Herod and the general populace to sit up and take notice.
But rather than receive the good news with
excitement and joy, weíre told that a dark cloud of anxiety descended on the
city.† Now with King Herod himself, itís
not surprising.† His official title was
ďKing of the JewsĒ.† The funny thing was
he wasnít really a king nor was he Jewish; and everybody knew it.† He was in fact an Edomite Ė from a tribe of
people who were ancient enemies of the Jews.
But Herod was an ambitious man with a real talent for
self-promotion.† When the Romans who had
Whatís a little harder to understand is why
the rest of
Why is that?
There are probably many reasons; but first among them has got to be
plain and simple unbelief.† And thatís
sad.† Here are the people who know the
Scriptures the best.† When asked, they can
say exactly where the Christ is to be born.
And presumably they are active in worship in the Lordís
So unbelief would be one cause of anxiety;
but itís probably fair to assume that at least some of them really did believe
the Christ would eventually come.† Yet
they too are troubled by the wise menís assertion that a great Jewish King has
been born.† And they too fail to seek him
out.† Why?† Let me suggest that if they do believe and
donít go look, itís precisely because theyíre afraid they might find him.† But why would that frighten them?† I think
So the end result is quite remarkable.† The Jews in Jerusalem, the people who
supposedly were waiting in eager expectation for the coming Christ, whether
from unbelief or their sin or perhaps both, fail to go seek him out when they
hear he has come and is sitting in whatís essentially their own back yard.† Those in the story who actually do something
with Jesus are not of Godís chosen people.
Herod, the Edomite, takes action in a failed attempt to destroy
him.† And the only ones who receive him
properly are the Gentile wise men who have come a great distance to find
him.† They press on to
Itís a familiar story to us; but what do we make of it?† Well, first Iíd have you see that itís a prophetic foreshadowing of what will happen later when Jesus actually completes his earthly mission. Then the representatives of the Roman government will be successful (well, at least for a short time) in their attempt to destroy Jesus.† Then too the Jewish people will largely fail to receive their King.† Instead, as in this story, the King will be honored and received with joy mostly by Gentiles as the disciples and followers of Jesus carry the saving message of his Gospel to the ends of the earth.† So itís kind of interesting the way that works out.
But I think itís more important that we apply
the story to ourselves personally.† What
do I mean?† Just this: spiritually
speaking now we are Godís chosen people.
We are the ones with the Scriptures and the promises of God, and we are
the ones eagerly anticipating the coming of Christ.† And let me suggest that each one of us is
like a little
In addition to him weíve got our unbelief:† that portion of our mind that doubts and questions, that thinks of the faith as a nice story thatís really too good to be true but that provides us with identity, tradition, a social construct, an extended family, and a moral compass.† Christianity is good as long as we donít take it too seriously.
And then too weíve got that part that believes, but that fears getting too close to Jesus.† It likes to think and talk about him from a safe distance, but doesnít want to be drawn into a deeper relationship because that would mean change.† It would mean more spiritual housecleaning, giving up those pet sins, maybe spending more time in study, meditation, and prayer; it might even mean changing my plans and doing things differently with my life.† And Iím not so sure I want to do that.† Iím okay with the way things are now.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, then weíve identified some citizens within that are going to miss out on the Epiphany.† They wonít see Jesus as he comes in his grace and mercy.† When they meet the King, it will be when he comes in judgment.
Itís better that we deal with them now.† Itís the wise thing to do.† And so, confessing our sins and putting to death the Herod, the unbeliever, and the lukewarm follower within, letís press on to know this King who was born to be our Redeemer from sin.† And receiving the gifts of his grace and forgiveness purchased at infinite cost by his death for us, letís join the wise men in falling down before him in worship, and letís each one present him with the treasure of life lived for him.† In Jesusí name.† Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria!