Offered to All

             I.      Introduction – The Parable

You probably cry at weddings.  Statistics show that 86% of all women cry at weddings, 36% of all men do, and over 77% of all statistics are made up.

The last wedding I attended was between two antennae.  The wedding was ok, I suppose, but the reception was amazing.Slide1

Last week when Chris taught from Matthew 21, he spoke on two parables, first the Two Sons and then the Wicked Tenants, and he explained how the two parables were related, the second being “salt on the wound” to the Pharisees and the “nail in the coffin.  In the very next verse in Matthew 22 is a third related parable directly related to the parables Chris taught about, so let’s keep in mind that the Pharisees are being condemned with the words of Isaiah, who claim obedience to God but reject His messengers, again and again and again.

Today’s scripture is all about a wedding reception, so open your bibles to Matthew 22 and let’s read verses 1-14.

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.  The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.  So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.  He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Slide5The parables of Jesus are interesting – sometimes they are easy to understand, sometimes difficult.  Sometimes seemingly impossible.  And sometimes the easy ones have a deeper meaning than we realize, like today’s parable.  God seemed to pour out His message to me this week, and we’re going to start with the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel and Amos, then discuss what the coming Kingdom of God and Heaven means, then discuss our wedding feast parable, and finally end up in Revelation 19.  Are you ready?

Why a parable?  The mysteries of God’s purposes are revealed to those who seek His wisdom.  Jesus answer the question about parables in Matthew 13:10-17,

The disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.  Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Slide9Whoever has ears, let them hear.  It’s interesting to me that these verses from Isaiah perfectly illustrate the parable of the Wedding Feast.  Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah when He speaks in parables, and illustrates that while the words in the bible are available to everyone, the understanding is available only to those who seek.  It’s ok that parts of the bible are hard to understand; listen and trust in the words you do understand, and God will open your eyes to more understanding in His perfect timing.

Speaking of fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, we’re going to visit Isaiah in a little bit, but let’s first go back to today’s scripture to see who Jesus is speaking to.  Context is important; the top three things to look for in understanding scripture is location, location, location.

Today’s scripture begins in Matthew 22:1,

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:

Slide10Who is Jesus speaking to?  Jesus is speaking to Pharisees, legalistic Jewish scholars that were more interested in obeying the Law and making sure others obeyed the Law than making sure their own hearts were aligned with the will of God.

          II.      Old Testament – The Coming Kingdom

We continue in verse 2,

The kingdom of heaven is like…

Slide11This little phrase can be several weeks of bible study, because the kingdom of heaven is a complex issue.  I’m going to list just a few observations to consider –

Jesus is king, He is our savior.  Jesus brings a personal message of salvation to each and every one of us.  But that’s not what the Jews were expecting, they were expecting a theocratic kingdom on earth.  I used to believe the Pharisees were mistaken on this point, but I’ve come to realize they were correct in expecting a theocratic kingdom.  There are a great many verses that prophesy this, way too many to review today, so I’m just going to pick two of them.  First is Exodus 19:3-6,

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

As part of the Mosaic Covenant was a condition, a big “if” statement.  If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then Jerusalem will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  This is the theocratic kingdom of God on earth that the Messiah would deliver.

The flipside to this “if” statement can be found beginning in Deuteronomy 28:15,

However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:

You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.

Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.

The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.

These curses go on for many, many more verses and describe oppression, madness, sexual immorality, confusion, more madness, plagues and ruin.  For another 50 verses these punishments are listed, but let’s skip almost to the end to Deuteronomy 28:62-64,

You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God.  Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.

Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other.

So the Old Testament prophets told of a Messiah that would come to make Jerusalem the center of God’s Kingdom on earth, Isaiah 11:10-11,

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.  In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.

There are a great many other verses we could consider and we can’t get into them all, but here is a list of verses describing God’s theocratic kingdom on earth as described by Old Testament prophets:

Established by God Daniel 2:44
Eternal Daniel 7:27
The Messiah will rule directly Zechariah 9:9-10 (verse 9 describes Christ’s 1st Coming, verse 10 describes His 2nd Coming)
Earthly Zechariah 14:9, Job 19:25, Revelation 5:10
Land promises to Abraham fulfilled Genesis 15:18-21, Ezekiel 47:13-23, Joel 3, Ezekiel 31, Jeremiah 30:3
Israel’s preeminence Isaiah 49:22-23, Zechariah 8:23, Isaiah 2:2-3, Zechariah 14:16-18, Isaiah 14:2
Millennial Temple Ezekiel 40-46
Of the line of David Jeremiah 30:9
Righteousness Isaiah 9:6-7
Curses curtailed Isaiah 65:20-22
Peace in the Kingdom Isaiah 2:4
Prosperity Amos 9:13-14, Isaiah 65:22
Topographical Changes Ezekiel 47:1-12
Immediate Answers to Prayer Isaiah 65:24

All the people of Israel had to do was be obedient and welcome the Messiah when He came.

       III.      New Testamant – The King Rejected

Then the King arrived.  John the Baptist was fulfillment of prophecy, announcing the arrival of the Messiah, Matthew 3:1-3,

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,  and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord;

Make His paths straight.’”

Notice that John is saying the Kingdom of Heaven is “at hand” or “has come near.”  This is the announcement all of Israel had been waiting for, their Messiah had come.  But remember the big “if” given to Moses?  Israel had to be obedient, love the Lord, and welcome their Messiah.  And for understanding our parable today of the wedding feast, it’s important to realize that this offer was good only to Israel.

When Jesus arrived, He took His message to Israel alone as God’s chosen people, Matthew 10:5-8,

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”

Notice two important things here in the early days of Jesus’ ministry; he tells the original twelve apostles only to go to the Jews and not any Gentiles, and also that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  Jesus is the Messiah that Israel has been expecting.  All they had to do is be obedient and accept their savior.

          IV.      The Postponed Kingdom

But Israel did not accept their savior, and they were not obedient.  They crucified their Messiah and rejected their king.  In accordance with prophecy, the theocratic kingdom of God was now postponed.  The kingdom would now be offered, not to Israel, but to the Church.  Jesus once told Israel the Kingdom of God is at hand, but now says in Matthew 24:36,

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Jesus once says the kingdom was imminent, but now He doesn’t know when it is coming.  And where once Jesus brought His message only to Israel, now He brings it to all who accept, Matthew 28:18-20,

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Paul summarizes all of this in Romans 11, that Israel’s rejection led to salvation of the Gentiles, but also that the Gentiles owe their salvation to Israel.  When Israel accepts the return of Christ, how much more glory will that bring!  Romans 11:11-12,

I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.  Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

So, that’s the background to our parable today.  Once a theocratic kingdom was promised to Israel if they would turn their hearts toward God and be obedient.  Instead, Israel rejected God’s will and crucified their Messiah.  The Church Age begins, as Chris mentioned the end of the dispensation of the Age of The Law and the beginning of the new Dispensation, the Age of Grace.  Gentiles are now called to worship the one true God, and the kingdom of heaven on earth would be postponed, and God is not slow about keeping His promise, not wanting anyone who would come to repentance to perish, and in His perfect timing, Christ will come again.

             V.      The Wedding Feast, the Church as the Bride

We started with a parable, so let’s return to that parable, and with this background I think we’ll have a great deal more understanding.  Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees who are about to reject Christ and crucify Him.  Matthew 22,

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”

We will come back to the wedding banquet.  The eyes of the Pharisees were closed and they did not understand the parables of Jesus, but as Christians, we do understand.  Who is the king but the Lord God Almighty?  And who is the Son but Jesus Christ our savior?

“He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.”

Who doesn’t want to go to a Wedding Banquet?  Food and celebration for the wedding guests?  Or to put it another way, who declines a free offer of salvation?  The Lord God through the passage of time sent His prophets to tell His chosen people that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and it was time for the celebration to begin.  Israel was a stiff-necked people, though, and rejected the message.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.”

Israel killed the prophets.  They killed John the Baptist.  Israel would soon kill the King of the Jews.

In Matthew 23:37 through Matthew 24:2, Jesus prays for Jerusalem and says the temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed,

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!  See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.  And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Slide25Back to our parable,

The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

In 70 AD, Romans legions surrounded the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the city and overturned the stones of the temple.

I’m starting to think this is less and less of a parable, and more like a straightforward prophecy.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.  So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

Because of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, God invited all who would believe in the Messiah and our Lord Jesus Christ.  The bad and the good, the sinners and the saints, are all invited.  And they may have a seat at the wedding banquet under one condition.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.  He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

          VI.      Conclusion, Clothed in Righteousness

You and I are invited.  The good and the bad are invited.  Everybody is invited, including God’s firstfruits, the nation of Israel.

And we are all welcome under one condition, that we are properly dressed for the wedding feast.  The wedding banquet is reminiscent of the marriage supper of the Lamb which occurs after the rapture and before Christ’s second coming, a celebration of the marriage between the Lamb of God and His bride, the church.  In Revelation 19:6-9,

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

Let us clothe ourselves in righteousness that comes only from the shed blood of Christ Jesus who cleanses us all from all unrighteousness and who rules the Kingdom of God as Israel always believed He would.  We finish with the rest of Revelation 19:11-16,

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.  He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.  He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:

KING OF KINGS AND

LORD OF LORDS.

Slide32

To God be the glory.  Amen.

Gifts ofthe Magi

   I.      Introduction

I have missed a few weeks due to travel again.  I was fortunate enough that the weekend wasn’t too windy or cold or rainy, so I got out to see a Victorian Festival in Otley UK.  The very first thing I saw was a brass band – I love brass bands, I used to play a brass instrument – so I whipped out my camera.  Just as they began to take a break.  And I said, “But I came all the way from Texas!”  And the leader says, ok, 1 more, just for you, do you have a request?

I thought about this upcoming lesson on the gifts of the magi, and said, “How about, ‘We Three Kings?’”  They mumbled to themselves and said, “I think it’s #90.”  And I said, “Yes, #90.”  As if I knew what page number it was on.

So they gave me this special gift of song that I’d like to share with you:

There.  Wait, there’s more to today’s lesson.

Christmas is approaching, and with it, another chance to reflect on the incredible gift God has given us.  During our studies in this class, we’ve considered the desires of God for man, how man has fallen, how God must punish all sin including the sin that is in our very nature, and how in God’s infinite love, He has given us a free gift to accept His sacrifice for our sins.

Open your bibles to Matthew 2 this morning; last week we read about the birth of Jesus, and today we’ll study the wise men who came to worship Him.   Let’s step through our verses one at a time today and get the full richness of God’s gift.

II.      Matthew 2:1

Matthew 2:1 –

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

 

Did you know there are actually two towns named Bethlehem?  There is a Bethlehem in the tribe of Zabulon that is mentioned in Joshua 19:15, and it’s not the same as the town of Bethlehem in Judea which is located about 6 miles from Jerusalem.

Slide4

When I visited Israel 5 years ago, I didn’t go into Bethlehem, but I did get a chance to photograph it from a distance.  It’s primarily a Palestine town now, and I understand that over the centuries the original site was destroyed and rebuilt several times.  Today, the church doesn’t resemble the humble beginnings of our Lord.    What I find most interesting about the land of Bethlehem is that this land was used for raising sheep.  During Passover, Jews would select the best lambs to offer as a sacrifice at the Temple of Jerusalem.

This was during the time of King Herod – this is Herod the Great or Herod the Ascalonite, the son of Antipater.  It’s interesting to me that he wasn’t completely Jewish, his ancestors were Edomites whose ancestors had converted to Judaism, and Herod was raised as a Jew.  Last week Chris talked about the importance of lineage of Jesus, and how observant Jews study certain rabbis whip can trace their lineage to the tribe of Levi so they can say they came from “good stock.”. Herod did not have such good lineage.

Slide7

He was born around 74 B.C. and through a series of political manipulations with the Romans was appointed King of the Jews around 40 B.C.  His dedication to the Jewish faith was always questioned, so he married a Jewish woman named Mariamne, but Herod already had a wife named Doris and a young son Antipater who were banished after his second marriage.  Herod’s lifestyle was condemned by the observant Jews, but Herod had a habit of executing those who opposed him, including several members of his own family, including his second wife Mariamne.  He ruled Jerusalem with the support of Rome for 37 years, and Jesus was born in the 35th year of Herod’s reign.

After Jesus was born, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem.  There is no evidence there were only three wise men, that’s just part of the song.  The term “magi” was used for several occupations, not all of them considered wise.  They were wizards, enchanters, magicians, sorcerers.  The most likely origination of these wise men were probably from Persia, first appointed by Cyrus, to sing hymns to the gods and to sacrifice to them.  They likely arrived, not a Jesus’ birth, but to account for the long journey from Persia, most scholars agree that they arrived in Jerusalem about 2 years after Jesus’ birth.

Slide8

III.      Matthew 2:2

Matthew 2:1 –

[The Magi] asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

 

Some translations, like the King James, say “for we have seen his star in the east.”  That’s not phrased very well, because it wasn’t the star that was in the east, it was the magi who were from the east.

What was this star?  Some sources say it might have been an angel, but that’s not likely or the scripture would have said it was an angel.  Some are of the opinion it was the light or glory of God which shone about the shepherds, or perhaps a comet which tradition had appeared at the birth or death of some illustrious person.  But I think a star still makes the most sense, a new and unusual miracle from God the Father to mark the birth of His Son.  It fulfils prophecy, such as in Numbers 24:17 which says

there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel.

 

The magi would have been very familiar with this prophecy, and journeyed 2 years to arrive at the birth of the new King of the Jews.

Can you imagine the wicked Herod’s reaction when wise men from Persia, following this star, shows up at his palace and asks to see the new king?  Herod must have been furious.  In the next verse, Matthew 2:3, it says –

IV.      Matthew 2:3

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

 

Herod knew he had no legitimate right to be the king of the Jews, and fiercely defended his power, and a threat to Herod’s power also brought fear to Jerusalem for the power struggle that would ensue.  The birth of Christ partially fulfilled the prophecy in Genesis 49:10,

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.

 

Herod was not of the tribe of Judah, so the scepter of the king did not belong to him.

  V.      Matthew 2:4-6

When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

 

“‘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 shepherd my people Israel.’”

 

This prophecy is from Micah 5:2, and they’re explaining to Herod that this prophecy has already come true, and that magi are here to pay homage to Him.  Herod likely gathered the priests and rabbis of the Sanhedrin, and in the NIV Herod sounds very nice, he asked them politely where Christ the Messiah would be born.  I think it’s more of a demand; Herod is the chief of the Sanhedrin and Herod wants to know if there’s any validity to this threat.

 

VI.      Matthew 2:7-8

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

 

I don’t think Herod’s being honest here, just sayin’.  Herod meets with the magi privately and interrogates them for intel.  No doubt he did this away from the Sanhedrin, for the Sanhedrin would understand exactly why Herod wants to know the time and place of the birth of Christ.  He would understand that Jesus may be as old as two years old now, given the length of the journey from Persia.

Did I mention earlier that Bethlehem is only about 6 miles away?  Don’t you think it’s odd that Herod know the fulfillment of prophecy is just a short distance, yet he sends nobody with the magi.  Herod certainly didn’t want the Jews to know what the magi already did, that the king of the Jews was born.  The Jews in Herod’s palace were likely to set up the newborn king as the new king of the Jews with the intention of overthrowing Herod.

VII.      Matthew 2:9-10

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

 

To me, it’s interesting that the Jews, though they knew prophecy, did not accompany the magi.  Did the Jews even know the magi had been born?  This passage seems to indicate that the star had reappeared – that “lo” in verse 9 is an expression of surprise and joy.  The magi were gentiles from east of Israel, and no doubt overjoyed to have this star lead them to the child.  The birth of the child is the first noel; the star itself is the first GPS navigation system.

Herod was not overjoyed; we read later in this chapter that the magi didn’t return to Herod has he had commanded, and Herod, furious that the magi didn’t identify the specific child he was looking for, ordered every child in Bethlehem under the age of two to be slaughtered.  The evil of men and the horrors they commit to maintain their so-called grasp of power for a few more years is appalling, but rather than focus on Herod anymore, I want to study the magi as the met and worshipped the king of the Jews for the first time.

VIII.      Matthew 2:11-12, Gifts of the Magi

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.  And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

That last line is meaningful to me.  We all meet Jesus, and once we meet Him, we go another way.

The magi provided their gifts to the young baby, wealth of abundance.  When we see Christmas scenes of The Three Wise Men, they’re often shown holding a small decorative container with a gift.  It’s likely, though, that the magi brought substantially more – they certainly wouldn’t travel over a thousand miles just to provide samples.  No, they brought gifts for the King of Kings.  Scholars note that later, when Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt, this wealth surely sustained them during their exile.

Slide17

 

Let’s look at these gifts –

  • Gold certainly makes sense as a gift.  Gold is a gift fit for a king, and the magi recognized Christ the newborn as the rightful King of Israel.  Jesus traced His lineage to David and Abraham, just as scripture prophesied.  And Christ certainly was the rightful king of the Jews, but the book of Matthew illustrates these magi as giving the gold to the baby, something the other gospels don’t mention.  It’s as if Matthew wants to make sure we understand, as the magi did, that Jesus was born a king.Slide18
  • Frankincense is an aromatic balm used to make incense, used by priests during sacrifice.   In other words, a gift for a god.  Jesus is not just our king, the Lord of Lords, but he fulfills a unique role in our salvation that only He can fill – He is our High Priest.   Hebrews 2:17 says that Jesus is our merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.  The magi worshipped Jesus as divine while at the same time Herod was trying to destroy Him.  This contrast characterizes much about the life of Jesus.  Some, like the magi, worship Jesus as Lord.  Others, like Herod, seek His destruction.  Which brings us to the third gift.Slide19
  • Myrrh is an odd gift for a baby.  Like frankincense, myrrh is an aromatic resin that is used to prepare bodies for burial.  From the very beginning, for Christ to give up His life was His purpose.  Mathew 20:28 says that His purpose was “to give His life as a ransom for many.”  And in John 12:27, just before Jesus went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’?  But for this purpose I came to this hour.”  Jesus lived His life with an awareness of His purpose – He was born to die. The story of the magi is a central part of the story of Christ’s birth, but the magi presented Jesus with a gift that honored his death.  We celebrate Christ’s birth because of His death.  Were it not for His sacrifice, His birth would have little meaning.Slide20

The Christmas tradition of exchanging gifts probably is influenced by the story of the magi, but the real story of Christmas is not about the gifts of the magi or the gifts we give to one another, but the gift of God’s only son.  When God gave us Jesus, He gave us everything Heaven had to give.  Ephesians 1:3 says that God has blessed us with *every* spiritual blessing in Christ, like a special Christmas package that contains every blessing of God.

There’s a story of a very wealthy man who came from generations of money.  His great-grandfather had made a fortune in trading spices.  His grandfather made money in real estate.  His father made money in smart investing.  And this man continued on the family tradition, and invested in art.  He had art from Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Picasso, Monet, and more.  He had an amazing art collection and kept it all in a gallery on his mansion’s estate.

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He met a beautiful woman; they fell in love and were married.  Not long after, the woman got pregnant with their first child, but tragically, she died giving birth to a son.

The father and his son were inseparable.  They spent their days together, playing ball and traveling the world and enjoying every moment.

The son grew up, and before taking over the family business, he thought he’d get some life experience.  He joined the military and was soon shipped off to war.  But he wrote to his father often.  And as each letter arrived, the butler would hand carry it to the father, knowing how eagerly he was waiting to hear from his son.

One day the butler came into the father’s study, holding one of the familiar envelopes.  The father took the letter but instantly noticed something was different.  It was not his son’s familiar handwriting.  The father began to tremble as he read the words, “Dear Sir, we regret to inform you that your son has been killed in the line of duty…” The father fell on his knees sobbing.

For weeks he was overcome with grief.  To celebrate his son, the father commissioned a local artist to paint a portrait of the son.  He hung that portrait right in the middle of the Picassos and the Monets.  It was entitled, “The Son.”  Out of all the priceless works of art, “The Son” was his favorite, and every time he looked at it, he would smile and remember his son.

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The years went by. The father grew old and passed on.  There were no living heirs, so the estate was to be auctioned.  The day of the auction arrived. Wealthy investors and art collectors from around the world arrived to bid on the art.

The auctioneer opened by announcing that they would begin with the piece entitled, “The Son.”  The name of the artist was unknown, and the restless buyers stirred impatiently as the auctioneer started. “We will start the bidding at $1,000. Can I get $1,000?”  There were no bids.  “Can I get $1000?”  At the back of the crowd, one hand went into the air.  It was the butler.  He was not a wealthy man and could never afford the Picassos or the Rembrandts, but it was this portrait of his master’s son that he wanted.  He had seen the son grow from a little boy into a man and had come to love him as his own.  “I’ll give $1000,” he said.

The auctioneer continued, “Can I get $1,500?”  No hands went up.  “Can I get $1,200? $1,100?”  By now the wealthy buyers were grumbling.  They were waiting for the prized art and wasting time with this worthless portrait. “Going once, going twice…sold!”  The gavel came down. The butler went forward to claim his purchase.

Then the auctioneer announced, “And with that purchase this auction comes to a conclusion. Thank you all for coming out today.”  The art collectors began to shout, “Wait a minute! What about the paintings, the cars, the house, the property? What about the rest of the estate?” The auctioneer explained, “I’m sorry, but there was a very specific instruction in the father’s will regarding the sale of his possessions.  He said that in the auction, we should start by offering “The Son,” and whoever takes The Son – gets everything.”

 

IX.      Conclusion

Romans 8:32 says,

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Christ is the ultimate gift.   In Him, God has given everything else as well.  That baby two thousand years ago, was the treasure of Heaven and God’s gift to mankind.  “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…”

That is the true gift of Christmas.

To God be the glory.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The funniest part?

Some visitors came searching, mostly for chasing the wind, dale earnhardt jr girlfriend courtney, ufo, principle engineer, and workout slippers.

So for all of you who came here looking for the Dale Earnhardt Jr.s alien girlfriend named courtney to see what kind of workout slippers she wears, I thank you.