Matthew 2:1-23 Exceedingly Great Joy

Matthew 2:1-23          Exceedingly Great Joy                                              WC McCarter
In the first half of chapter one, Matthew told us that Mary’s Son is royalty, and in the second half of that first chapter, Matthew told us that the baby boy is divine. Now, in chapter two, the Scripture will tie these two streams of thought together. We will once again receive conformation that Jesus is the divine king, the Christ. We will see the extreme that the wise men went to worship the Christ child. We will also see the extreme to which Herod went to destroy the royal infant.
Before we read the Scripture this morning about Christ’s infancy, I need to tell you about Herod the king of Judea and about the wise men who showed up from the east.
Herod the King: Herod built his reputation by completing many building projects, chief among them being the Jerusalem Temple. His rule gave him the title of “Herod the Great.” Yet, in all that splendor, Herod was merciless. He was a brutal and nasty ruler. He was at first given the territory of Galilee to rule by his father. Then he was appointed tetrarch of Judea by Mark Antony. Lastly, he was given the title “King of Judea” by the Roman senate which in effect made him “King of the Jews.” In his old age he was a paranoid and murderous man. He went so far as to murder several of his sons and wives, including his most favorite wife. It will be no wonder as we read our passage today that he was troubled when he heard that a new king had been born.
Wise Men from the East: These “wise men” were literally “magi.” The word can really not be translated. They were a tribe of people who served as priests and king makers from the Babylonian Empire, through the Medo-Persian and then Greek Empires, and into the Roman age. It is said that there was not a Persian king who was not: first, trained in the law of the Magi and second, made king by the Magi. Much of their belief and practice mirrored that of Israel. They were, in fact, much like the Levitical priesthood. They believed in only one god. They performed animal sacrifice to god. Yet, that religion was false. They did not truly worship Yahweh. The Babylonians came into contact during the second exile which first took place about 586 B.C. Daniel and many others were very influential on the Babylonians and the Magi. These Magi who sought out Christ may have been worshipers of Yahweh and students of the Old Testament.
Will you open your heart to the Word of God this morning?
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Star ~ King of the Jews ~ Troubled ~ Bethlehem ~ Child ~ Gifts ~ Fulfilled ~ Death ~ Nazareth
Conclusion and Application
First, notice the obedience of Joseph throughout these narratives. He is not the main character. The spotlight does not shine brightly on him. He is seen in the shadows of the light that has shined on the Christ Child and His mother. Joseph takes the word of the Lord on faith even though it put him in tough situations. He was probably shamed because the woman pledged to him had become pregnant before their consummation. He went to Bethlehem for the census, but had to settle down there for a while because the Baby was born. He had to run for his life because Herod was searching for them. And then, when he thinks he can go back to Bethlehem where he had started a new life, he is forced to move back to Nazareth. Now these are real trials. Yet, the Scripture affirms that God is faithful and will not allow His people to be tempted beyond what they can bear. In another place the word says, “. . . the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.” It was Daniel who said, “. . . our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. . . .” Would you obey the word of the Lord like Joseph, without wavering in your faith, without second-guessing His commands?
Second, we cannot help but realize God’s sovereignty in the birth narratives of our Lord. From beginning to end, it is God at work sending His Messiah and then ensuring that His plan of redemption is accomplished. He went to grand and miraculous lengths to save you and me. How great is His love for us! And if He would give us His best, why would He not freely give us all things, even things that are far beyond what we could ever dream or hope for? Let me assure you, and I hope you will live out this Christmas season and the rest of your life with this knowledge: God is sovereignly orchestrated all things together for your good just as he did for Mary and Joseph. He does this for all who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Third, “Those we least expect to honor Jesus may worship him, and those we least expect to oppose him may seek his death. . . . The Magi worship Jesus; Herod seeks his death; Jerusalem's religious elite-forerunners of the opponents of Matthew's audience-take Jesus for granted. . . . this passage reminds us that we must preach the gospel to all people because we cannot always predict who will [receive] the message and who will not” (IVP Commentary).
Fourth, notice the two very different responses from both the wise men and Herod. Of the wise men, verse ten says, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” Of Herod, verse sixteen says, “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry. . . .” Maybe the worst of the responses was that of the chief priests and scribes of the people. They were basically indifferent. They knew that the Christ would come from Bethlehem, and they had good evidence that He had arrived, but what did they do? They did nothing. And where does indifference lead a person? Well, they were the ones who eventually cried out, “Crucify Him!” The coming of Christ commands a response. How will you respond this Christmas?