we’ll be in Matthew chapter 2.

I think this sweater makes my microphone really squishy, so sorry about that.

So we can congratulate ourselves on this. We’re through one whole chapter in Matthew’s Gospel, so we only have 27 more to go. So we’ll get there eventually.

It’ll be good as we go.

So Matthew chapter 2, verses 1-12.

If you read that with me.

It says, 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, 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. When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled. And all Jerusalem with him, and assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. And they told him, In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet, And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah. For from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel. When Herod summoned the wise men secretly, he didn’t Herod summon the wise men secretly, and asked to retain from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word that I too may come and worship him. After listening to the king, they went on their way, and behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child of Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh, and being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country. So we’re talking about not just a king,

but we’re talking about the king and his kingdom. There is no such thing as a king who doesn’t have a kingdom. There is no such thing as a king who doesn’t have a kingdom. In the year A.D. 303, the Roman emperor Diocletian issued a decree which he hoped would extinguish the spreading flames of Christianity. One of his primary objectives was the seizure and destruction of all Scripture. Later that year, officials enforced a decree in North Africa. One of the targets was Felix, a bishop in a village near Carthage. The mayor of the town ordered Felix to hand over his Scriptures. Though some judges were willing to accept scraps of parchment, Felix refused to surrender the word of God, at the insistence of mere men. Roman authorities finally shipped Felix to Italy where he paid for his stubbornness with his life. So Jesus is a king who has come to bring a kingdom. And that’s good news for us, but that’s not good news to everybody.

Kings bring their kingdom, and as Jesus brings His kingdom to us, what we find is there’s a great clash. And the great clash is between God’s kingdom and man’s kingdom.

Man’s priority and God’s priority. What God says we should do and how we should live and what man says we should do and how we should live. So as Jesus is really just coming on the scene as a baby already, we’re seeing the clash of the kingdoms this early in Jesus’ life. So it’s simply a question this morning, what king has our allegiance? And I think there’s also the question of can man stand against God’s kingdom?

So to whom does our allegiance belong? And can man stand against the kingdom of God? So go back with me to verse 1 there in chapter 2. And it says, Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea. In those days of Herod the king,

behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? So remember last week in Luke, you get varying degrees, degrees of the accounts of Jesus from different perspectives. So same story, different perspective. And just like we’ve got a lot of information about Mary, we’re getting more information from Luke’s Gospel. So if we read in Luke’s Gospel, we won’t do it because it would be a lot to read, we read that Caesar Augustus, he sends out a decree that the whole world should be registered. Now keep in mind, Roman rule is all powerful. So whatever Rome says, that’s what’s going to happen in the whole world. So the emperor Caesar Augustus, he said we’re going to take a census of the entire world, which meant, for Joseph, he’s going to have to go to Bethlehem because he’s of the house and lineage of David. So he’s going to Bethlehem to be registered with his very pregnant wife, Mary. And so they go, and while there, of course, Mary gives birth to Jesus. And of course, we’re coming up on Christmas season, so we’re getting ready for that. But they’re in Bethlehem for probably about two years. Time lapses, and Jesus is most likely around two years old now. And so it says, in those days, in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east came from Jerusalem. So now who is Herod, and who are these wise men? Well, Herod is king over Judea. He’s also known as Herod the Great. But what I wanted us to see this morning is Herod is neither a king, nor is Herod great. He’s neither of those things. First of all, he’s not Jewish. He was maybe half Jewish, but he was at least an Edomite. He’s from the lineage of Esau. That’s who he is. And second of all, he’s not a king. He is technically king over the Jews, but only because Rome says he can be. So Israel is a client state under Roman rule, which means Herod, he’s just a client ruler. So his power is on loan from Rome. So he’s a quasi-king at best. But understand the nature and person of Herod. Herod was a relentlessly cruel and wicked and murderous man. He had no qualms murdering his wives, his sons, his brothers, if he thought that they were a threat to his power. Caesar Augustus himself once quipped, I’d rather be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son. So you get a picture of how wicked this man is and how hungry he is to hold on to his little kingdom and to hold on to his power. So now, who are the wise men? Well, the wise men are not really wise men. We say that. They’re not like these old wise guys sitting around giving out great wisdom and advice. They’re more like astrologers. They’re astronomers. So they’re studying. They’re studying celestial bodies. They’re figuring out what’s out there in outer space. And they’re trying to make spiritual connections to it with human lives. So they’re kind of like an ancient scientist in some way, if you will. But they’re also playing a role in pagan religions. So they’re very well respected for their knowledge, what they know about science, what they know about spirituality. They’re wealthy men. They most likely came from Persia. That would have been the Far East coming all the way to Jerusalem. So why, we kind of have to wonder, would such godless paganism, pagan men who are well respected in their own land, why would they be curious at all about this Jewish king? What is their interest in that? It says they saw a star rose and so they’re following the star. So we kind of have to wonder, how do they know about this? Did someone expose them to Old Testament scriptures? Did God reveal it to them? We really don’t know.

It just suffices that the scriptures say they were earnest in their pilgrimage to find the king of the Jews and worship him. And so I think that should be enough for us. But I want to also, note, see here really this theme that we’ve seen a lot throughout only the first chapter of Matthew. And that is the theme of grace. God taking people who really don’t deserve to know him, to be used by him, and God calls them out of unlikely situations to know him and to be used of him in a very great way. So we see that thing. But here’s what I want us to notice. I want you to notice the response of Herod and also the response of all Jerusalem.

Now it says Herod’s troubled by the news of this. He’s distressed. That’s not too surprising. We kind of talked about who Herod is. He apparently believes the Magi are right about this. He’s threatened. Why? Well, because there’s an opponent now. Even if the opponent is a baby, Herod knows, hold on, I’ve got my little kingdom here and all of a sudden, there’s someone who’s going to maybe threaten that. I’ve got power on loan from Rome. I’ve got this little kingdom assigned to me and he doesn’t want to do anything that would give that up. So that’s not surprising. Here’s what’s surprising.

What’s surprising is that it says all Jerusalem is troubled with him. That’s baffling, is it not? I don’t need to go into the whole son of Abraham, son of David stuff we’ve been talking about, but they know that. It’s their Jewish Scriptures. Jesus who came from the line of Adam, from Abraham to David to be this great king who would save Israel from their enemies, from sin. That’s their stuff. They should be super excited, but they’re not.

It says that they’re distressed. Why are they distressed? Well, they’re distressed because they’re satisfied living under the rule of a lesser king.

They’re content in a pretend kingdom, in a temporal kingdom that Herod doesn’t really own. It’s the status quo of oppressed life, both physical and spiritual. And we see further proof of their callous in how their leaders respond. It says that Herod gets all of them together and he says, where is this Christ going to be born? He gets the chief priest. They would have known all the prophecies, the promises of God. They would have known the law. The scribes would have known. They taught the interpreted law. Also, hey, where is this Christ going to be born? And it says that they tell him. They reference Micah. They say, oh, he’s going to be born in Bethlehem.

Now, doesn’t it strike you interesting if your thing in life is to know the promises of God, protect the promises of God, the Old Testament Scriptures, to teach them, to interpret them. If you heard something like this has happened, wouldn’t you be excited?

Why don’t we read in the Bible that it says, well, Herod looked for them, but they were nowhere to be found. They were searching. They were searching every street corner in Bethlehem because they heard news of the Messiah was here. We can’t find any of the chief priests or the scribes because they’re all running around like madmen telling everybody that the Jewish Messiah, the Jewish King is here. That’s not what we read at all. Why don’t we read that? Well, because just as Herod has carved out his little kingdom under Rome,

they’ve carved out their little kingdom under Herod. They’ve twisted and manipulated the Jewish Scriptures to empower themselves over the people. And it’s a perpetual problem. It’s a problem for the religious leaders. In John 11, later in Jesus’ ministry, it says, so the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, what are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.

So the very people who should desire it the most, they want it the least.

And so the clash, the clash of these kingdoms, I think something Matthew is teaching us here, when God’s kingdom comes close, friends, it challenges the status quo of our lives and it exposes the frailty of our little kingdoms. It challenges the status quo of our lesser lives and it exposes the frailty of our little kingdoms. And the psalmist, he really puts it into a question form. He says it like this, Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed, saying, Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us. So to answer that question, to get to the heart of this, we have to go back to the garden. And we’re probably going to get tired of hearing that. We have to constantly go back to the garden. Go back to the garden. Because in the garden, that’s where our sin problem started. And in the garden, recall, we said God’s word isn’t believable. Remember that. We said God’s character isn’t trustworthy. But here’s what we also decided in the garden. God alone Himself does not satisfy.

A life can be achieved of satisfaction, of pleasure without God. So Adam and Eve’s decision, to disobey in the garden, or in my decision, to disobey on a daily basis, that is the same thing. It’s pioneering a very different humanity from what God established in creation when He said all this is good. So whatever life you and I would fashion, the things we value, our mindset, our mentality, our perspective, it’s going to look very different from what God originally designed and intended for us. In other words, it’s going to be our little kingdom. Now why is that? Okay, we’ll call two weeks. We said that at the fall of man, we ruined our understanding of ourselves. We ruined our understanding of people. We ruined our understanding of creation. And we ruined our understanding ultimately of God. So when we see Herod and these religious leaders and the Jews, what we’re seeing is their ideal humanity play out. This is what they think the best life looks like now. This is their carved out existence. And friends, I think we can point the finger and say, look at them, how stupid they are. There’s baby Jesus and they’re acting like that. No, what we need to do is get in front of the mirror and say, Lord, where am I living for my little kingdom and doing the very same thing? I so often want to live out a ruined false imitation of what God said is good life under Him. Because friends, you and I have ruined eyes and a ruined heart. And if we’re away and apart from God, what we see is beautiful, God sees as ugly, and He disdains that. Christ has come to redeem and perfect our humanity as it not only was in the garden, but it will be to a greater degree in glory, future glory with Christ. So people, people don’t celebrate when Jesus shows up.

They rage. This is why the nations rage, because Jesus exposes the lesser life without Him. Jesus exposes our little kingdoms and shows us that His life, His way, His kingdom is better. That’s why they rage against Christ and against His anointed. But friends, also we need to keep in mind this, this choosing our own good, choosing our own lives, our little kingdoms, it’s built on an incredibly false assumption. Built on sin. Here’s the assumption. The assumption is this. You and I have rights to the created world around us. We even have rights to our own physical, spiritual, mental faculties to think, the talents that we each possess from one another, and we don’t. Someone has already laid claim to the universe. Someone’s already laid claim to you, and that’s God. It’s His universe. So whatever power you have, whatever wealth you have, whatever thing you can do, God can easily take that away from you as quick as He gave it to you. And this is the warning God gives to His people when they come into the land. In Deuteronomy 8, verse 17,

He says, Beware lest you say in your heart, My power and the might of My hand have gotten me this wealth. You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, and that He may confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers as it is this day. And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.

So you see the great frailty then of trying to erect a small little kingdom for yourself. Our passage doesn’t encourage us to say look at them. Our passage encourages us to say look at us. Look at me. Lord, where am I living for myself? Where am I trying to build this little kingdom apart from You? The prophet Isaiah I think says it best in chapter 55, verse 1. He says, Come everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. And he who has no money, come buy and eat. Come buy wine. Come buy wine and milk without money, without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me and eat what is good and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to me. Hear that your soul may live and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. God is offering to us freely His very best.

And this isn’t the first time that Jesus’ kingdom has been rejected for something less. If you recall in Mark chapter 5 when Jesus and His disciples come to Legion, He’s this man who’s possessed by all the demons and He has to be locked up outside of the city, but His chains, He can break them apart. He constantly cuts Himself time and time again. And Jesus comes and Jesus casts all the demons out of Him. This man that was a torment to their society, Jesus, He immediately frees him. See how the people respond to this. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country and the people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had the legion sitting there clothed in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.

Here is God in the flesh showing His power. Showing them what He is about, what His kingdom is. And all they can think about is their economic welfare. Jesus, we see what You’ve done, but we just lost all of our pork.

It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. If Jesus was strong enough to save this man from those demons, don’t you think Jesus could probably take care of anything else? I mean, we’re so narrow, short-sighted in what we see and how we can think.

Jim Elliot, martyred by the Aukus Indians, he famously has said, he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. And friends, I think if we’re going to say we’re people of God’s kingdom, we have to constantly live in a posture of open hands. Lord, whatever I have, it’s Yours. Lord, what do You want me to do with it? Lord, my money, my time, my power, my influence, Lord, everything, the relationships that I have, they’re not mine, they’re not for me. You gave them to me so I could steward them for You. And friends, I think we have to be very honest about our context. We live in 21st century America. We live in a time of self-sufficiency. We live in a time of materialism, right? We go to our driveways with our garage doors that shut. We go into our homes that have privacy fences around them. And we’re all our own little kings and queens living in our little castles. And it’s all about us and the stuff we have. And it constantly works against us. God is saying, hey, break out of your little kingdom. God is calling you to a much greater kingdom that lasts forever more than what you can accrue for yourself. So Lord, I have this home, but Lord, maybe You want me to bring in children that don’t have a home. Maybe You want me to do adoption or foster care. And Lord, I have all this money, but am I even spending my money right now to sit down with my budget? Lord, is there something I should be giving to for You? Lord, I have time and I waste my time, Lord, after work doing what I want to do. Should I be spending my time, Lord, investing in those who don’t know You? Lord, what do I do with my time? Lord, I have these children You’ve given me, not just for my pleasure, but so I can raise them up to know You. Am I taking that serious? So friends, you have a life. You have things. You have people given to you, not for you, but for you to bless the Lord and to give back to Him for His kingdom. And I think if we’re going to call ourselves the local church ambassadors of God’s kingdom, we have to be very sure about how we’re using all of our lives for God’s glory. For God’s glory.

It’s the clash of the two. It’s the clash of the two kingdoms here.

Go back to verse 7 with me there in Matthew chapter 2.

This microphone’s driving me crazy. I’ll never wear a sweater again. Sorry about that.

It’s so noisy.

It says, Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly

and asked to retain from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem saying, Go and search diligently for the child. And when you have found him, bring me the word that I too may come and worship him. After listening to the king, they went on their way and behold the star that they had seen when it went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star,

they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and they worshipped him. Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

So, for Herod, this is damage control.

He’s trying to minimize the publicity of these wise men trying to find the true king of the Jews. So, hey, he secretly calls them. Hey guys, you go and search diligently and you find the child. And when you find him, hey, you let me know because I want to come and I want to worship him too.

That’s the last thing Herod wants to do. Herod doesn’t want to worship the child. Herod wants to be worshipped. And can we understand also what kind of worship we’re talking, what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about worship like paying a passive kind of respect or paying homage to someone else. This is on-the-ground worship.

The Greek dictionary describes this word worship like this. The Persians did this in the presence of their deified king and the Greeks before a divinity or something holy to express an attitude or gesture one’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure. Fall down and worship to prostrate oneself before, to revere to, to welcome respectfully. That doesn’t sound like anything Herod’s going to want to do. So he passes along this information just so he can find the child to destroy it. And it says, the star they had seen rose before them and it went to the place where the child was. So apparently the star that led them to Israel in general had disappeared, but now it’s come back and it’s going to lead them particularly exactly to where Jesus is. And it says when they see the star, they rejoice exceedingly with great joy. It’s a mouthful. They rejoice exceedingly with great joy. It doesn’t just say, oh, and they’re happy because this isn’t happiness. This is out of the ordinary in degree and remarkability. This is extreme joy. This is elation. These wise men, these magi are utterly overwhelmed with joy at the prospect that they’re soon going to be in the actual presence of God’s long-awaited king. They’re so close to actually being in the presence of heaven’s king. The very thing that drove Herod to madness and murderous thoughts, the Jews to great distress and apathy has driven these pagan, godless men to joy, to rejoice. To them it’s a blessed thought of being in the presence of the true king. It says go into the house and they fall down and they surrender, not just in body, but they surrender in soul. Could you imagine these wise men who’ve been to so many places, who probably live in very nice homes. They know so much. Here they are on a dirt floor in some small little shack in Bethlehem worshiping a two-year-old little boy. That’s hard to believe. I’ve got a two-year-old and I’m imagining this. And they’re not really worshiping just a two-year-old or they know they’re worshiping the God-man. They’re worshiping King Jesus. And they open their treasure chest and they give this king what he deserves. They give him their very best. The pilgrimage has climaxed in exceeding joy of uninhibited worship, offering the king their best.

So when God’s kingdom comes close, here’s the second thing I think Matthew shows us is that it reminds us of the worthiness of God’s king. When God’s kingdom comes close, we’re confronted with that reality that God’s king is worthy.

And I guess I fear and I wonder sometimes if we in the church, we rejoice, we rejoice too little at the thought of being in the presence of this king because, friends, we’ve forgotten how worthy this king is.

The reason for this, we’ve ceased to be amazed at the uniqueness of the person Jesus.

There’s no person like Jesus. He’s unique and He’s precious. And I think you say, why is He so unique and why is He so precious?

Well, because Jesus is good.

And I don’t mean like, oh, that was a good time or get a good night’s sleep or that was such a good meal. When we call Jesus good, what we mean is that Jesus alone understands the sin problem.

Jesus alone understands every evil that’s ever been committed on the face of the earth. He understands all the wrongs that have ever been committed against Him and against His Father. He knows the suffering and the plight of man because of self-inflicted sin. He not only knows it, but Jesus Himself is willing to do something about it. Jesus was and did conquer sin, and conquer evil. And instead of justly punishing us, Jesus forgave us and He called us into His good kingdom. Jesus overcame that. He did not have to do that for us, but Jesus did do that for us. And friends, I think if that’s a lackluster truth that God has saved you from your sin and He’s called you to eternal joy, I think that we don’t dwell long enough on our sin. Not to drive us to despair, but when we remember that we’re sinners, we’re driven to rejoice because God alone in Christ alone has alone saved us, friends. Jesus is so good to us. He’s good to us in the place where we did not deserve us. Jesus loves us. And I think I find all these big poetic words to make that sound great, but I don’t think there’s anything to say. It’s just, hey, Jesus loves you. Jesus is interested in you. And you don’t deserve that. I don’t deserve that. He’s just good to you. And He wants to know and be known by you, friends. And I think when we dwell on that uniqueness of that precious person, we remember how worthy He is. And then we remember how worthy He is. We’re driven just to the joyous thought of being in His presence. The one in whom we are truly satisfied.

If you’ve ever gone to the doctor, I’m sure you have, and you have an infection or some kind of sickness, the doctor will say, now take the medicine all the way through. When you start feeling better, don’t stop taking the medicine because it’ll get worse and you’ll relapse and you’ll have to take more and it’ll be harder to beat. I’ve done this. I’ve done this. So it’s true. It is true.

Do you know the gospel? We make a lot of, at times, this mistake of thinking the gospel is for lost people alone. Lost people need to hear the gospel and get saved. And they do. But friends, you need to believe the gospel is for saved people just as much. Because now we’ve got leaky heads and leaky hearts. You know that? And what I forget all the time is that I’m a sinner in need of God’s grace. And when I forget that amazing truth, I start to withhold my very best from the Lord and I start to be complacent in my own sin. And so I just need a fresh, fresh breath of the gospel breathed into me every day that Christ lived and He died and He is risen again. I need a daily application. You need, friend, a daily application of the truth, of the goodness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. So that we will constantly rejoice, remember His worthiness, live for Him, glory in Him, and give Him our very best. There’s a difference between your very best and your best.

You want a great example? Cain and Abel.

Abel gave God his very best.

Cain decided how much of his best he wanted to give God. It’s two completely different heart postures. Two completely different heart postures, isn’t it? God is calling for our best, friends. And when we grab hold of the truth of the gospel, we’re glad to get down our faces with the wise men and say, Jesus, You are worthy. Take all of me. Take it all.

Verse 12 here. It says, And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

So it seems like the supernatural birth of Jesus, all this trouble God’s putting Mary and Joseph through, this long pilgrimage of the wise men, it’s a big waste of time. It seems like Herod’s going to do what Herod does best, crush his enemies. It appears that whatever little kingdom you and I can come up with, that’s the greatest good we’ll ever know. It seems like worship then goes to whoever can hold power the longest. But what we see in verse 12 is God intervene.

And God intervening here in verse 12 reminds us that this is not man’s kingdom versus man’s kingdom. It’s not even God’s kingdom versus man’s kingdom, as if that’s possible. This is just God showing Himself to be God way over and above man in the only way that God can be sovereign. We read Psalm chapter 3, chapter 2,

verses 1 through 3, but I want to go back and I want to read the rest of it because it really gets to the heart of what that psalm is all about. And in Psalm chapter 2,

it says, Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain and the kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed, saying, Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us, but let us not be afraid but here’s God’s response to that. Here’s God’s response to man’s kingdom.

He who sits in the heavens laughs.

The Lord holds them in derision. Then He will speak to them in His wrath and terrify them in His fury, saying, As for me, I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill. God is sovereign to establish His kingdom against the kingdom of Satan and man. And friends, there’s no scheme, no power of the devil, no scheme, no power of man could thwart the perfect will and power of our sovereign God. Jesus is not fighting or conniving to keep His kingdom. Jesus simply is king over the universe, over death, over sin, over the grave, and His empty tomb proves it. Friends, His is the victory and He invites us in to share the victory of the sovereign God who has loved us and who is good to us. So it just comes back, to the question in the beginning, friends,

who is your king?

What kingdom are you a part of? What kingdom are you living for?

Simple question, but boy does it make all the difference, doesn’t it?

Christ bids us to repent of our little kingdoms that will crumble away. Christ calls us to not worship self for others. He calls us to worship and surrender and give Him everything. And when we surrender and give Jesus everything we have, we seem, we discover we’re given everything we could ever want or need in Christ, friends.

Give away what you cannot keep

to have everything eternally you could ever want or need in Christ. That’s the goodness of the truth of the Gospel.

Preacher: Chad Cronin

Passage: Matthew 2:1-12