Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The Beginning of the Promises Being Fulfilled - Advent Midweek 2 - December 10, 2014 - Text: Matthew 2:1-6
Our text for this evening is Matthew 2:1-6: 1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “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.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” This is our text.
This year our Advent through Christmas and New Year’s Eve theme will take us from the promise of a Messiah to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. We began last week hearing some of the promises or prophecies and we heard how those promises and prophecies had their fulfillment according to God’s perfect timing. This evening we will revisit some of the timing issues that have been in the Nativity Tradition for so many years. Now please understand, I am not against traditions. Traditions are and can be good and helpful, however, traditions that are based, not on fact but on conjecture need to be looked at, examined, and if contrary to fact they need to be changed to make them factual.
If you have noticed some of the “biblical” movies that have been put out by Hollywood, you may have noticed that creative and artistic license is often brought into play. My take is that this creative and artistic license is simply Satan’s way of interjecting falsehood into the truth of the Bible so that all of the Bible might eventually by spoken of as myth or folklore, or whatever label one might want to attach to delegitamize God’s Word. So, as I have said many times, when we are quoting something from the Bible, perhaps we would do well from time to time to go back and double check what we are quoting to make sure we have quoted correctly.
With that said, let us revisit our text. God’s timing is perfect timing. When we examine the world and the history of the world, in other words when we look at who were the rulers that were in place, when we see that the children of Israel were in Jerusalem, we realize that all things that needed to be in place for God to work out our salvation were in place and at just the right time. So, in setting the time line of God fulfilling His promise of a Christ we read in verse one that “after” Jesus was born in Bethlehem the Magi arrived. Thus, from the text we might rightly understand that Jesus was between the age of one and one and half before the Magi arrived, not a baby in a barn behind someone’s house in Bethlehem.
In verse six we are told that the chief priests and scribes related the prophecy from Micah 5:2 of Jesus birth in Bethlehem. Interestingly enough, and as a bit of an aside, I wonder where these chief priests and scribes were when Jesus was thirty and beginning His ministry in Jerusalem? Had they forgotten their own interpretation of the prophecies of old? Why did they not believe Him to be the Christ, unless they believed that Herod had actually killed the Messiah?
Anyway, this news of the birth of a king was disturbing news. We are told that Herod and all Jerusalem was troubled with him. Herod was troubled because he was jealous for his kingdom, rule and power. Herod was known to put to death anyone who might challenge his rule. News of a new king, even though it was a baby, was no exception. Yet, Herod did not want to let on that he was disturbed so he simply asked that after the Magi found the king they would tell him so that he might worship the king as well, knowing that his intent was to be rid of any challenger to his throne.
We are told that all Jerusalem was troubled as well. All Jerusalem was troubled because they knew of the king’s jealousy and so they were troubled at what the king might do. They knew that the king would go to any length to snuff out and be rid of any rival to the throne including what he might do to them as citizens.
After the Magi left and after a while the king realized the Magi were not going to return and so the king’s response, after being duped by the Magi was to have all the boys two years and under killed, again giving us an age for Jesus of one to one and a half years. “17Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 6:17-18). Again, this is an actual historic event which helps us to date the time of Jesus’ birth as well as establish the fact of His birth in human history as a human being.
What does this mean? Again, as we pointed out last week and as our text bears witness this week, the fact is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This historic fact is evidence of prophecy fulfilled, or at least we should say the beginning of the prophecies of the Old Testament being fulfilled. The odds of one person fulfilling all the prophecies of the Old Testament which point to the Christ are astronomical and yet this is what Jesus did and our text for this evening is the beginning of His fulfillment.
Again, as we were reminded last week and as our text bears out this week, Jesus was born as ruler of Judah, even more He was born from the line of King David making Him truly an heir to the earthly throne of the Children of Israel. This is again prophecy fulfilled. Yet, Jesus was not born to be an earthly king. His kingdom would be and is an eternal kingdom in heaven, as was noted last week, Genesis 49:10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” and also Micah 5:2 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
Even more, our text speaks words of human history. Jesus, the Christ is not some mythical, made up, fictional character of some humanly invented religion. Jesus is a human, historic figure born in time and in history. His history is that Jesus is born at the time that Herod was King in Jerusalem. Jesus was a true historic person. Jesus was the One promised to save the world.
Too many religions in our world have their foundations on some words of some dead human being. Too many religions are based on some mythical characters from stories and legends that are simply meant to bring about a better, morally ethical society. Too many religions are founded on someone’s claim of a new revelation correcting all the falsities of Christianity with no factual nor historical footing. Not so with Jesus. Not so with the Christian Church. The fact is that Jesus was born in human history and human time. He is truly God in human flesh. He lived perfectly fulfilling God’s command to all people. He took all the sins of all people of all places of all times on Himself, your sins and mine. He suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty of hell, what would be our punishment for our sin, for us. He died and yet death and the grave had no hold over Him as He rose victorious over sin, death and the devil. After forty days He ascended back to the place from which He had descended, that is He ascended into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father, watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. His body has never been found and will never be found because unlike other religious rulers who died and whose remains are here on earth, Jesus remains in His bodily form in heaven, and yet He continues to be everywhere present. The importance of the historicity of Jesus is that our faith and eternal life depend on it.
God said it would happen. God guided and directed the events that would happen. Jesus lived perfectly, suffered, died and rose for us, for you and for me and now the Holy Spirit working through the means our Lord has given us, His means of grace, His Holy Word, and His Sacraments, comes to us to give us the gifts He has to give, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. He has done it all and He gives it all to us and indeed, we are given to. And we respond with great joy and say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.