[00:00:10] Our most heavenly Father, we praise you and thank you for sending your son and spirit that we might be saved. We thank you, Lord, for anointing the Lord Jesus Christ with the spirit and with this mission to save us from our sins.
[00:00:28] We praise you for the power and the glory, but also the humility into which Jesus entered this world.
[00:00:37] And so we do raise our hearts and our voices to sing praises to you and bless your name for the good work that you have done in us.
[00:00:48] We ask, Lord, that the light of light, which shines in the darkness and the darkness and is not overcome by the darkness, would even now shine in our hearts, would illumine us so that we might believe and hear and see the truth of who you are and the promise of grace for the world. Help us to hold fast to these promises and give us confidence in them as we see them for what they really are.
[00:01:25] Lord, we ask these things in Jesus name. Amen.
[00:01:30] Well, let's turn to the reading and preaching of God's word now in Matthew, chapter two, verses one through twelve.
[00:02:03] Before I read, I want to just remind you of a verse we already read in psalm 69, verse 34. Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel and whose power is in the skies.
[00:02:18] Now, Matthew two, one through twelve.
[00:02:23] Now, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men came. A wise man 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 in all Jerusalem with him, and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
[00:02:55] They told him, in Bethlehem of Judea, for it is written by the prophet. 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. Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained 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.
[00:03:39] And 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 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 into their own country. By another way, may God bless his word to us. Please be seated.
[00:04:30] If we skip a few chapters, a lot of chapters, actually, to Matthew, chapter 27, we read about when Jesus died.
[00:04:41] Some very significant events happened.
[00:04:45] Matthew tells us that the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
[00:04:53] He tells us that the earth shook and rocks were split.
[00:04:59] He tells us that the tombs of the dead were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised and coming out of the tombs. After his resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
[00:05:18] Matthew continues. He says when the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, truly, this is the son of God.
[00:05:31] Right before all that happened, another event in the skies happened in Matthew 27 45 through 46.
[00:05:41] He says, at noon, the sky turned dark and stayed that way until 03:00.
[00:05:48] Then about that time, Jesus shouted, eli, eli lemak Sabakthani, which means, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
[00:05:58] So at the moment of Jesus'death immediately before and immediately after, there were these great events in which the earth was literally shaking, things were happening in the skies, and in particular this darkness for 3 hours.
[00:06:18] A Remarkable Thing.
[00:06:20] We can conclude that at the death of the Son of God, God made his power evident. He made the world see the work and the meaning of Christ.
[00:06:33] And a similar thing happened at his birth, a celestial event, and a remarkable thing that caused people even from very far away, to come and see what was happening.
[00:06:48] Well, what did happen?
[00:06:50] There are very all sorts of popular songs and scenes and stories that are so lodged in our minds, it can be difficult to sort what is speculation from what the scriptures say.
[00:07:06] We're not going to spend tons of time on that. But I do want to focus on what the scriptures say.
[00:07:12] What happened?
[00:07:13] Well, one thing Matthew tells us is that a group of men came from the east as a result of a star.
[00:07:20] Now, Matthew doesn't tell us how many there were, just that there were more than one. He uses the plural as it's translated here. Wise men. Some people have assumed there were three because there were three gifts that were given, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But as you know, it's not a particularly strong reason, right? One person could bring three gift, or one person three gifts, or one person could bring two and another could bring one. I mean, there's all kinds of ways that could work.
[00:07:49] So the text doesn't tell us exactly how many there were. Some people have supposed there were two or twelve. All kinds of different answers, but we really don't know. All we know is that more than one, probably a group, because when we travel, it's generally good to travel in groups. But men came from the east. Sometimes we hear the Orient being referred to, to East Asia, but there's nothing specific in our text talking about that. It just says the east, which would be east of the places here, east of Bethlehem, east of Israel. Most scholars think that it's probably Babylonia or some other place like that. These were places that pagans had contact with the Jews and would have known about. These scriptures would have heard about these prophecies. So we know that a group of men came from the east, and Matthew calls them magoi, which is the plural term for magos, which is where we get the word magi.
[00:08:54] What is a magos? Right. What is a magos? A magos is a person who is concerned with magic. Magic, right. A person who's concerned with magic things like charms and spells, poisons, love potions, the control of spirits, special formulas, astrology.
[00:09:15] It's where, of course, we get the term magician. And like today, in the ancient world, this world that Jesus came into, there were magicians that were just tricksters, hucksters, charlatans, people who use sleight of hand and mind tricks and things like that to fool you, right? Get some money or something like that. But there were also those who, as we know from the scriptures and other sources, who had real connection with real spiritual powers. The Bible tells us that there are such things as demons and powerful forces that are in this world. Acts 13, for example, introduces to a man a magos, a man, a magician. His name is Bar Jesus. Now, bar Jesus means son of Jesus, but Jesus was a common name. And Luke is not intending us to think that our Jesus had a son. That's just his name, like Joshua or something like that. That becomes important in a minute. So this man, bar Jesus, he also had another name, Elimas, which is another word meaning magician. He's called Alimus the magician. Kind of a professional name, right? You might think of it that way. You can almost imagine his sign or something like that. Well, we are introduced to this man. He has connections with this proconsul who wants to hear from Paul about, wants to hear from Paul about Jesus and Elimas doesn't want that to happen. Alemus is this jewish magos, this jewish magician.
[00:11:00] Well, he tries to keep the gospel away from the proconsul, and as a result, Paul, not being filled with magic, but being filled with the holy spirit, calls bar Jesus the son of Jesus, the son of the devil. So Paul sort of does this thing with his name, and he says, I know who you really are. You're not that you are the son of the devil. He then says to Alimus, bar Jesus, he says, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy. Will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see.
[00:11:50] Sorry, unable to see the sun for a time.
[00:11:53] Luke goes on to say, immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. A pitiful image, right? So at one moment he's Alemus the magician, right? Attached to the important places of the proconsul, and a moment later, he's begging and needing people to help him, to lead him by the hand. We then read in verse twelve of acts 13 that then the proconsul believed when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
[00:12:27] This is not the only clash between God and his servants and magic in the Bible. In addition to Alimus, the Bible records various jews wrongly resorting to magic, which is prohibited in Exodus 22 and other places instead of depending on God. For example, Saul wrongly goes to the witch of Endor and consults her king. Manassa is involved in the occult in two kings 21. There are other examples of these kinds of things.
[00:13:01] Of course, this isn't a surprise, shouldn't be a surprise to us, because this pagan practice is rooted in unbelief, which is everywhere.
[00:13:12] Unbelief happens because our hearts are wicked and sinful. The way that Paul describes alimus, enemy of righteousness, full of deceit, villainy, making crooked the straight paths of the Lord. That's what all sinners do. That's what the devil does and has been doing from the beginning. And so we see not only jewish magicians, but magicians from the east and all over the world, from Babylon to Greece and to Rome to today.
[00:13:45] Just like today, magic is not always embraced wholeheartedly. Sometimes it's laughed at and fake and ineffective and seem as kind of a crass or lowbrow thing. Sometimes it's even been technically outlawed, but it's always present in the world. It's always there, it's always the same. And sometimes it's powerful.
[00:14:09] We see examples in the scriptures of people being able to tell the future, to bind people, demons holding fast on people, causing them to be mute and blind and other things, terrible things.
[00:14:24] A powerful force is at work.
[00:14:27] But the forces of magic, the forces of demons and Satan and all these kinds of things are not even close to equal with Yahweh, God our Lord, and his son, Jesus, the son of God. The Bible teaches us that there is a great difference between the power of God and the power of magic. And God always, always reigns supreme. We see examples of this from Joseph to Moses, to Daniel to Elijah and others.
[00:15:02] This is all important at a really big picture level. And it's also really important when it comes to Jesus in particular, because there's this central question about the nature of Jesus, about who he is. Who is he?
[00:15:17] Is he a magician himself? Is he a conjurer, is he a trickster? Is he a huckster? Is he a demoniac? Or is he God?
[00:15:32] While both Satan and God have power, it is not equal power.
[00:15:39] Man has power too. But that doesn't make us equal with God.
[00:15:44] The divide between these two powers is infinite. Unfathomably, unfathomably.
[00:15:53] You can let out wise, really big.
[00:15:57] Satan's power is limited.
[00:16:00] It's evil.
[00:16:02] He does what he can, of course, and is effective in some degree, to deceive, to murder, to destroy, to blind. And those who rely on his, or those who are truly witch doctors and magicians and these kind of things, they do so out of greed and vendettas and lust. Consider the seven sons of Sceva, who sought to buy the power of Paul, or the girl with the pythian spirit from pythos, who was owned by some of the ephesians, or Herod in our story, who seeks to use magic, the aid of magicians, to destroy a potential rival.
[00:16:44] This is where magic leads. This is where magic and occult practices come from. It's not dependent on the Lord God divine, who promises to take care of us and provide for everything we need. It's dependence on Satan and looking to control him or use him or his powers and the powers of false gods to accomplish the things that we want in this world.
[00:17:15] So again, who is Jesus? What is he providing us with?
[00:17:22] This is a central question about Jesus's identity and the source of his power.
[00:17:26] In John eight, for example, Jesus talks about his divinity, his relationship with his father. He talks about a call to repentance. He talks about freedom that comes from following him in truth. And then the Jews respond in chapter eight, verse 48, by saying, you're a Samaritan and you have a demon.
[00:17:47] In Matthew 1222, Jesus heals a demon possessed man who was blind and mute.
[00:17:55] And then we read some people asked, can this be the son of David?
[00:18:01] He just healed a man who was possessed by a demon, blind and mute. Can this be the messiah, the Christ? Is he the son of David, the Pharisees? Matthew tells us in verse 20, 212 22, the Pharisees responded with an emphatic, no. They said, it is only bealsable, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.
[00:18:25] It's only by the prince of demons that this man casts out demons.
[00:18:32] So which is he? Right? Where does his power come from? What's going on here? And this controversy continues throughout the gospels and into the book of acts, where Luke records showdown after showdown after showdown and continues to show in a whole bunch of different ways that the Holy Spirit is God, and those who serve him serve the Lord and not Satan.
[00:19:03] There's a difference between the true God and the false God.
[00:19:09] The Holy Spirit is not just some other power, and the Holy Spirit is God.
[00:19:17] Well, with all that in mind, we see that God addresses this question from the very beginning of Jesus's birth, and we see that Jesus is not just some other witch doctor or charlatan, but his power comes as a result of his divine nature as the son of God. And as such, as the son of God. That means all powers. All powers, including Satan's, and all his servants are subject to that baby.
[00:19:49] Everyone subject to him.
[00:19:53] Now, how do we see that? How is that made known? Well, it's, of course, made known as the story develops. Right. Praise God. We don't just have Matthew, chapter two, but what we have in Matthew two does tell us a lot. And it goes back to things that happened even in the past. Right? As Matthew says, prophecy is being fulfilled here. We can even go to other places. The story, we might say, even starts in numbers 22, where a king named, a king named Balak, or, sorry, Barack.
[00:20:28] No, Balak, the king of Moab. He seeks to curse God's people.
[00:20:34] He's threatened by God's people.
[00:20:37] He is worried about what they're going to do. He's seen what they've done to the Amorites. And so he decides to find a Magos, a magician named Balaam.
[00:20:49] Now, Balaam refuses to go at first. He's basically being hired to go curse the Israelites. And he says, not going to do it. Why does he not do it? Because God tells him, these are my people. You can't curse them because I've blessed them. So Balaam says, no. But the king continues to put the pressure on, and eventually he decides to go. And then that's where we have that famous story of Balaam and his donkey. Do you remember what happens? He's going to curse the Israelites, or try to.
[00:21:24] There are a few other things going on. But anyway, he's going. He's on this donkey. And as he goes, the donkey stops. Balaam tries to get him going, and he's whipping him, and he's beating him, and he's stopping. He won't go. And why the donkey won't go is because the donkey sees what Balaam can't. The Lord has opened the eyes of this donkey. The donkey sees an angel of the Lord standing in front of the path with a sword, flaming sword, right?
[00:21:55] Balaam's getting more and more mad. He's beating the donkey. And then the donkey turns to him. God now opens the mouth of the donkey, and he says, I'm paraphrasing. What are you doing? Have I ever done poorly to you? And then the Lord opens Balaam's eyes, and we see this angel.
[00:22:19] So Balaam continues on, and you know what he does? He blesses Israel.
[00:22:27] This magos blesses Israel because he can't do anything else. God has total control over this situation, from the king to the donkey to Balam, to the words that are coming out of his mouth. The king gets more and more upset, and Balam keeps blessing Israel. And in one of those blessings, in numbers 20 417, Balam says this, this prophecy, he says, I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near.
[00:22:58] A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel. It shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of sheth.
[00:23:10] This is a massive and embarrassing defeat for the king of Moab, for the Magos, for Satan. God gets the win, as he always does.
[00:23:23] And this famous prophecy is then added to, as time goes on in Isaiah 714, when God gives another rebelling king a sign. And he says, therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.
[00:23:42] And then again in Micah 52, which Matthew records in the text, but 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.
[00:23:59] So the Magi from the east back to Matthew here were familiar with these prophecies. This would be a wise thing to do, I suppose, if you are in charge of being in charge of future telling, right, to be aware of prophecies that are out there and know what's going on in the world. And that's what they do.
[00:24:21] These pagan prophet seekers. They are looking for signs, and they see one.
[00:24:29] A star. Astera, in the Greek. A word for any kind of bright, shiny thing in the sky. It could be a star, as we refer to them today, or a planet or perhaps a comet.
[00:24:42] Well, when they see this celestial event and they recognize its uniqueness, they start moving. They say, we think we know what this means. We've seen the scriptures. This, by the way, is how all of us get saved, right? We hear the scriptures, we believe, and we act, and we move toward the king and we worship him. It's a wonderful picture of what salvation is. And that's what they're doing here. They hear the word of God. They're able to discern it by God's grace as speaking truth. They act on it in faith. And they start moving to find and learn and worship the savior.
[00:25:25] And they find him and they worship him.
[00:25:30] In all of this, we see Jesus as the one who is not being controlled by magic, who is not being under some sort of spell or somehow using spells or formulas or these kinds of things to control the spiritual world.
[00:25:49] We see Jesus, who is sovereign over all of it.
[00:25:55] You've got to hear these words from Isaiah 60, verses one through six.
[00:26:00] It so perfectly speak of our savior.
[00:26:03] Arise, shine, for your light has come, and glory, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples. But the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to your brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around you and see they are all gathered together. They come to you. Your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. Then you shall see and be radiant. Your heart shall thrill and exalt, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you. The wealth of nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you. The young camels of Midian and Eph. All those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense and shall bring good news. The praises of the Lord.
[00:27:00] Isaiah prophesied this picture of people from all over the world coming like the queen of Sheba did in the time of Solomon, coming from all over the world into Israel, this bright, wonderful place. And to the true Israel out of which she is born, Jesus himself, the son of Abraham, the promised one, the Christ.
[00:27:24] Remember, in verse four of Matthew, chapter two, assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, Herod inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
[00:27:35] They're looking for this promised one, this anointed, hoped for one.
[00:27:41] And now he's here. He's here to be a light, a power and a strength, a brightness for all the world.
[00:27:53] People will come everywhere to worship him, and he will be a blessing to them.
[00:28:02] The Bible tells us that Jesus is indeed this messiah. He is the Christ who is born.
[00:28:11] In Colossians one, chapter 15, we read this wonderful description of our savior and his power and his strength.
[00:28:19] Paul writes, he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. Whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
[00:29:13] At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew and at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, we see things in heaven, in the sky and things on earth, happening, shaking, stirring, moving.
[00:29:33] We also see things in the visible realms and the sea, so to speak. Invisible realms. The spiritual powers, those powers, those cosmic powers of darkness, stirring, moving, churning, turning all the world visible and invisible. Heaven and earth, it's all in motion and changing and rumbling. Why?
[00:30:05] Because in the fullness of time, the son of God is being born, taking on human flesh and dying on a cross, so that all things in heaven and on earth would be reconciled and to him, subjected to him.
[00:30:25] Through the blood of the cross, Jesus sets us free from the powers of this world and the powers of the evil one.
[00:30:37] And this is very good news, important news, because all of us are born into a state of cursing. All of us are born into a state in which we are in bondage to Satan and through fear of lifelong slavery or fear of death, are held in slavery to him.
[00:30:59] He threatens us and bludgeons us with the accusation of our sins, with our coming deaths.
[00:31:08] But by taking the stinger out of death, by dying on a cross and shedding his blood to reconcile all things to himself, to subject all things to himself, to become the one who is supreme over everything as the son of man and the Son of God, Jesus, our savior, our king, releases us from bondage. He undoes the curse and allows us to live in blessing, even eternal blessing.
[00:31:43] Jesus comes, and we see in his coming in Matthew, chapter two, that we have a great hope. And there's reason for worship. There's reason for celebration, there's reason for spreading the news. And there's also reason, we can say for fear for those who would seek to destroy him, for those like Herod and Satan, who would seek to use the powers of magic to hold people, to enslave people, and to be in rebellion against God, they will not win. They cannot win, because the strength and the power and the glory of the sun is infinitely greater than anything that they can bring.
[00:32:27] This provides such good news and such freedom for us and for all those who find themselves in fear of Satan, who find themselves tempted perhaps to rely on the occult or magic or any of these kinds of things, for hope, for wealth, for life, we can let go of all of that. We need not fear any of that because we belong to this one, to this child who was born a king, who went to the cross and was the king of the Jews and the king of the world, and now reigns supreme in heaven for all of us and is coming again. Put your faith in him.
[00:33:10] Let's pray.
[00:33:16] All praise and honor and glory go to you, our most righteous and holy king.
[00:33:24] We lift up our eyes and we gather around you, your sons and your daughters coming from far, faraway places, from where Jesus was originally born, where you took on human flesh and died so that we might be saved from our sins.
[00:33:42] We give ourselves to you as a living sacrifice and ask that you would receive our whole lives for your use and your pleasure.
[00:33:56] O Lord, we desire to belong to you and no longer to be slaves of the evil one, no longer sons of Satan, people of villainy, of evil, of rebellion.
[00:34:10] Lord, we ask that you would surround us by your light and let us shine accordingly.
[00:34:19] Lord, we pray that you would help us and teach us not to fear the real evils and darkness that exist in this world, but instead to remember that in Jesus Christ we are more than conquerors, and that through his work on the cross we can have confidence that we have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the beloved son.
[00:34:50] In him we have the redemption and the forgiveness of our sins. In him we have blessing and hope and eternal life to teach us to sing and share this news of great joy. In Jesus'name we pray. Amen.