Sunday, December 27, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "The Hunt for the Newborn King"

“The Hunt for the Newborn King”
December 27, 2009
Matthew 2:1-23

It’s after Christmas now, and I wanted to preach on what happened after Christmas.  We don’t always hear about what happened after Christmas, but Matthew 2 tells a vital part of the story of what happened after Christmas.

After Christmas, there was a great hunt.

“The Hunt for the Newborn King.”

That’s the story of Matthew chapter 2.

Now, before we begin reading this very familiar text, I want to give you some things to hunt for as we read it.

Here are four themes that I want you to try to track as we go along.

First, ROYALTY.  Jesus is presented in this passage as a king.  A newborn king but a great king, nonetheless.  Watch for how this royalty is presented.

Second, PROTECTION.  This king is going to be hunted – and not just in a good way.  There are evil people who want to take His life.

What’s the name of the worst of them?  Herod.  An evil old man.

But does King Herod get King Jesus?  No way.  You know that already.  Look for how God protects the newborn king.  It’s quite remarkable.

Third, FULFILLMENT.  One of Matthew’s favorite words is “fulfill.”  He uses it again and again in this chapter.  Hunt for where God keeps His promises and fulfills, fills up, the prophecies of the Old Testament.

Hint: We looked at one last week, and it appears right here in verses 5&6.

Fourth, SUFFERING.  Just because the King is protected doesn’t mean that He and those around Him don’t suffer.  There is great evil in this chapter and it leads to great suffering.  So, hunt for that theme as we read it.

Okay?  The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, verse 1.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’”

Notice that this happened after Christmas. Verse 1 says it happened “after Jesus was born in Bethlehem.”

We don’t know exactly how long after.  It could be up to 2 years later based on what else happens in this chapter.

It happens during the time that King Herod ruled over Israel.  King Herod was not a Jew.  He had been made the king by the Roman empire.  And he was a very efficient  and productive ruler.  He built the great temple.  He provided excellent famine relief.

And he was very evil.  By the end of his life, he did anything to protect his kingship–including killing anyone that he thought threatened him–including one of his wives and at least two of his own sons.

We know who King Herod was.

But we don’t know much about these “Magi” mentioned in verse 1.

The King James calls them “wise men.”

And they are very mysterious.  They come onto the scene here in Matthew 2 and go off of the scene in Matthew 2, and they aren’t heard from ever again.

Who were those strange men?

We don’t really know.  A couple of centuries earlier, there were a group of Medes who were priests called the Magi and they apparently had some powers to interpret dreams and that sort of thing.  We would have called them “magicians.”

And in fact, we get our English word “magic” from the word “Magi” here.

They are mysterious people who are apparently also astrologers because they have seen some astrological phenomenon, “a star”, and discerned (how, we don’t know!) that a great king worthy of honor and worship[!] has been born in Israel to be King over the Jews.

We don’t know how they knew this!  The Bible doesn’t say.  And anything we come up with is conjecture.

The Bible never promotes astrology.  But God is king over the stars.

And these mysterious men have been led by the stars from “the East” (wherever that is!) to Jerusalem to hunt (v.2) “the one who has been born king of the Jews.”

Were these guys kings themselves?  “We Three Kings?”

The Bible doesn’t call them kings.  But they clearly got Herod’s attention!  Herod is going to pay attention to these guys, so I think they must be royal personages of some kind.  Maybe court astrologers.  Maybe more.   We just don’t know.

How many were there?

We don’t know that either!  Tradition has 3 Magi, but only because they brought three gifts.  There could have a whole camel train of these guys.  Maybe 50, who knows?!

They are almost a complete mystery.  But what they are about is not mysterious.

They are hunting for a king.

Do you see that Royalty theme here?  They are hunting for a king.

And that leads someone else to hunt for a king.  Someone who isn’t happy that He has been born.  V.3

“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. [Why?  Because He is king of the Jews!]  When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. [He knew that the people he ruled expected a messianic ruler.  Where?]  ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: [What Prophet?  Micah.  Matthew paraphrases Micah 5:2-5.]  '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 be the shepherd of my people Israel.'  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 make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’”

We see the fulfillment theme here.  Micah’s prophecy was fulfilled like we saw last week.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem and will be the shepherd of His people.

But Herod isn’t happy about it, and he’s trying to turn the Magi into his intelligence agents to find the newborn king.

He is careful to find out the exact time the star had appeared?  Why?

He wants to know how old the boy is.

And then he lies through his teeth.  Herod says that he wants to worship the newborn king, too.  V.8

“As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”  You can just about see him rubbing his hands together in evil delight.

Apparently, the Magi don’t yet know enough to distrust Herod and go off to do what he says.  V.9

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”

Apparently, the star (whatever that is!  Who ever heard of a moving star!  This is a miracle, too!  The star) had vanished and now reappears to these mystery men and leads them right to Bethlehem, and even right to the place where the child was.

This was no ordinary star.

And they became deliriously happy.  The King James says, “they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”

They had found him!  Their hunt was over.  V.11

“On coming to the house [notice that some time has passed, Jesus’ family is now in a house], they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

Now, here, I think, is another reason to believe that they were at least tied to royalty, if not kings themselves.  These are gifts of royalty to royalty.

Jesus is a great king.

And He deserves great honor and worship with treasure.

That’s one of the reasons why we take an offering in worship services.

Because we are offering our treasures as a statement of our worship of Jesus.

The royalty theme is here. And so is the protection theme.  V.12

“And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”

There are going to be a lot of protective dreams like that.

The Magi are given new marching orders directly from God and they by-pass Herod and go home a different way.

And then they fade off into obscurity. 

What mystery men!  They have achieved their goal, however.  They found the newborn king and they worshiped Him as He deserved.

But that’s just one hunt.  There is another hunt that is still on.

And God is going to protect His newborn King.  V.13

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’  So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”

Now, which of our four themes do you see here?

Is there is royalty?  Yeah.  V.15 calls Jesus, God’s Son. That’s a term of royalty!

Is there protection?  Yessir.  There is one of those protective dreams in verse 13.

Is there fulfillment?  Yes.  V.15 says, “and so was fulfilled” Hosea 11:1 “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”  

How about suffering?  Yes, that’s there, too.

Think about Joseph and Mary fleeing in the night with young Jesus to Egypt, of all places.

Jesus and His family became refugees. 

Think about that!  Our Lord was a refugee.  That might say something to us about God’s love for displaced people.

Suffering.  I believe that the Magi’s gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh are what got Joseph’s little family through this ordeal.  They funded the flight to Egypt.

And they just barely escaped!

They had to take off at night because Herod’s SWAT Team was on the way.  V.16

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, [“Those Magi haven’t come back.  What’s going on?”] and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.  Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’”

The Hunt for the Newborn King Killed All of the Boys of Bethlehem.

Can you imagine how terrible this was?

The word “suffering” doesn’t do this justice.

Every boy in that town.

How many boys in this room 2 years old and under?

At one point all three of my boys were 2 and under.  There is only 2 and a half years between all three of them.

The King’s soldiers broke in and took their lives.

There is great suffering that comes with being associated with Jesus.

He was protected, yes, but these boys were not.  And Rachel wept.

Did you notice the fulfillment theme in verses 17&18?

Rachel was always associated with Bethlehem. She was buried there.

And Jeremiah prophesied that great mourning would come with great suffering.

And it was fulfilled when these boys lost their lives for Jesus’ sake.

Herod was horribly wicked.

And, eventually, he died and had to face the justice of God.  V.19

“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life [those hunting for the newborn king] are dead.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. [But not Bethlehem, not again.]  But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth [probably his hometown]. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’”

Again, the theme of protection.  Two dreams here (v.19 and v.22) to protect Jesus.

God wants this boy to grow up!

And the theme of fulfillment.  “He will be called a Nazarene.”

That is, He will be despised because He came from nowheresville.

Which is, a kind of suffering, in itself.

Now, that’s what happened after Christmas.

The Hunt for the Newborn King.

We’ve seen royalty ‘the one born king of the Jews” worthy of golden treasure.

We’ve seen protection.  Dreams and midnight escapes to makes sure that this King lives to manhood.

And we’ve seen fulfillment.  Ancient prophecies and typologies being filled up in the life of this boy.

And we’ve seen suffering.  Terrible suffering coming from terrible evil.

Now, how does this apply to us today?

I was struck by three different kinds of people in this story.


The Magi, of course.

They sought Him out to worship Him.

Then came a great distance.

They spared no expense.

They believed that He was the King.

And they bowed before Him.

While, I don’t think that we’re supposed to learn anything from the stars, these stargazers got it right.

And we’re supposed to follow their example.

Do we seek to worship Jesus?

The bumper-sticker says, “Wise men still seek Him.”

And that’s right.

Wise men hunt for Jesus to worship Him.

They do whatever it takes.
They spare no expense.
They believe that He is the king.
And they bow before Him.


As followers of Jesus, we are called to live lives of worship and honor for our Great King.

That’s why we’re here this morning!  I wondered how many people would come to church the Sunday after Christmas.  If you’re hear, chances are, you’re hear to worship the King.

That’s why we had our offering today.  It may not be gold, incense, or myrrh. But it’s our treasures, laid out as a gift before Him–to worship Him as our supreme treasure!

That’s how we’re supposed to live our lives.

Quiet devotional times.
Hard decisions.
A lifestyle of worship.

Following Jesus as King!

Because Jesus is worth it.

He’s worth hunting to worship Him as our King.

A second kind of person.


Herod’s soldiers, of course, but more despicably, Herod himself.

He hated Jesus.  He pretended to want to worship Him.

[That’s a scary thing.  Don’t pretend to want to worship Jesus if you hate Him inside.]

And Herod might have actually believed that Jesus was the rightful king!

He consulted the prophecies!

But he wanted to kill Him anyway.

He was hunting Him, not worship but to kill.

We’ve seen the theme of protection here.

Herod failed.

But the hate that filled Herod didn’t die with Herod.  Did it?

Eventually, that hate grew and grew, and Jesus finally succumbed to its power.

Eventually, Jesus did die at the hands of the rulers of Israel.

Another Herod was there that day.

And He suffered and bled and died. There was no miraculous escape that day.

Jesus died on the Cross.

But that was not the end!

The evil of those who hunt the King does not triumph in the end!

No matter what it seems like.  No matter if it seems like evil will win in this world.

The Third Reich.
Idi Amin.
Joseph Stalin.

And whatever personal hell you might be going through right now.

Jesus came back from the dead.  And no Herod Earth can stop Him!

And those that believe in Him and worship Him will live with Him forever.

His resurrection took the sting out of sin and death and He will reign forever and ever!

Some who hunted Jesus to worship Him.
And some who hunted Jesus to kill Him.

Those are really the only two sides there are.

But I was struck this week by other group of people that are in this passage, however briefly.  They are in verse 3.

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

Now, maybe that’s hyperbole, but everybody in Jerusalem is buzzing with the news of these mysterious guys who have appeared from the East and are talking about a king and the chief priests and the teachers of the law name the place as Bethlehem...

And who goes to check it out?

Only the Magi.
None of the priests. None of the teachers of the law.

None of the people.

As far as we know.

I was struck by some (many?) #3.  SOME WHO DIDN’T HUNT HIM AT ALL.

They didn’t even bother.

They didn’t even bother to check it out.

And that apathy cost many of them their eternal lives.

Because there is no neutral when it comes to Jesus.

You are either on the Magi’s side or Herod’s.

And if you think you can walk the fence, you’re on Herod’s side.

You might as well kill the babies yourself.

Are you sitting on the fence?

Are you just going through the motions, but you aren’t worshiping Jesus?

Are you just trying to mind your own business and hope that God doesn’t mess with it?

I invite you to get down off of the fence and come bow before the Lord Jesus.

He is the great king.  Worthy of all worship!

And one day, He will come again and all of those who sought Him now and all heaven and nature will sing.

Joy to the World the Lord is Come!