Saturday, January 26, 2019

Jesus the baptized – Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus the baptized – Matthew 3:13-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 27, 2019

Just because you feel empathy for someone doesn’t mean you have actually done anything for them and yet there are those today who actually think that feeling something for someone is just as valid as actually doing something. Nothing could be further from the truth. James would remind us by asking, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16 NIV)” He would say that such faith is “dead” if it is not accompanied by some kind of action. James was not arguing about good deeds saving someone but rather what demonstrated faith in a person’s life. Baptism did not “save” Jesus but demonstrated his faith to the world.

Here in these verses we find the Messiah coming to the Jordan River to be baptized by John his cousin. There have been all kinds of speculation as to why God would do such a thing; everything from those who heretically claim that John is the actual Messiah to Jesus was only a man who needed reassurance. None of these are correct. Let’s therefore take a look today at Jesus the baptized…

READ: Matthew 3:13-17

After decades of silence we discover Jesus going down to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. Here we discover…

I. The obedience of Jesus the baptized! (Vv. 13-14)

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

  1. From the time Jesus is about eleven years old in Luke’s gospel where he leaves the caravan returning home from Jerusalem and is found by his parents in the temple arguing with the leadership until he goes down to the Jordan River 19 years have gone by! We know nothing of Jesus’ early years except what we are told by the gospel narratives. There exist heretical gospels written hundreds of years later that claim to depict Jesus’ early years and some from thousands of years later from medieval times as well. These are called the Gnostic Gospels. Gnosticism consists of a whole group of heresies, all with the central ideas that knowledge (gnosis) is the means to salvation, and that spirit is good and flesh is evil. In practice, it soon devolved into the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as peculiar ideas about the nature of God and Christ. One such notion is that we can become totally holy and never sin. These later tales are at best fantasy and simple myths that people made up in order to fill in the missing years of Jesus. One is called “The Lost Gospel” which is supposed to depict Jesus and Mary Magdalene being married and having two sons. However, when you take a closer look at the manuscript it does not name Jesus or Mary and is from the sixth century! Over the years there have also been false teachers who claimed to have been given visions that depict Jesus’ early years. All of them are false and ungodly. Here Matthew tells us simply, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John”; the idea being that the time was right for Jesus to do this. He was old enough for people to listen to him because most rabbis had to be at least 30 years old and John had begun his ministry of calling the Israelite nation to repentance. However, we discover that “John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’” John recognized Jesus for who he truly was; the Anointed One of God! Standing in the Jordan baptizing folks for their repentance of their sins he comes face-to-face with the One who is sinless! John wonders out loud at Jesus’ willingness to come to him to be baptized. It is here we discover the obedience of Jesus the baptized!

  EXAMPLE: John’s baptism was done after the recipient had confessed their sin however Jesus was sinless. In fact Jesus is described as our “high priest (who) meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:26 NIV)” The Apostle John wrote that we “know that (Jesus) appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5 NIV)” Jesus was therefore baptized to announce his coming, to show he was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and to identify with us! Jesus came to be with us, suffer as we do, and to be tempted in every way we are! It is here we discover the obedience of Jesus the baptized!

Being baptized does not save the recipient nor does it impart any form of grace; we see this iin Jesus’ baptism. He did it to show us who he was and it teaches us that…

II. Jesus the baptized followed through on God’s eternal plan! (V. 15)

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

  1. Remember I just shared with you that Jesus’ baptism also showed that he identified with sinners. I say this because we understand that Jesus’ baptism symbolized the sinners’ spiritual baptism into the righteousness of Christ, dying with him and rising free from sin and able to walk in the newness of life with him! Jesus’ perfect righteousness would fulfill all the requirements of the Law of Moses for sinners who could never hope to do so by themselves! Hebrews reminds us that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” and “because by one sacrifice he (Jesus) has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”! (Hebrews 10:4, 14 NIV) We can never earn our salvation! When John hesitated to baptize the sinless Son of God, “Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’” By this Jesus alluded to the righteousness that he alone provides to all who come to him to exchange their sin for his righteousness! Paul reminds us that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)” I also told you that Jesus being God and being human can “sympathize with our weaknesses” because “we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)! Jesus had entered the world as a baby born of human mother and grew to be a man that he would experience everything we do but make the conscious decision not to be tempted by the same things we are so he could be our strength! But also that he would “fulfill all righteousness”! He would be our sacrifice! Our past sacrifice, our daily sacrifice, and our ultimate future sacrifice! This is the plan of God that he would come as a man and die as our sacrifice! Matthew tells us that “Then John consented.” Jesus the baptized followed through on God’s eternal plan!

  EXAMPLE: I remember my father asking me one time after the wheel of my go-cart fell off, “Did you plan that?” We often forget that God’s plan will happen. God’s sovereign will is also called his “hidden” will. It is “sovereign” in that it shows God to be ruler of the universe who ordains all that happens. It is also “declared” because it involves God’s decree. It is “hidden” because we are usually unaware of it until what he has decreed takes place. God can but does not cause everything to happen; often the choice is ours to make and God permits it. However we can suffer or be blessed by the consequences of our choices. Like my go-cart wheel. There is nothing that happens that is outside of God’s will. We discover that Jesus the baptized followed through on God’s eternal plan!

If you forget that God is the Father, God is the Son, and God is the Holy Spirit you can fall into a faulty notion about whom Jesus is and why he did what he did. And it is here we discover just how important this is by…

III. God’s recognition of Jesus the baptized! (Vv. 16-17)

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

  1. God was involved intimately throughout Jesus’ life because he is God. When his detractors wanted to kill him they asked him to plainly tell them that he was the Messiah. If had he would be guilty of saying he was God so Jesus responds by telling them, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:27-30 NIV)” He told one of his doubting disciples, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” meaning he has seen God (John 14:9 NIV). John the Baptist was baptizing the Creator of the Universe and “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.” He came up out of the water and “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.” Interestingly we see the three personalities of the Trinity present in Jesus’ baptism because immediately afterwards “a voice from heaven saying ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” Later, This verified for John that Jesus is the Son of God. “Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God. (John 1:32-34 NIV)’” It was also in keeping with Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the coming Messiah: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:2-3 NIV)” The descent of the Holy Spirit displayed for those present that God had empowered the Son, the Messiah, for his ministry among people. And finally we learn that “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” What a wonderful depiction of God’s recognition of Jesus the baptized!

  EXAMPLE: I like it when others recognize me and are glad to see me, especially when I am outside of where they would normally see me. Sure it can be embarrassing if I haven’t shaved or I am filthy from doing some sort of hard work. Therefore isn’t great to know that God recognizes those he loves and that one day they will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”? This is what is occurring here when Jesus is baptized by John. We discover this wonderful truth in God’s recognition of Jesus the baptized!

Conclusion:

The obedience of Jesus the baptized! Jesus the baptized followed through on God’s eternal plan! God’s recognition of Jesus the baptized!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

John the baptizer – Matthew 3:1-12

John the baptizer – Matthew 3:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 20, 2019

Everyone is known for something. Notice I did not say that everyone is famous, well-known, or publicly recognizable. But each of usually is known for something. When I was in elementary school I was known for organizing all of the younger grades into a force to be reckoned with on the playground. You pick on one of us, we all attacked you. It stopped bullying in its tracks. I was surprised years later when this guy at Portland State University asked me if I was the same Lee Hemen who organized that group because he was one of the younger kids we “rescued”!

Here we discover John, and no, he was not the first Baptist, rather he is known for his baptisms. He should be known correctly as John the Baptizer. We will discover that not everyone follows the normal dictates of social decorum or dress and John was one of these folks. He was not homeless as I have heard some liberal preachers try to emphasize; he was a man with a mission. Therefore, let’s discover this morning John and what his ministry was all about…

READ: Matthew 3:1-12

The Government wants warning labels placed on everything thinking that we cannot understand the dangers we face or that we might be deceived. Often God uses those he calls for a particular purpose to warn the unsuspecting or those who deliberately ignore him. Here we discover that…

I. John came with a spiritual warning! (Vv. 1-6)

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

  1. “In those days”, meaning during the time of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, “John the Baptist came,” Matthew writes. John was Jesus’ cousin. In Luke’s gospel we learn his mother was Elizabeth and his father was Zechariah who was a priest and had served in the temple in Jerusalem. God fulfilled a promise he had made to Zechariah to give him a son by his barren wife Elizabeth. They were to name their child “John” (Yochanan) meaning God is gracious. John became Jesus’ herald announcing his coming. God had told Malachi “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. (Malachi 3:1 NIV)” John was seen as like the prophet Elijah, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6 NIV)” Matthew writes that John came “preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Literally “turn away” from sin because the promised kingdom of God was “now”! John saw the coming Messiah and was given a message by God to prepare the way for him. Matthew sees John’s ministry as that foretold “through the prophet Isaiah”. John was “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s message was different just as his attire and diet: “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” John was a different kind of guy; he was God’s messenger and not the people’s. He lived off the land and was only concerned for his message. In spite of his eating habits, dress, or message “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” John came with a spiritual warning!

  EXAMPLE: We have warning labels on just about anything nowadays. It seems as if people are simply too ignorant not to follow directions, take their medications properly, or keep children safe anymore. I suppose some warnings are good to have. Isn’t it interesting that God saw the need to have a warning as well. In fact he had in mind all along to use a specific person, John, to give his warning to the people of Israel. John came with a spiritual warning!

Calling people to turn from their ungodly lifestyles in never popular and recently a Presbyterian pastor was asked to step down after he put on his church’s outside reader board: “Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still a sin. The culture may change. The Bible does not.” The church would rather change the biblical message to fit society’s acceptance of perversion. We discover here that… 

II. John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy! (Vv. 7-10)

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

  1. Matthew tells us that John did not filter his message to sooth the ears of either the poor or the potentate. And he knew a hypocrite when he saw one. Matthew writes “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.’” Can you imagine our politicians, Hollywood elites, or the general public listening to John’s message? John calls these men snakes, a viperous gang, who had evidently come to have their ears tickled. And you have to understand that these were the religious hierarchy and leaders of the day who came to hear his words. John asks them an interesting question that demanded an answer, who had warned them to flee the coming wrath that was about to happen? We forget that the message of Jesus is one that demands a personal challenge; it demands the individual decide and it demands that the listener understand the consequences of their response! If they chose not to heed his warning, which came from God, they would not be ready for the kingdom and they would reap the consequences of their decision! Ergo the wrath of God! John instructs them to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” This fruit would be apparent both spiritually and psychologically. Paul would teach that this “fruit of the Spirit is” manifested in a person’s “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)” Only real spiritual repentance, turning from one’s sin and turning to God, produces a changed life! Religion or believing there is a God does not hack it. John knew what these men would immediately think: “We have Abraham as our father.” Not good enough! James, Jesus’ brother would write, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. (James 2:19 NIV)” John tells them bluntly, “I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” True spiritual fruit comes from God and if they could not repent, they would be cut down and condemned! John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy!

  EXAMPLE: Acting religious, kind, or even holy does not mean a person knows God personally. One can be close and miss the reality of the gospel. The confusion exists in today’s world because we have begun to think that what we feel is as important as Godly truth. The Apostle John would write that one does not become a Christian by birth; one has to be born again. Born into the world first and then by making the conscious decision to be born of God. Being good, doing good things, or even living a good life does not make one a Christian. John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy!

So many things can get in the way of a person coming to faith in Jesus. Thinking they are “good enough”, that a “good God would not cause anyone to suffer”, or that “as long as I feel good about myself I’m okay” are not spiritual reality. In fact it is so much spiritual fog. And here we discover that…

III. John came to clear the way! (Vv. 11-12)

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

  1. John’s message was radical. A lot of others had called the Hebrews to repentance over the centuries but none had told them that they had to repent and be baptized in their faith through the power of God in order to receive the one that was coming! John knew who he was and for whom he cleared the way: the Messiah! John declared, “I baptize you with water for repentance.” Having water poured over you by a teacher, rabbi, or proclaimed prophet signified one’s willingness to confess their sins. It only cleansed the individual for the moment because as soon as they sinned again, and they would, they had to be baptized again to show their repentance. This is why John related, “But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.” John could only pour water over a person to signify their repentance; what God required would take much more effort on the part of the recipient. It would take someone with a lot more spiritual pull than John had! And so he warned his listeners that he did not have the means to totally cleanse them, only God does. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Contrary to the heretical teaching that John meant speaking in tongues, what he actually is teaching here is a reference to the burning of the sacrifice in the Temple. One would receive the Holy Spirit, often seen as a flame or fire, just as Jesus promised when a person’s places their faith in him! They would go through the fire of having their sins burned away, so-to-speak, by the presence and power of Holy God! Jesus would later teach that he would send his followers the Holy Spirit who would be with them forever. (John 14:26) and Paul would write that God “set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:22 NIV)” John knew the message the Messiah would bring would change things forever. Either folks would repent and live or refuse and die: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” John came to clear the way!

  EXAMPLE: In olden times there would be heralds who would walk in front of the king to announce that he was coming and that the people should clear the way. We have seen where new products have used clever commercials in order to get people’s attention ahead of their release. Here we discover that God used a man named John to clear the way for the Messiah Jesus that was coming soon. People needed to realize that John wasn't the one they needed to follow or watch for but rather the one who was coming after him. John came to clear the way!

Conclusion:

John came with a spiritual warning! John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy! John came to clear the way!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The flight, the slaughter, and the return – Matthew 2:13-23

The flight, the slaughter, and the return – Matthew 2:13-23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 13, 2019

There are some things in life we have to do even if we do not like doing them: paying taxes, going to school, working, or going to the doctor. When I was a child my family moved often, so much so that I began to hate going to the supermarket to get cardboard boxes. One year we moved four times when I was in 3rd grade in the same area! Most military kids understand what I mean.

Here in these verses we discover Jesus’ family being directed by God to move for their protection. Sadly innocent folks suffered because of the ungodly choices of a madman. And yet the Lord brings this family back safely when it’s time to where Jesus can grown and be nurtured emotionally, physically, and spiritually among his own people. Let’s learn more about how God worked in the flight of a family, the slaughter of innocents, and the return of Jesus…

READ: Matthew 2:13-23

There are those in our day who have become so dependent upon the Government that they think it is the Government’s job to ensure their happiness and protect their entire life! So many have fallen into the trap of waiting for others to take care of them that they no longer depend on God for direction! Here we find God caring for Jesus’ family in…

I. The flight of Jesus! (Vv. 13-15)

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.”

  1. After the Wisemen had left things began to return to normal again or as normal as a family rearing the future Messiah could be! We learn that “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.” It makes one wonder if Joseph ever enjoyed a safe night’s sleep without a vision from God! God was watching over this special family for the sake of Jesus. “Get up,” the Lord tells Joseph, “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.” Now there are those who see this as proof that the Trinity of God can’t exist because God was speaking to Joseph while God was in human flesh as Jesus. However, they forget that God is God and can do whatever he wants when he wants to. Case in point Jesus being the Son of God also prayed to God the Father. He did so to teach his band of disciples not only was prayer important but it also showed how he as God willingly laid his divine nature aside to be a human being. So don’t you think God can do two things at the same time or even more? How in the world do you think he listens to your prayers and those of the entire world; some of which are not worth listening to? And Joseph having experienced this before and being the righteous guy he is, “got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.” Interestingly, I believe that Matthew may have heard these personal stories and details from either Mary or Jesus himself as they traveled together before Jesus’ crucifixion. And as Matthew often does in his gospel, he uses this incident to use the prophecy of Hosea 11:1 which does not seem to be a prophecy in the sense of a prediction. Hosea was writing of God’s calling Israel out of Egypt into the Exodus. Matthew, however, gave new understanding to these words. Matthew viewed this experience as Messiah being identified with the nation Israel as a whole. And saw it as an identifier pointing to Jesus being the Messiah. God was working in the flight of Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: We often do not see God working because we do not spend time with his in order to know when he is or isn’t. It is like a parent who does not read, play with, or listen to their preschool or elementary children as they grow thinking that when they are older then they can then have a relationship. You cannot have a relationship with someone you have not invested your time with. Joseph was a righteous man and listened to God because he had invested spending time with the Lord and knew who was speaking to him in his dreams. God was working in the flight of Jesus!

We often see in movies or TV shows how folks lose their faith when bad things happen to them. However as a pastor I have seen that those who truly walk with the Lord understand that we live in a sin-fallen world and bad things happen to good and even innocent people. We discover this here in…

II. The slaughter of innocents! (Vv. 16-18)

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, 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.”

  1. The Bible does not sugarcoat people’s bad behavior or their ungodliness. We find that “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, 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.” Foxes do not like to be outfoxed and evil people do not like it when their ungodly plans are thwarted in any way. They often strike out at those around them that are least able to defend themselves. Abusive spouses use violence or verbal attacks against children, husbands or wives. That’s how a truly weak individual responds! Herod was no different but just like all tyrants he was corrupt to the core of his being. Again, there are those who claim that this is why they could never believe in God because “a good God would never allow this to happen to innocent children”! It has nothing to do with God and everything to do with an evil and corrupt person who made ungodly choices his entire life. Sin always affects those around it! Herod wanted power and he was willing to do whatever it took to keep it; kind of like some politicians today! Yet again Matthew points his readers to how God was at work in the details. Even the ungodly acts of a mad king pointed to the Messiah being Jesus! “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.’” Herod had no right to be furious, if God was bringing the Messiah into the world during his reign he should have rejoiced and been glad. But Herod was not Israel’s true king and merely a stand in propped up by the military regime of Rome. While Herod was one of the richest people in the world at the time, he knew how he remained in power and it wasn’t because the Israelites loved him. We find the hand of God even in the slaughter of innocents!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus teaches his followers that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 NIV)” Paul would later teach that “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 NIV)” People want to blame God for the ungodly actions of others when the innocent or those they care about suffer; yet in doing so they miss the hand of God even in such circumstances. Even here we find the hand of God in the slaughter of innocents!

Our way of thinking is a bit different than the way the Hebrews of Jesus’ day thought. History did not have to be related in chronological order and God working in the history of his people was often related in word and in theological and philosophical games. This is how the Rabbis, Chief Priests, and Teachers of the Law spent hours of each day – arguing over nuances! And here we discover it in…

III. The return of the Nazarene! (Vv. 19-23)

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 are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 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. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

  1. We learn from Matthew that “After Herod died” and by the way he died a truly awful painful death, “an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt”. You ask, “Again?” Yep, it seems as if this was the only way God could get Joseph’s attention. My wife can relate. Not that she uses dreams while I sleep to get my attention but rather it often takes me focusing totally on what she has to say to me in order for it to finally get through to me! Anyway God tells Joseph, “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 are dead.” Herod died in Jericho, after an excruciatingly painful and horrendous illness later known as “Herod's Evil”. What a way to get a disease named after you! The historian Josephus states that the pain of his illness led Herod to attempt suicide by stabbing himself which was thwarted by his cousin. Makes one wonder why bad things happen to bad people, right? Nope. Anyway, Joseph “got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.” He has learned to obediently follow the Lord’s instructions. Joseph was also a good protector and “when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.” Archelaus was named as ruler of the largest part of the Judean kingdom after Herod died. Rome confirmed him but did not recognize him as king, giving him instead the lesser title of ethnarch to emphasize his dependence on Rome. Archelaus was half Idumaean and half Samaritan and, like his father, was hated by the Israelites. Later he was deposed and exiled to Gaul because Rome could not put up with him either! Joseph was again “warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” Not a Nazarene who didn’t cut his hair or beard but it is a play on word usage by Matthew. Isaiah said the Messiah would be “from [Jesse’s] roots” like “a Branch” (Isaiah 11:1). “Branch” used here is the Hebrew word neṣer, which has consonants, since there are no vowels in Hebrew, like those in the word “Nazarene” which carry the idea of an insignificant beginning. Jesus would be just as a plain child growing up in Nazareth. We find God’s protection in the return of the Nazarene!

  EXAMPLE: I like reading fiction that is known as alternative history. I read a series where aliens attack during WWII and everyone on earth involved in the War must come together in order to defeat them. I’ve read others where the question “what if” is asked and how would have history progressed afterwards. There is a whole series on Amazon Prime called The Man in the High Castle. It is based on a novel that is an alternate history by Philip K. Dick. It’s set in 1962, 15 years after an alternative ending to World War II. The novel concerns intrigues between the victorious Axis Powers—primarily, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany—as they rule over the former United States, as well as daily life under the resulting totalitarian rule. We could speculate and ask, “What if God had not protected Jesus’ family the way he did?” Better yet “what if” Jesus never died on the cross or was resurrected? I for one am glad it never happened. Here we find God’s protection in the return of the Nazarene!

Conclusion:

Today we have seen how God worked to keep the Messiah safe in his flight, in the death of innocents, and in the return of the Nazarene! How is God working in your life right now?
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

The visitors of Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12

The visitors of Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 6, 2019

A lot of folks were on the road, in the air, or taking trains and buses to go and be with family or friends during the holidays. Wherever they went they became visitors. Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Poor Richard’s Almanac that “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Franklin was usually only enamored with his self and found the company of others, unless they were female, dreary.

However, here we discover several wise visitors, a mad king, and a small child. It is interesting how all of these folks came together several thousand years ago and how we are talking about them in our day and age. These visitors of Jesus made an impact on his family; Mary probably pondered their visitation like she did over the other events that occurred around the birth of her baby boy Jesus. Let’s take a look at what the visitors of Jesus meant and how they affect our lives today…

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

Some visitors are more welcome than others. We like it when folks bring gifts when they visit but we hate the late night visitation of raccoons going through our trash or mice running across our kitchen! Here we discover that…

I. These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! (Vv. 1-2)

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.”

  1. Not everyone agrees with the timing of the visit of the Wisemen from the east in visiting Jesus. However “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem”. There are a lot of misconceptions and legends about these “Magi”. They were not kings, but simply wise men which suggest they were astronomers. There were not only three, but more than likely a great company and some suggest there were several dozen men! They seem to have not come on the birth night but many days (or even months) later. Some have named them but in fact it was only in the sixth century that their names (Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar) started to be specified as some now accept them. Before that they had other and varied names. Why did the later names Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar stick? Because in the sixth century the Emperor Justinian created the famous mosaics in various churches and in the church of Saint Apollinaire the mosaics of the wise men have their names beneath them in the form we now accept. These men came with a specific task in mind and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Perhaps the signs, writings, and legends of the time had led these men to this town in Israel. All of the things they studied pointed to a king being born: “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” They followed a star. Some suggest that since it moved that perhaps God used angelic beings or even his own Shekinah glory to direct these men to Jesus. When we look at God closely he always leads us to himself! These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them!

  EXAMPLE: When I first became a Christian I was told by my mentor to “read the Bible”. When I first became a seminary student I was told by my professors over and over to “read the Bible”. We often learn in Sunday school and Worship to “read the Bible”. There is a reason for this; while Christian books, commentaries, and study helps are good for some insight the best and most important thing a believer can do is to read the Bible! It is there when we follow the words and instructions of God we discover who he truly is! These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! Are you willing to follow the Lord wherever he leads you?

Some visitors can be disturbing. When we are sitting down to eat, watching a favorite TV show, or just enjoying a good nap, a knock on the door can be disruptive. Here in the following verses of Matthew we discover that…

II. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! (Vv. 3-8)

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 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. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘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.”

  1. Like I said before, not all visitors are welcome by those they are visiting. We learn that “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod was not a Jew at all, but an Edomite and Rome recognized him as a vassal king over Judea. The Jews tempered their great hatred of him with admiration for his building projects, such as the magnificent improvements made to the second temple. He also built Masada and the Roman port of Caesarea. Motivated by his great paranoia and cruelty, he murdered the members of the Sanhedrin, his wife, his mother in-law, and his three sons. Herod was “disturbed and all Jerusalem” besides! Herod was known for his rages and so when these esteem men show up looking for a king, they are concerned as to what Herod would do. Herod therefore gets his own wise guys (chief priests and teachers of the law) together and “he asked them where the (Messiah) Christ was to be born”. Having studied the Scriptures themselves and having debated this topic often they knew full well what the answer was: “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘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.’” The prophecy was the answer of God to King David long ago. Herod was as crafty as he was insane and we read: “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.’”  Not wanting any of his detractors to learn of the real reason the Magi had come and not wanting to give anyone a platform to usurp his power Herod had a secret meeting with them. I believe Herod had already determined to murder any child who would be seen as Israel’s true and rightful king. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others!

  EXAMPLE: There are folks and groups today that do not like it when others begin to consider who Jesus is. Groups like Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Islam all fear the truth of who Jesus is and what he came to do. Socialism and communistic regimes try to suppress the truth of Jesus as well. Atheists try to dispel Jesus as just a myth or fantasy. It shakes these groups to the core because if Jesus is truly who he said he was and what history testifies to then they are false and lost. Herod misunderstood who Jesus was and he was disturbed by the coming Wisemen. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! Is your faith disturbing to others?

Sometimes we have visitors that are unexpected but their coming and going do not affect us that much at the time while the news they carry or the particular job they do could. The mailman, package delivery person, or the water meter readers are some of these kinds of visitors. Lastly we learn that…

III. These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought! (Vv. 9-12)

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

  1. These Wisemen were far smarter than king Herod could ever have imagined. The king they sought did not have an earthly kingdom or a throne built by human hands. After being wined and dined by Israel’s ruler and “After they had heard the king, they went on their way”. However their journey is not finished “and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” This is good evidence that the star was far more than just an astronomical phenomenon. It moved and “stopped over the place where the child was”. Some think the star could have been a comet, a planetary convergence, or super nova but whatever the “star’ was it is certain it was a means by God to lead these visitors on their journey! Better than Google Earth or Maps! “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” because it lead them right to the final place they needed to go and to the person they sought! We also learn that the individual they journeyed to find was someone special because “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” You do not humble yourself to worship just any ordinary kid, believe me, even though some parents do! This child was truly special. This child was important. This child was the Messiah, God in human flesh! Add to this the fact that after worshipping him “they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Over field and fountain, moor and mountain, they had carried their offerings. Treasures to place at the feet of the one they worshiped, the one they had sought for so long! Some think God gave these men the gifts ideas to being Jesus: gold to signify his kingship, incense to recognize him as the high priest, and myrrh to show his death for mankind’s sin. We find that God watches over those he sends because “having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever done something extremely nice for someone only to have them not say “thank you”? Perhaps you gave a gift to someone but got little in return? I have learned that it is our choice on whether or not we give a gift or do something nice for another and we should never expect anything in response. Little did these Wisemen know but their travel, their interaction with Herod, and their worship of a young boy would be remembered for thousands of years! Why? The reason is not just found in what they did but rather it is found in the focus of who they sought – the Messiah Jesus! These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought! What treasure do you seek in life?

Conclusion:

These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.