Nativity: Herod and the Wise men
Today we conclude our advent series titled “The Nativity”. We will continue to look at the biblical Christmas story and the key role individuals have played in the account of our Saviors birth. So far, we have looked at Mary and Joseph, The Angels and the shepherds and last week we looked at Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Today I want look at nativity story from the eyes of the wise men or more appropriately the Magi.
Our text for today will be Matthew 2:1 -12, and in this passage, we are introduced to a group of men known as the Magi, or “the three wise men”, and we meet Herod the king. It is often believed and portrayed in the Nativity story that there were three kings or wise men, but the truth is we do not know how many of them there were, and they were almost certainly not kings (we will look at them in a bit). The reason we believe there were three of them was because of the three gifts given, but it is probable that there were more than three present when they encountered the young baby Jesus.
(Read Matthew 2: 1- 12)
Who was Herod? Why did he care about this newborn child called the “King of the Jews”? According to commentator J. Nolland, “The Herod here is Herod the Great, who ruled as king from 37 to 4 b.c. He was a figure of heroic proportions, whose rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple represented a major feat of ancient architecture, but whose rule was tyrannical, ruthless, and cruel”
We know that he was a brutish and oppressive king was also very protective of his position and jealous of anyone who would threaten his rule. He felt threatened by this infant king because Herod considered himself the “King of the Jews and he went to any length to protect this title and position. We see this in Matthew 2:16 when Herod realized he had been tricked by the magi and then ordered all male children in Bethlehem two years and under to be murdered. Only a maniacal, insecure, and jealous ruler could do such an atrocious thing.
Who were the Magi? Why were they following a star? Why were they seeking this King of Kings? “Originally, they (the Magi) were a class of priests among the Persians and Medes, who acted as the king’s advisers, and cultivated astrology, medicine, and occult natural science. They are frequently referred to by ancient authors.”
Thus, the Magi were non-Jewish religious astrologers who, from astronomical observations, inferred the birth of a great Jewish king. After inquiring of Jewish authorities, they came to do homage to this child king. Whether ‘the East’ from which they came is Arabia, Babylon or elsewhere is uncertain. The Magi came to Jerusalem to seek a king who was prophesied to be born. We know from Daniel that the magi or wise men were among some of the highest-ranking officials in Babylon and Daniel was appointed over and respected by all of them (Daniel 2:48). It is quite possible that since Daniel had influence over the Magi that he spoke of the God of Israel and his future plans, namely the prophecy of the coming Messiah (Numbers 24:17). They were familiar with the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah (even though they were pagan priests). Daniel’s prophecies were made known to them; and the calculations by which he pointed to the very time when Christ should be born became, through the book of Daniel, a part of their ancient literature.—Ed.) 
Herod & the Magi
The Magi came to Jerusalem because of a star. They went to King Herod to inquire of this child’s whereabouts. This concerned Herod because this “so called” King who was to be born had the potential to put his “job” in jeopardy. Many people in Jerusalem didn’t think he deserved to be the King since he was not from the lineage of David.
After hearing about this child king Herod inquired of the Chief Priests and they concluded that this King they sought was to be born in Bethlehem (according to Micah 5:2). So, Herod met with the Magi secretly to commission them to find this child and return to tell him where he was. The magi never did return because they were
warned in a dream not to go back.
The Magi followed this star in the sky. Being star gazers, this came natural to them. As they followed the star it rested over the house Mary, Joseph and Jesus were in. Upon their arrival they “rejoiced with exceeding joy”. These pagan star gazers came seeking the Messiah and they found him. Then we see the very first response of the Magi upon seeing the child… They fell to their knees and worshiped him and then gave their gifts.
I love how Warren Weirsbe defines this moment… The magi were seeking the King; Herod was opposing the King; and the Jewish priests were ignoring the King. 
Contrary to what most believe and have been taught the Magi did not come to visit a baby in a manger on the night he was born. Matthew tells us they visited the child in a home. The way the story is told certainly sounds like everything happens one event right after the other in one night. The truth is the Magi had to travel from a far distance, they went to Jerusalem first to find out where the King was supposed to be born and we are told Herod had all children from the ages of one to two years old murdered. So, this would suggest the Magi visited a child who was possibly 1 to 2 years old (probably 2 years).
It is interesting as we look at what the Magi can represent in the Christmas story. We see in the Gospel the Magi came seeking the “King of the Jews” so they could come and worship him. It is here in Matthew we see Jesus is not only the King to the Jews but also the King to all nations as these Gentile (even pagan) priests from the East came to visit AND worship the Messiah. Matthew through the Holy Spirit thought it was significant to begin his Gospel account by writing about these gentiles and how God ultimately accepted their worship.
The Significance of the Gifts
I think there is something important in this story… before we can truly give our gifts and talents to the King, He first desires that we offer them as an act of worship. Then there is also significance in the gifts themselves. Offering gold, frankincense and myrrh do have a symbolic meaning to them.
What Can We Learn From the Magi?
So, what can we take with us today? The Magi knew they were in the presence of a King and we see this simply by the way they inquired about him (We come seeking the King of the Jews) and how they approached him (they knelt down and worshiped him) and by the costly gifts they brought him. Unlike the Magi, we do not need to come to the king and offer kingly and expensive gifts to the Lord of lords; the only thing God desires from us is that we give ourselves as living sacrifices (offerings) to him and. We can understand that by giving ourselves to Jesus fully we are offering the greatest gift God desires from us… ourselves. In return his presence or Spirit in us is indeed the greatest gift any of us can receive this Christmas season. We are confirmed once again (as I have made it very clear in the previous sermons) that Jesus is not an exclusive Messiah who is only to be worshiped by the Jewish people, the privileged, the powerful and the pious. He is the King of all nations both Jew and Gentile have the honor and privilege of worshiping the humble Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He is the Savior of all who come to worship him and put their complete faith in him. We see that if God accepts the worship of Pagan Priests who offer themselves fully to him, He will accept worship from us who comes to the manger and the cross to worship him.
As I conclude today, I leave you with a question today… Do you have the attitude of Herod who considers himself the only worthy and rightful king of your life? Herod wanted nobody else but himself on the throne and nobody else but himself in charge. Are you like the Jewish Chief Priests who even though they knew the Savior was coming, he ignores this truth and goes on with business as usual? We know he never fully acknowledged that Jesus was and is the True Son of God? He was hard-hearted and an enemy of the Savior. Or will you be like the magi and will leave all behind and seek after the King and Savior and offer to him the greatest gift you can give (yourself) as a means of worship and offer yourself to him in humble adoration? Will you acknowledge that He is the true King of your life and worthy of all praise, adoration and worship?
 Nolland, J. (2005). The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 108). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wood, D. R. W. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary (713). InterVarsity Press.
Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Mt 2:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
Nativity: Simeon & Anna
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday December 15th, 2019
Today is the third Sunday of Advent and we are getting closer and closer to Christmas. It is during this time that we both look back at the greatest gift God has given to his people, which is Jesus Christ. It is also during this time that we look forward in anticipation for the day when Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom here on earth. However, in his second advent he will not come back as a child born in a humble manner to peasant parents, instead he will come back as the great and sovereign warrior King above of all kings and Lord over all lords.
In the past two weeks we have looked respectively both Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds and the Angels and the roles they all played in the first Advent of Jesus Christ. So far, we have looked at Jesus’ humble beginnings and the impact these beginnings have had on that first Christmas day.
Today we will continue to look at two individuals who played a role in the Christmas story, but they are not usually associated with the Nativity. However, both play a significant part in having a better understanding of the purpose of the Christmas story. Some of you may not recall these individuals at all, but I assure you the part they play in this story is significant and we can learn much from them. In our passage today we are introduced to and elderly man named Simeon and an elderly widow named Anna. Their story is told in 15 short verses in Luke chapter 2 and then we do not hear about either one ever again. Since their is story is short and they are never referenced again I have found that the preparations for today’s message a bit challenging, but in the end I believe that what we can all learn from these two elderly people should encourage us, because it is a reminder that God is never fully done with His children no matter what age or stage of life you are in.
Read Luke 2:21 – 38
Vs 21: “When 8 days were completed… circumcision.” – According to Jewish custom and Old Testament Law a male child was to be brought before the priest and circumcised.
(Read Genesis 17:12, 13)
Circumcision – (Hebrew Muwl) – To be cut off.
Vs. 22: “days of purification” – when a child was born a mother went through a time of ritual cleansing.
(Read Lev. 12:1 – 8)
Vs 23: “As written in the Law of the Lord” – Jesus’ parents were practicing Jews
(Read Deut. 15:19)
Vs 25: Simeon – We do not know much about Simeon, but here are some things we do know about him.
What We Know About Simeon (2:25 – 35)
Both Simeon and Anna were living in patient hope, where suffering had become a way of life.
How Can We Live in Patient Expectancy?
 Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Lk 2:25). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
 Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 830). San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Nativity: Shepherds & Angels
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday December 8th, 2019.
We are in the second week of our series titled “Nativity”. In this series we are looking at various people who played significant parts in the Nativity story. Last week we looked at Mary and Joseph and this week we are long at the shepherds and angels. We are going to have a little fun with this message today as we answer these questions Who are Angels and Shepherds? What do they do? What do the Shepherds and Angels tell us about Christmas? We will look at both groups individually and then look at them both together.
Read Luke 2:8 - 20
Who are the Shepherds?
Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations in history. It is believed to have had its beginnings about 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. In many societies shepherding was important to the economy. On the other hand, the occupation of shepherding was also considered a lowly job. Shepherds were often looked down upon as lowly and insignificant people. They were largely nomadic and lived solitary lives away from society.
The duties of a shepherd in a country like Palestine were very difficult. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “In the early morning he (the shepherd) led forth the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, seeking diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Nor did his labours always end with sunset. Often, he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief.” 
Why Did God Bring the Good News to the Shepherd’s First?
We are not certain why God chose to reveal his message of hope and salvation to the shepherds. We do know that Jesus is often associated with shepherds, shepherding and sheep throughout the N.T. and this is significant because…
What/who are angels?
There are hundreds of passages about Angels in the Bible (34 out of 66 books contain references to Angels) yet we still don’t know much about them. The word Angel in both Hebrew and Greek means “messenger”. This is what we do know about angels are that they are created beings (Psalm 148:1 – 5) that are sent to minister to God’s people (Hebrews 1:14) in various ways (one instance Acts 5:19) but they are specifically sent to serve God’s people for his purposes.
What Do Angels Do?
If Angels had a job description what would it be? What purpose do they serve and why are they so important?
They Proclaim – In many, if not most, instances their job is to announce or proclaim. For example, they…
They are agents of God’s Judgment – Carryout God’s judgment (Matt 13:39 – 41)
They Praise and Worship God – In addition to proclaiming one of their primary jobs is praising and worshiping God.
They Protect & Guard
Angels in the Bible
The Bible speaks of there being an innumerable or multitude of angels. We do not know the exact number that resides in heaven and on earth we only know it is more than we can fathom. In fact, Jesus mentions in the Gospels having access to thousands of Angels to rescue him at his call. Here are some Angels mentioned in the Bible.
Cherubim (Cherub) – First mention of angels in Bible. They were Angels who were placed with a flaming sword at the Garden of Eden to guard the tree of life.
Gabriel – This is the Angel in the Advent story who brings news to Mary about her son who is the coming Messiah (Luke 1:26 – 38). He comforts her and assures her that she has found favor with God. He also tells Joseph not to “put Mary away” because the son she is carrying is indeed the savior of the world (Matt 1:20).
Angel of the Lord – Spoken of often in the O.T & appeared to the shepherds announcing birth of Christ. This is the heavenly being sent by God to deal with men as his personal agent and spokesman.
Michael – This is the Archangel or the chief angel who fought with Satan over the body of Moses (Jude 1:9)
Satan – An angel who was once good but sinned against God and was cast out of heaven (Ezekiel 28 & Isaiah 14)
Abaddon/Apollyon – The word Abaddon is often translated “The Destroyer” he is the angel of bottomless pit who reigns over the realm of the dead. (Revelation 9:11).
What Do the Shepherds & Angels Teach Us About Christmas?
The Gospel – The Angels were the first to share the Gospel and the Shepherds were the first to receive the Gospel. This proclamation of the coming Savior of the world was something even the angels had been anticipating since Creation. We established earlier that Shepherds were not highly regarded in society and for unknown reasons Shepherds were not allowed to testify in court, yet God chose them to be witnesses of the birth of the Savior of the World. This is significant because in this we see Jesus is for everyone – He is not a King who primarily works for and defends the rich, mighty and powerful. Jesus is a King for everyone, including the average and ordinary person like you and me. He is a King who defends and loves the lowly and unlovable. His beginnings were humble, and his death was as well.
Faith – Christmas is a time where we can reflect on the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ that God gave to us and to anticipate eventual return. We see in the shepherds their great faith. They knew something was special about this baby – The Shepherds encounter with the Angel convinced them to leave the place where their sheep were and guided them to the town of Bethlehem. I am sure they didn’t really know what they were looking for, but they knew an angel proclaimed this good news to them and they set out to search for this baby who is slated to be King.
Praise & Worship – When the angel visited the shepherds, we are told that the glory of the Lord shone around them. After proclaiming the news and the sign that would follow a multitude of angels appeared and praised God. The shepherds encountered Jesus and they left changed men. They met the infant savior and when they departed they praised God what they heard and saw. We see this throughout the life of Jesus. Whenever anyone had an encounter with Jesus they left changed in some way. This should be true for us today. If you have encountered Jesus how are you changed? When you came to saving faith in Christ did you receive a new heart and become a new creation in Jesus? If Jesus hasn’t impacted your life in some way, then maybe he hasn’t impacted your life at all.
Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton's Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Lk 2:1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 Taylor, J. B. (1996). Angel of the Lord. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman, Ed.) (3rd ed.) (37). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Nativity: Joseph & Mary
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday December 1st, 2019.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. We have now “officially” entered the Christmas season! This is a special time for many, but for western believers we celebrate and observe the time leading up to birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The word “Advent” is derived from the Medieval Latin word “Adventus” which means “coming” or “arrival”. Advent begins four Sundays before December 25th and it is a time where we celebrate the first Advent of our Savior Jesus Christ when he came to earth the first time and it is also a time that we prepare ourselves for the eventual and imminent return of Jesus Christ. As believers we should always continually prepare AND celebrate the arrival of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but it is during these four weeks that we spend time focusing on and preparing ourselves for the coming of our King.
We are all familiar with the Nativity scene and story. One would be hard pressed to travel down any main street of a large or small town and not see at least one manger scene depicted in someone’s front yard, business or church. However, the nativity is much more than a nice story to tell our children and it is certainly much more than a collection of lighted up plastic figurines strategically placed in a wooden stable that gathered around a little baby that is placed in front yards.
For Advent this year I would like to take the next four weeks and look in depth at four key elements of the nativity. For the next four weeks we will look at the accounts of …
Why Protestant Christians Don’t Talk Much About Mary?
It is rare that one hears many sermons about Mary in Evangelical circles. There are many reasons why evangelicals don’t.
So, Why is Mary So Special?
I think when we look at the biblical accounts of Mary, we can easily conclude that Mary is indeed a special woman. She is special for many reasons and they are as followed…
The Virgin Mother – The virgin birth is an important doctrine and teaching in the Christian faith. The immaculate conception (as we call it) is a staple in our foundational beliefs because it was prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 that the Messiah would be born of a virgin mother, “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” There is only one Jesus that is presented in the Word of God; and that Jesus did not come into the world by ordinary means, but he was conceived in the womb of the virgin by the Holy Ghost. This is what Scripture teaches… “The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
The Mother of God – A title for Mary is Theotokos, the “God-Bearer,” this is a title for Mary as the Mother of God. Sometimes we forget the years up to Jesus’ ministry, we forget she was the mother who cared for the physical needs of Jesus the boy. She was the one who cared for him and who nurtured and taught him in the ways of the Lord.
She trusted & worshiped God – Mary’s Magnificat (Song of Praise). Read Luke 1:46 – 55 is one of the most beautiful songs of praise in the Bible. This song shows that she, in faith, consented to God’s plan. She knew God would protect her like he did the other women in the lineage of Jesus.
She submitted to God - She fully understood what she was taking on. She knew her fiancé could potentially divorce her, her reputation would be marred, her son would be ridiculed and ostracized and she knew the potential and the consequences of being accused of adultery in this Jewish society. Yet she accepted the call and submitted to God. “For nothing will be impossible with God. I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:37, 38
She witnessed the Crucifixion - Not only was she present at the birth of the Savior but she watched in horror as the mob of people tortured, ridiculed and murdered the man she called son. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” John 19:26, 27
She was the first to be informed of Jesus’ resurrection – The angel tells Mary Jesus is resurrected. “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” Mark 16:1 - 3
She was present at Pentecost - Acts 1:14 “ They all were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” Mary was present at Pentecost so she witnessed and probably experienced the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the believers that day.
Matthew 1:18 -25
Joseph & Mary: Two ordinary people chosen for God’s extraordinary purpose
Did Mary Know?
How Should Evangelicals View Mary & Joseph?
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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