Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Troubled by Good News? (Matthew 2:1-3) by Librae Jackson, Deacon

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." (Matthew 2:1-3)

Why would anyone be troubled by good news? We’ll see, in this text, an example of such nonsensical reasoning. As a result of sin’s presence and influence in this world, human minds can indeed be so corrupt, as to be troubled by good news. It's a fact that many people are troubled, albeit needlessly, by the Gospel. In King Herod's day, there were some who were glad at the coming of Christ, and others who were troubled by it. In our day, there still exists a distinction between people: those who rejoice in the Gospel of Christ's kingdom, and those who reject Him.

Before we proceed with our main text, let's consider how unnecessary the consternation was, and is. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world on an errand of pure mercy and love. He came to rescue sinners from having Hell as their destination, and to prepare them for Heaven. He came to bring evil people unto their Holy God, in a full restoral of the peace that was lost, due to sin. He came to die for the ungodly, taking upon Himself the punishment for their crimes. He came to make wicked people righteous. Any way you look at it, this is good news - a precious gem; beautiful from all sides. And yet, this ultimate gesture of God's goodness is despised by many eternity-bound human beings, who'd otherwise benefit greatly from it. Who can understand such unreasonable insolence? Here's a portion of Scripture that we can rely on, to explain what seems inexplicable:

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:17-19)

This is an accurate description of everyone who hears and rejects the Gospel, as pictured by the reaction of King Herod to the news about King Jesus.

Wise Men Seek The Lord
In the 2nd chapter of Matthew, Herod and those in his kingdom had just heard about the birth of Christ, from three wise men, who travelled a long way, searching Him out. These wise men had heard about Him, who was "born King of the Jews" (v2), and were excited about this good news. They had apparently understood something that Herod and his pseudo-religious cohorts did not. Something was revealed to them that caused them to embark upon a journey to find Him. They enquired about Him with diligence. And when they found Him, they worshipped Him, and presented Him with gifts. Similarly, every believer, after hearing about King Jesus, begins a lifelong quest to seek Him. We follow that bright star (the light of Gospel truth) and seek Him, according to His word. And finding Him, we are lifelong worshippers of Him. This worship also involves offering Him the gift of our very lives, as we open the treasures He gave us, and render myriad forms of praise, devotion, honor and thankful service.

These three wise men in the text represent a wonderful picture of faith, and the wisdom that it exhibits! If any person on this planet can truly be called wise, he or she will be a seeker of Christ. We see, by the example of these three wise men, that wise people hear and believe the Gospel - so much so, that they seek The Lord.

This is in direct contrast to Herod and his people, who were troubled by the same news. But why? Why did the good news of Christ's arrival bring dread to Herod and his people in Jerusalem? They had the Scriptures that prophesied of Christ, and as Jews, they were supposed to have been awaiting the coming of the Messiah. Why didn't they rejoice, and see it as an awesome blessing, that the Christ would come in their generation?! Why did the Gospel, instead, disturb them? Why were they troubled?!

The wise men were not troubled! They were very enthusiastic (Matthew 2:10). The shepherds in the field were not troubled! They praised and glorified God for the good tidings of great joy that the angels proclaimed to them (Luke 2:8-20). Mary was not troubled! She magnified The Lord for His mercy and the fulfillment of His promise to Israel (Luke 1:46-56). Joseph was not troubled! He, himself, a "son of David," was also looking for the promise, and it was surely an honor for Him to, as the angel told him, name his stepson: "Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20-21). How wonderful that our God would have His name/identity wrapped up in the salvation of His people from their sins! And, indeed He is our God, having that other name, "Immanuel...God with us" (Matthew 2:23). This magnificent Person causes the heart of every believer to rejoice! The world of unbelievers may be troubled by the Gospel, but believers are not troubled! This is our hope of salvation and eternal life! This is the message that shows us how our sins are forgiven!

Christ “Has Been Born King”
This text in Matthew 2 gives us a small glimpse of what distinguishes those who would be King Jesus' willing subjects, from those who would persist to be His mutinous enemies. We've already sought to examine the rationale behind their bewilderment against Him, and were shown that an innate preference for sin, and love of their own darkness, causes them to resist the Light. Herod's example provides us with specific details that contribute to this point. Simply put, Herod was disturbed by the news of Christ, because Herod, at that point in time, was considered king of the Jews. There had been many Jewish kings, since Saul, but Jesus is the only one who was "born King of the Jews."

Herod did not rejoice in this good news of Christ's arrival because he viewed it as a threat to his own meager throne. The Scriptures clearly showed that the fulfillment of Christ's promised coming would be to the benefit of that entire nation (including Herod, if he'd only acquiesced). And yet, there was still dismay. This Gospel wasn't good news to those who were comfortable with their current ranks and positions, preferring temporal frivolity above eternal life. Although the Jews, at that time, were under the thumb of the Roman Empire, those of them, who had a little authority, thought themselves to be great. Herod didn't want to hear about another King, whom he would have to bow the knee to. He was satisfied with the carnal ease, privileges and esteem that came with being the "king."

Oh! What a picture of the natural man! We will not bow the knee to Christ, because we do not want to forfeit our own throne. We hear the Good News: the Gospel of Christ, and we say "we will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). We have sins that we do not want to let go of. We enjoy being the bosses of our own lives; the masters of our own realities. But how foolish are we to think that we can push God Almighty off of His throne! How futile are our efforts to retain our own fleeting kingdoms! How unwise are we to think that we do not have to acknowledge Him as our Master, to whom we must give account!

Herod Died
Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 2:19-20)

There was a day of reckoning for Herod. He would eventually (sooner than he knew) forego his throne and exit his kingdom. Moreover, he would leave his own body. In the end, all he had was his eternal soul. He could not take with him any of the wealth or status that he enjoyed, while on earth. Not one possession, nor position, could he carry with him to the other side. How foolish of him to live for those things, in light of eternity, and the consequences that awaited him.

Meanwhile, the Gospel continued to prosper. Christ would go on to fulfill His mission, and there was nothing that Herod, or any other enemy could do to prevent it. Despite mankind's revelry, the kingdom of God has been advancing and abounding for thousands of years. Our individual responses to the Gospel will continue to define each of our destinies. As in Herod's day, there will be wise people who kiss the Son of God, and there will be fools who experience the kindling of His wrath, having refused to bow (Psalm 2).

Which side will we be on, when death comes for us? There came a time when King Herod, like all men, had to die. As you're reading this, I implore you to take heed to this lesson. Don't be as Herod, who refused the good news about the kindness of God toward sinners. Don't be offended by something so glorious and helpful. Don't imitate Herod's pretense of worship. Be real with God, and get mercy. Don't retain a low regard for God's word. Don't even think that you can escape, by being indifferent. To do so, is to run the risk of your obstinacy, like Herod's, soon being discovered as all-out hatred. Don't leave this world, having been troubled by good news. You will die as you lived, and the good news will trouble you forever. You will endure the torment of regret, knowing that you refused the King's invitation to eternal life.

Right now, on this side of eternity, there is a chance for everyone alive to obey the words of King Jesus, who has pronounced this gracious message: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

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Heshimu Colar, Pastor

Heshimu Colar, Pastor
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