This sermon is part of our Inescapable series. Inescapable is a 12 part series that studies the Gospel of Matthew and its messages. You can watch all 12 here.
Last two Sundays we walked through the cosmic glory and authority of Jesus and this morning we will look at the sustenance Jesus brings into our life, because I think, now more than ever, we are experiencing a spiritual famine.
In John 6 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” so that today, in our culture, and around the world, we have more access to physical food than any point in history, but we are struggling to know how to feed our soul.
We have spiritual hunger but we turn to electronics, entertainment, vacations, shopping and there’s nothing inherently wrong with those things but like a meal at Chipotle, they burn right through us. Right? As a result, we don’t know how to feed our soul.
We are uncomfortable with silence. We are uncomfortable in relationships. Most of the time we don’t know how we feel, much less able to articulate how we feel or what we think to other people, so that we are spiritually anemic.
This morning we are going to turn to a passage that is really familiar with our culture, it’s a passage that is typically studied around Christmas but at the heart of our passage is that people are spiritual beings who are spiritually hungry and Jesus is the only One who can satisfy that craving. Let’s look at Matthew 2, verse 1:
Matthew 2:1-2, “1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
In Matthew 1 we see the genealogy of Jesus, we see the promise of Jesus and in chapter 2, verse 1 we see Jesus is here.
Jesus is born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is a real location on planet earth and Bethlehem is really significant for two reasons.
First, the fact that the promised Savior would be born in Bethlehem is a promise made in Micah 5, 700 years before the birth of Jesus. We will touch on Micah 5 in a few verses.
Second, Bethlehem is the most unlikely of places for the Savior to be born. There was a time when Bethlehem was a big deal. King David was born in Bethlehem. The name Bethlehem means “House of Bread,”” because of its proximity to bountiful fields of harvest in the area.
There was a time when Bethlehem was a symbol of Israel’s dynasty. Bethlehem was a strategic fortress, but throughout Israel’s history Bethlehem has become a shell of itself.
Bethlehem is like that town you drive through in Texas where there used to be a thriving population but now it’s neglected buildings with a gas station that is closed.
So that the gospel of Matthew is written to Jewish audience, who is living under the occupation and oppression of Rome. The people of Israel are not in a good place. The people of Israel would have definitely been in a spiritual famine, so that the phrase “magi from the east” would have been the shock and awe of our passage. Do you see it?
In our culture today when you see the nativity scene there are the “three wise men.” We don’t know how many magi are present. There are three gifts given, so we assume three magi but we don’t know. The “magi from the east” are the three wise men.
The “magi” are non-Jewish people. The “magi” are coming from outside of Israel. The “magi” are this mix of educated elites and spiritual advisors.
The “magi” are the same type of people who opposed Moses in the Prince of Egypt. The “magi” are the same type of people who opposed Daniel in the book of Daniel, and Matthew is describing the “magi” as a people who have come to worship the promised Savior.
Just so we are on the same page, when you see the word “worship” it means to bow down before God. It is to make the God of Scripture your primary purpose. It is to give the God of Scripture your life, so as to say, “I will follow you, I will live for you.” And it’s coming from the “magi from the east.” What? Look at verses 3-4:
Matthew 2:3-4, “3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.”
The word “troubled” means stirred with uncertainty. The phrase “all Jerusalem” is a reference to the people of influence in Jerusalem, so that in verses 3 and 4 we see people, influential leaders in Israel who would have known about the promise of a coming Savior, and it says, “They are troubled.” That’s weird!
First, these are people that would know promises of a Savior throughout the Old Testament. We talked about them in Matthew 1 with 2 Samuel 7, “One will rule on the throne of David for eternity.” Genesis 12, “One will come through Israel that will bless the nations; all people of the world.”
We aren’t typically familiar with those promises today but there are there are over 300 Old Testament promises of a coming Savior.
In fact, these promises are so familiar, “magi from the east” knew about these promises. We don’t know how the “magi from the east” knew about the promises of a Savior. It is likely the “magi” were exposed to Old Testament Scriptures through Israel’s Babylonian captivity described in books like Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel.
(If you remember Israel begins with Abraham (Genesis), strengthened with Moses, established with David, but after King David Israel is split into two kingdoms and eventually conquered and taken captivity by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and eventually Rome, so that God’s promises of a Savior are known.)
I think sometimes we might think all these promises of a Savior might have been a secret code people had to figure if you squint your eyes and read the bible backwards but every Jewish boy and girl would have been raised knowing what the Savior will look like, where He will be born, what He will do, so that Matthew 2 is filled with anticipation, “He’s here.” Look at verses 5-6:
Matthew 2:5-6, “5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
In verses 5 and 6 the priests and the scribes respond, “In Bethlehem” because they know the promise of Micah 5.
Micah is an Old Testament prophet who goes around calling out the corrupt religious leaders of his day and says, “One day a Savior is going to come, He will rule His people as a shepherd in grace and truth, and you will know it because He will be born in a little town of Bethlehem.”
What should be the response? Worship! Joy! Herod, the influential people of Jerusalem, the chief priests and scribes.
These are a people who are spiritually starving. The promises of a Savior have arrived. The people should be rejoicing. Look at verses 7-8:
Matthew 2:7-8, “7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”
Spoiler alert. Herod doesn’t want to worship Jesus. First, Herod the king wasn’t really a king. Herod was the son of high-ranking official, an enemy of Israel and ultimately functioning as a puppet for the Roman Empire who is oppressing the people of Israel.
Herod is historically known for executing his brother-in-law, wife, mother, and sons and for power and control, which is why Herod and the influential leaders are troubled in verse 3.
We touched on this last Sunday. The birth of Jesus is never presented as just a good philosophy to follow. The birth of Jesus is always presented as God in the flesh who is worthy of our worship.
Just as the magi from the east came to worship Jesus with gifts, so that the gifts are a symbol of giving Jesus our prized possessions, giving Jesus our life, because Jesus is worthy of our worship.
Listen to me, Jesus is full of love, comfort, mercy and warmth, and those characteristics are true, Jesus invitation is to abandon all things and follow Him.
In Matthew 8 Jesus says, “Let the dead bury the dead, follow Me.” Matthew 10, “Abandon anyone that comes between you and Jesus.” Matthew 19, “Sell what you have and follow Me.” John 14, “I am the way, truth and life, and no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Jesus is not only calling us to follow Him but our souls will only find sustenance and satisfaction when we follow Jesus. How many times do we spend hours binge watching a show only to feel exhausted? We’ve been laying down for hours and simply watching something and were exhausted!
How many times do we come back from a vacation and we feel like we need another vacation from the vacation? How many times do we find ourselves in a new romantic relationship and for the first 3 days it’s euphoric but then you have to work on conflict, work on communication, work on finances? How many times do we find ourselves in the career of our dreams only to become bored?
Are those not all signs to our soul that we are longing for something more? Are those not like the blinking lights on a dashboard of our soul saying, “Maintenance required?”
I have been walking with Jesus for 30 years and I have never once become bored in my faith in Jesus. It doesn’t mean I don’t have frustrations, I don’t have set backs, I don’t have season where He feels distant but I’ve never thought, “I wonder if there’s something better than Jesus?”
I didn’t grow up going to church. I didn’t grow up around people who talked about Jesus, so I know what it’s like to be in a spiritual desert. I know what it’s like to be spiritually dead. I know what it’s like to go through life in darkness and once the lights turned on through faith in Jesus, I never want to go back to the darkness.
You know those moments when you are trying to navigate a room in the dark? You know those moments when you get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and you are just hoping you don’t step on something or some monster doesn’t grab your foot from under the bed? It’s horrible!
But then someone turns on the light. Now you can see. Now the dissonance of your soul starts to subside and it’s because of Jesus! Through faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, life started to make sense. And I think it’s possible that some of us could say, “Michael, I have confessed with mouth that Jesus is Lord but I don’t know if I can say I have found that same hope?” Look at verses 9-10:
Matthew 2:9-10, “9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Sometimes get really excited about the start in verses 9 and 10 but I don’t think the star is the focus. Maybe the star is angels glowing that the shepherd saw in Luke 2? Maybe the star is a comet flying through the sky? I don’t know.
I think the focus of verses 9 and 10 is that the “magi from the east” show up rejoicing exceedingly with great joy.
Herod and all the influential leaders of Jerusalem are troubled. Chief priests and scribes seem to be indifferent. But the “magi from the east are rejoicing with great joy. The word “exceedingly” in the original language means “great” so that the phrase in verse 10 is “rejoiced greatly with great joy!” Which means a lot of joy.
It means the magi are pretty excited, so that we need to ask ourselves, “How do these magi from the east show up to worship Jesus with great joy” but not these other people. Does that make sense?
The chief priests and scribes would have been people who were saturated in God’s Word. The chief priests would have been the ones who knew God’s Word forwards and backwards and yet there is this disconnect for the chief priests and scribes. Does that make sense? What happened?
First, we can be encouraged that the God of Scripture draws all types of people to Himself, right? Praise God! It doesn’t matter where you are born. It doesn’t matter your family background. It doesn’t matter your moral character. The God of Scripture is alive and is drawing people to know Him, even the “magi from the east.”
It’s because we are spiritual beings who hunger for spiritual sustenance, so that now more than ever I am seeing people in our city who are walking through our doors with phrases like, “I don’t know why but I felt like I needed to come here. I don’t know how to say it but I was longing for something more. I don’t know what all this means but I want to learn about God.” Like magi of old, “Where is He, I have come to worship Him.” Praise God!
On the other side of the coin we need to see, like the chief priests and scribes, we can be around religious habits, sometimes our whole life, and it not lead us to a place of worship.
We can sing the songs, we can read God’s Word, we can serve others, we can surround our soul with all the spiritual appetizers but never actually feed our souls on the One who says, “Anyone who drinks the water I give, will never thirst.” (John 4)
Over the next 12-months our church in Austin is praying for the Holy Spirit to help us become bolder and more courageous in our faith. We are challenging our church in north Austin to memorize God’s Word, increase in prayer, invest in people but we can go through all those steps and never strengthen our faith because first we need to give Jesus our lives.
It isn’t about church attendance. It isn’t about moral activity. It isn’t about anything other than giving our lives to Jesus, putting Him first, and following Jesus. That’s why we exist as a bible believing church in Austin. We want to be a people who place Jesus at the center of our lives and we want to help encourage one another to do the same.
If you are looking for a religious duty, then I am not sure this is going to be a great place for you, but if you want to stumble through life as we learn to give our lives to Jesus, then come with us. Look at verses 11-12:
Matthew 2:11-12, “11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.”
Can you imagine what that must have been like? One pastor wrote, “These magi have not seen any miracles from Jesus to convince their belief. These magi have not heard Jesus utter any wise words to convince their belief. These magi only see this baby on the lap of a seemingly insignificant woman, and they worship Him.”
I wish I could tell you, “Coming on Sunday mornings. Sunday Worship will satisfy your soul for the rest of the week.” Sunday morning is simply an invitation. So, let’s lower the lights. Let’s invite the worship team to the stage. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us give our lives to Jesus.
Memorizing God’s Word is an invitation. Talking to God is an invitation. Committing to a group of men and women is an invitation.
It’s like going to a restaurant. You need a table. You need chairs, some utensils, all those things are helpful but giving our lives to Jesus and following Him, that’s the meal.
Jesus is the One who has been promised throughout the Old Testament. Jesus is the One who lives a perfect life. Jesus is the One who not only takes our death at the cross, conquers that death in the resurrection, and promises one day, He will return and make all things new.
We will have people at the back to pray for you, pray with you. Take advantage of that opportunity.
North Village Church
This sermon is brought to you by North Village Church, a non-denominational church in Austin. established in 2009 and built around Jesus and Bible teaching.
Are you looking for a church in Austin? At North Village Church we put Jesus at the center of our church family. We worship together every Sunday at 10:30am, encourage Christ centered fellowship through groups, and host special events such as Bible studies and Theological Training, to ensure that we are rooted in in God’s Word. We also serve our local community in association with several Austin based organizations.
North Village Church is made up of professionals, married couples, singles, and families who are wanting to experience the life-transforming power of Jesus. If you are a family with children or teens, we can support you with either or both our Kids Ministry and Youth Ministry.
You are welcome to contact us if you would like more information.
Unable to attend this Christian Church in Austin? Don’t worry, because, through God’s provision, we have created NVC online, an Online Church streaming a worship service every Sunday from 10:30am Central Time. You can also watch our short, powerful sermons on demand and follow us on Instagram for daily Christ centered content.