Monday, January 9, 2012

Every Knee shall bow

Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV)
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, [2] saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." [3] When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; [4] and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. [5] They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

[6] " 'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.' "

[7] Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. [8] And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." [9] After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. [10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. [11] And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. [12] And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Epiphany, It was on Friday, the twelve days of Christmas being over, the feast of Epiphany starts with the visit of the Magi, which so many associate with the story of Christmas. I thought I’d preach on it, because I always like the text, every once in a while it does fall on a Sunday. Not this year. And they had the Baptism of Christ as the theme for today instead. But I like the text for epiphany and so we are observing it today. The text always fascinates me. It’s an appropriate text for Epiphany, as it must have brought with it an Epiphany for many. Epiphany meaning revelation. It is during this season we pay most attention to Christ’s earthly ministry. His child hood is normally covered with the twelve days of Christmas, 1 day for each year before he showed up in the temple, before his Bar Mitzvah. At least, I think that is the reasoning behind the twelve days of Christmas. Advent through Easter the church concerns itself with following the life of Christ in a somewhat chronological fashion, somewhat. Epiphany is about his revelation of himself to the world, and people coming to know that he is Christ, that he is God, the almighty God.

Now the events surrounding the visit of the magi, in these is a peculiar Epiphany. Some two years after Jesus is born, (we assume two years, because after ascertaining the time when the start appeared in the east from the wise men, and it takes time to travel, Herod slaughters all the children 2 and under.) Some two years after Jesus is born, wise men show up, to worship Jesus and offer him tribute.
Of course things like this had been prophesied and even foreshadowed in the Old Testament, events such as the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon was just one such foreshadowing of the event that occurs here, but will finally find it full fulfillment in the return of Christ on the last day, when every knew shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Sheba bows to the wisdom of the Lord that so far out does the wisdom of the world, the wisdom that God gave to Solomon. Yeah, want to know why I love Ecclesiasties? Because the wisest man in the world wrote it as a treatise on attaining happiness in this world, and what he writes seems like foolishness, but it’s the best advice a man can get. Basically it says, quit looking for the meaning of life, and start enjoying it you idiot. Sheba bows. She bows to the wisdom of God.

Now wise men from the east, they come, they bow. And on the surface it makes no sense. What has this child done, that sorcerers, magicians, necromancers, and astrologers, the priests of pagan gods, and practitioners of the black arts for which the Old Testament demands death, what has this child done that should command their attention? Oh, but these men know. These men were not stupid. Today we discount such hocus pocus almost out of hand. No investigation is really ever done to see if these people can do what they say. And its more probable than not that that lady you talk to on the phone at 3 dollars a minute, is a complete charlatan blowing smoke where the sun don’t shine. But that all such claims are bogus is not one a believer in the Bible can make. And there have been occurrences in my own life that give me pause for thought. But I think of Balaam, and the witch of Endore, and numerous other occurrences in the Scriptures, and I’m left with the belief that some of these people do in fact channel demons, and are capable of doing things otherwise impossible. When my friend Robert Bennett returns from Madagascar and Haiti telling stories of exorcism that make your hair stand on end, I listen. But there is a peculiarity to it all. In scriptures, the practitioners of the black arts, whether Pharoh’s priests, Balaam or the which of Endore, they know the true God. They don’t believe mind you, not in the sense of Christian faith, they believe in the manner of which the book of James speaks of the demons, “the believe God is one and tremble.” The wise men, the magi, knew God had visited. I can’t help but to think it was totally compulsory for these men, but they came. They knew what this child had done, this child had created this world, which he now came to inhabit. This child, they knew is God. This child is king of kings, Lord of lords, God of gods. And being wise they came to worship and bow down.

But more than that, these men then knew that here was their savior. They know he is the one to whom in the end every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the God who commands the heavens to send a star to mark his coming. He is the God who saves his people. He is the God who dies for you and I, That we might know the forgiveness of sins, that we might confess long before it is too late, taking the example of those who are wise, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Yes this Lord who commands the worship of foreigners, of gentiles, is Lord of us gentiles, because he purchased us, with a sacrifice giving an aroma more pleasant than that of Frankincense, with a death that defied the embalming of Myrrh, and blood more precious than gold.

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