“All Eyes are On Jesus” Matthew 2:1-11
The way Matthew tells the story of Jesus birth reminds me of a scene out of family favorite Christmas movie, Home Alone 2. Little Kevin is singing with his big brother, Buzz, in the school Christmas presentation. During a part of a song where Kevin has a solo part, Buzz plays a prank on him, taking the battery powered candles and holding them behind his ears. Kevin discovers it, turns around and pushes Buzz, who falls backward off the riser, causing a chain reaction where all 50 kids fall off the risers. This causes large Christmas tree sets on stage to fall forward, knocking the matronly piano player backward completely off the stage, and the only one left standing is little Kevin. It’s hilarious. It’s the worst children’s musical mishap ever. You’re thinking, “this child caused all that commotion?” Some in the audience are laughing, some are horrified, and his parents are getting ready to have THAT conversation.
And that’s true of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth. There’s lots happening! To set the scene, Jesus has been born and placed in a manger. The shepherds have come, seen the child and gone back to the fields rejoicing with the good news and the anticipation of a changed world. Now, months have passed and magi from the East, come to look for the child, but are intercepted by Herod the Great, ruler of Jerusalem, before they get there.
All eyes are on WHERE the child is, and WHO the child is.
While Jesus (and Christmas) draws the attention of many people from many backgrounds, it is their response while they are searching that distinguishes people from one another.
Jesus (and Christmas) bring us together, but to differing responses.
Some are thrilled, some concerned, and some are just watching to see what happens. No account illustrates this more than Matthew 2.
Some are disturbed by Jesus. “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” v. 3 Let me introduce you to Herod, the Great. Reigning from 37 BC – 4 AD, he was an interesting and frightening ruler. Half-Jew because his father was an Edomite who’d converted to Judaism and half Idumean, he rose to power due to his father’s good friendship with Julius Ceasar. He was actually appointed to his position by Mark Antony.
This guy has what A-list celebrities have – connections. There’s history here.
He rebuilt Solomon’s Temple after it’s destruction in order to appease the Jewish population, but he was a wicked ruler who struggled with depression and paranoia.
The historian Josephus said when he was on his deathbed that Herod ordered a large group distinguished men of Jerusalem to brought to Jericho and executed at the moment of his own death so that someone would actually mourn when he died. And we think OUR political opposites are messed up people. He’s one insane dude.
Magi arrive looking for Jesus, and this comes to Herod’s attention. Think through this - there must have been quite a few in this entourage from the East for it to get the attention and cause a stir in this city of more than 500,000 people. He’s troubled, and you know enough about Herod by now to know that if Herod ain’t happy, nobody is happy. So, HE’S disturbed by Jesus’ birth, and everyone else is terrified about what he’s going to do. Surely most of us aren’t much like Herod but there are some things common to all humans.
We like to control our own future. Herod had his own plans for the future, and the phrase, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” bothered him badly. I can see him thinking out loud, “This is my city, my territory. I’m the king.” I hear people saying that all the time. “I like Jesus, but nobody is the boss of me.” They are like the little kid who says, “My mom is a nice lady, but she’s not the boss of me – right now.” Jesus was born to be KING. And, yes, He’ll sit on the throne and rule your life – one way or another.
Some of the Jews had this same issue – they weren’t sure about this child just yet. His birth (of a virgin) his placement (in a manger) didn’t look promising to them yet.
By the way, the reason most people who know about Jesus do not want to follow Him is because of this – they want to live their own lives and do not want another to reign over them.
We like to eliminate what we can’t control. King Herod was so insecure, so disturbed, that he hatched not just ONE plan to eliminate Jesus, but TWO.
“…report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” v. 8b
Nobody was buying that. Certainly not the wise men. Herod wanted to eliminate Jesus. We know this because of His second attempt a short time later. Called the “slaughter of the innocents,” Herod ordered soldiers to kill all the male Hebrew babies in the region (v. 16), but the angel warned Joseph “Get up! Take the Child and his mother and flee to Egypt…for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” v. 13 Jesus and his family remained there until Herod died. Herod is doing what human nature does – he is trying to keep Jesus as far away from him as possible.
In the end, of course, He meets God face to face, as we all will. He doesn’t bend the knee to worship Jesus just then, but he’ll bend the knee to acknowledge Him as Lord in the days ahead. We will all do that.
There’s another group in this story – though not as dominant to the text.
Some are waiting for Jesus. This is evident in v. 4-6, when scribes and scholars of the Old Testament are asked about the birth of the Messiah. These are Jewish people who lived in this area. They have been waiting for years for the Messiah to come. The chief priests and the scribes are simply repeating what the prophets have said in answering Herod’s pointed question. The prophecies have given hope for them and some are desperately waiting for the Messiah to be born. The answer to Herod’s question was a prophetic answer, and powerfully accurate.
The prophecy in verse 6 is a paraphrase of Micah 5:2 and pinpoints the birth of the Messiah to Bethlehem of Judea – just five miles away. Matthew is validating this fact. It is also a fact that Bethelem, which means “house of bread” was also the birthplace of King David, and it is entirely logical that the Messiah, having descended from David’s line should come from the same city, Bethlehem. It’s such a small place today – a largely Arab city with 200 households. But in that day, this prophecy provoked HOPE in those who were waiting.
One of my favorite messages I’ve ever preached was out of 1 Peter 1:10-11. “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”
Peter’s reminder of how prophecy impacted people is powerful. People were looking and waiting for a Messiah to come and they were searching diligently. Micah 5:2 is just ONE prophecy among hundreds pointing to Jesus. I know there are doubters out there who cannot fathom how all this works together. They have not met Jesus personally, and they’ve not done the research or read the record. Some are waiting for something but it’s random waiting, not the kind of waiting that keeps you watching.
But the prophecies point the way and show us where to look for this Messiah.
Let’s remember a few of them.
Prophecies concerning His Birth
Given: Isaiah 7:14 - “The Lord…will give you a sign; Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a Son…”
Fulfilled: Matthew 1:18, 24, 25 “…she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit…Joseph…kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son.”
Prophecies concerning His lineage
Given: Isaiah 11:1 – “A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse…”.
Fulfilled: Luke 3:23, 32 “Jesus…the son of Joseph…the son of Jesse…”
Prophecies concerning His Birthplace:
Given: Micah 5:2 “But as for you, Bethlehem...from you One will go forth for Me to be a ruler in Israel…from the days of eternity.”
Fulfilled: Matt. 2:1 “…Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…”
Prophecies concerning the Timing:
Given: Daniel 9:24-26 “…from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah…there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (of years)…”
Fulfilled: Mt. 2:1 “…Jesus was born…in the days of Herod the king…”
Prophecies concerning His Sufferings
Given: Psalm 22:16-18 “…they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me. They divide my garments…”
Fulfilled: Luke 23:34-35 “…And they cast lots, diving up His garments…and the people stood by, looking on.”
This is not all. There are Old Testament Prophecies concerning His gifts, nature, miracles, names, zeal, ministry, parables, entry into temple, riding the donkey, betrayal, responses, piercings, crucifixion, his bones, prayers, rejection, clothing, cry, darkness over land, burial, resurrection, ascension – and they were ALL fulfilled in Christ.
Peter Stoner, in a mathematically and scientifically accredited book, describes the probability for the fulfillment of just EIGHT prophecies. “The chances for any man might have lived and fulfilled just 8 prophecies would be 1 in 10 to 17th power. That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.” If we take that many silver dollars and lay them face down, they’d cover the state of Texas 2 feet deep. Have you ever driven across Texas? If you marked one of those silver dollars, stirred them up, and blindfolded a man to turn him loose, planted him in any spot in Texas – and told him to pick up the marked silver dollar – he’d face the same odds in finding that coin as the prophesies presented for one man to fulfill them. (Lee Strobel – Case for Christ)
Every single prophecy of the Messiah has been fulfilled in Jesus.
If you’re waiting for a Messiah wait no longer!
He’s not an imposter who wormed his way into prophecy.
He’s not a fable created to get a following.
He’s not a random stranger who rose to greatness.
He’s not a figment of religious imagination.
Jesus was placed by God the Father in the perfect place at the perfect time in the perfect way through the perfect lineage to live a perfect life and die a perfect death so that we might have eternal life.
If you’re waiting – wait no longer – your MESSIAH is here!
Some are searching for Jesus. After being questioned by Herod and given orders to return to report back if they find him, they actually see Jesus. v. 9-11
This is what they’ve been searching for! This is why they’ve come! The magi are a big part of this story. They are a priestly caste of Medes and Persians from the East – they are dream interpreters, astrologists and astronomists – they are students of the stars, looking for wisdom.
Have you ever stared into the starry night – have you ever put your eye to powerful telescope to see the details of the planets. Have you ever seen the alignment of the big and little dipper, Orion, and the others? Can you look into that gorgeous sky and NOT think about its creation – and its CREATOR!
Some will say, “What did those guys know? They were ancients!” These ancient magi were wiser than those today who think the planets and the solar system started by themselves and by chance. And they were searching for the Creator.
They have come from a long distance to worship. v. 1 Estimates as to how far they traveled are varied, but it seems prudent to say they at least traveled for WEEKS to get to Jesus. One historian said they traveled for 2 years. Whatever the distance, they were diligent, determined seekers of the truth. They desperately wanted to know the Creator of the Universe.
Are you diligent? Determined? Are you desperate to know God? I’m sometimes stunned by how little we prioritize what they placed first.
They’ve been given direction from God along the way. This was not a chance trip, but one they’d been looking to make for some time.
“…we saw His star in the east…”. v. 2 The star indicated to them that something was about to happen. This wasn’t an ordinary star. It was unique in many ways, but first it was shining in such a way these men knew it was time to make the trip. They could have been studying OT prophesies as the scrolls were available. They would have known the general times were ripe. Knowing the prophesies meant they would have looked for the star mentioned in the book of Numbers. “A star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel…” Numbers 24:17 As this star begin to rise in the night as they were searching the heavens, they were convinced it was time to make the trip.
This wasn’t just any star. “…and the star…went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the child was.” v. 9 It was brighter than all the rest. It traveled and moved ahead of them. It rested over the area where Jesus was. It manifested itself to them. It’s NOTICABLE, it’s MOVABLE, it’s CONTROLLABLE. I’ve concluded over the years that this star was as brilliant and as focused as the shekinah glory that came down over the Holy of Holies and God often demonstrated His direction by fire and by brilliant light. How else can we conclude the movement, the focus, the attention that drew the wise men, but no others to the scene?
This star reminds us that God reveals Himself to those who are seeking Him! He will reveal Himself to YOU! God can speak to you in almost any way if you’re searching. Many years ago, one of my friends in grad school, Johnson Lee, told me the story of his conversion to Christ. He’d come to America from Korea and was struggling with purpose and meaning in life. As a non-believer, he knew about Jesus but had never had an encounter with Him. One day, while driving down the highway, He did what others have done – he asked God for a sign. As he drove, the very next sign on the highway was the exit sign for “Johnson Road.” Taking the exit, he found nothing but a crossroad, a stop sign and empty fields, but he sense God telling him, “Johnson, this is your exit, your crossroads and your stop sign. It’s time to trust Me.” That day, Johnson said, “I came to Christ, and I’ve never looked back.
From a distance that story sounds strange, but not any stranger and more unusual than a baby born of a virgin prophesied hundred and thousands of years beforehand, wise men who’ve come hundreds of miles because they were led by a moving star only they could see coming to rest over a baby Messiah.
Listen, God will do what He needs to do to bring you to faith. Search for him desperately, look for Him to show up and communicate. He’s there!
They have come ready to worship. “…opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” v. 11 Literally, they fell to the ground and worshipped Him. Look at that posture. Look at that surrender! These dignified Magi from the East left it all on the floor of that place! Gold was fit for royalty, frankincense was suitable for a priest and myrhh was the symbol of suffering and death. ALL significant gifts for what was ahead for Jesus. Even their gifts were prophetic messages to us today.
These men started on a fact-finding mission and ended in worship.
This OFTEN happens. Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel are two notable authors who started out to disprove the biblical view of Jesus, but soon became convinced followers of Christ.
Some are oblivious to Jesus. “…the magi left for their own country by another way.” v. 12 We don’t know what happened next. We simply know that they went back to their country and as they did, they passed village after village filled with oblivious people who were not waiting, not watching or searching and not even disturbed. They didn’t know. And that’s still true today. Do you know whose job that is? That’s OUR job today – WE are the ones called to tell others about the Jesus we’ve seen and known.
What does Jesus bring out of you? Are you troubled? Waiting? Searching?
Thousand-year-old prophecies coming to fulfillment. Moving stars that only a few can see. Mysterious wise men coming from a distance with gifts fit for a king. A murderous tyrant who can’t find a baby to put him to death. God warning people through dreams. Religious leaders who are stunned when Scripture comes to pass. All eyes are on Jesus.
Thoughts from John Meador and insights from God's Word.