When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Hero, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:1-12
4 hours to Charleston? 8 hours to New York City? A day and a half to the Grand Canyon?
If you take a long trip, there’s should be a good reason. There needs to be! The goal is what gets you through endless cornfields, static radio, countless Capri Sun spills, Dramamine induced headaches, flat tires, and that wonderful sounds from the back seat: “Are we there yet?”
Some good reasons for a long road trip: To see family. To attend a wedding or a funeral. To visit a national landmark. To ride the Teacups at Disney.
What about visiting an infant that you’ve never met before from a family you’ve never met before that is definitely not expecting your arrival in the slightest?
This is the trip that the magi took. A trip over thousands of miles. A trip that took over a year. A trip on the back of a beast of burden. A trip without DVD players, cruise control, or Trivia Crack to entertain you on the ride.
Why would the Magi take such a trip?
Magi in the Greek refers to an astronomer. An ancient stargazer. Men like this were very scientific and used the latest technological advances to track star movements in the sky. Recently, the magi in question, had noticed a strange thing. A new star. A special star. A bright star. One that appeared to the West toward the land of Judah.
They packed their bags. They began their long journey. If they were riding on camels, I’m sure whenever they stopped at an oasis they bobbed up and down as they felt like they were still riding between humps. Why go on such a trip?
They came to Jerusalem and explained their visit. “Where is the one who was born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the East and have come to worship him!”
Doesn’t that still seem a little strange? King of the Jews. Why would they travel so far to meet a king from a different nation? To pay respects to their on king, sure…but to travel across the continent to visit a new king from a different country?
Do you know the name of the current Prime Minister of Canada? The leader of Australia? How about the governor of South Carolina? (Isn’t it someone from American Idol?) The truth is that we don’t usually care about government and governors unless they directly affect us!
The Magi must have been convinced that this king directly affected them. It didn’t matter that he was “King of the Jews.” It didn’t matter that the prophecy from Malachi said, “Bethlehem…out of you will come one who will be ruler over Israel!” It didn’t matter that seemingly an ‘earthly rule’ of this king wouldn’t come close to affecting their day to day lives. They were convinced that this baby born countries away from them would be their king?
1) MYTH: The Messiah is the Savior the Jews Only!
This idea flew in the face of a very popular myth at that time. The Messiah is the Savior of the Jews only. It’s easy to see why they might have gotten that sense from Scripture. Throughout the Old Testament, God operated though the Israelites. He did miracles in and among the Israelites. He made promises to the Israelites. Very easily the devil would get a hold of Israelite hearts and lead them to believe – God hated the other nations. God wanted nothing to do with the other nations. God was not the God of the Gentiles.
This is a big deal. Because Gentile means “someone who isn’t Jewish.” If you aren’t Jewish (and this would be true), then Jesus would not have come to save you!
What was it then that convinced these Gentile men to travel a long distance to visit a king of a country that seemed to be opposed to their very existence?
Simple. They saw the birth announcement.
It wasn’t on Facebook. It wasn’t Tweeted to them. They didn’t receive a postcard with a blue bubble gum cigar in the mail.
It was a star.
And how many people do you know that can create stars? We’ve got smart phones, smart TVs, and robotic limbs, but still not the technology to create stars in the sky – BOOM – just like that. Yes, if you pay thousands of dollars, you can buy the right to name a star, but humans cannot create stars.
Only ONE has the ability to create a star in the sky. Only one could be behind the intergalactic birth announcement. God himself.
This is huge. Because it was God who announced to these foreigners, these Gentiles, these strangers to the land of Israel, that their Savior had been born. It means God wanted them to know about this Savior. It means this Savior was their Savior. The God of the Jews, yes, but also the God of the Gentiles.
The book of Galatians talks a lot about this. In chapter 3 Paul wrote the following beginning at verse 7, “Understand then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham--the father of the Jews. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advent to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” This means the Magi. This means you.
Later on in verse 26, Paul describes what this inclusive Jesus means for you, “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus! If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise!”
Jesus is inclusive! He came for all people. He didn’t come just for the Jews; he came for the Gentiles. He came for you.
Of course, once you grasp and believe this awesome truth, it isn't long before the devil starts to trick you into believing a brand new myth about how Jesus includes in his love:
MYTH #2: The Messiah is the Savior of my people only.
My people could mean a lot of things. The people who like the same style of worship as I do. The people who like the same football team as I do. The people who go to the same church as I do. The people who have the same taste in clothes as I do.
The people who are of the same race as I am.
One sad thing we learned in 2014 was that racism is still very much alive in America. If it wasn’t from the big events themselves, then the bickering in the media, on TV, and in the comment section of blog posts revealed some very sad disconnects between races. Selfishness and even hatred.
But I don’t believe the saddest thing has even been covered…When this racism leaks its way into the eternal, saving message of Jesus.
Does it leak into your message of Jesus? If not verbally, subconsciously?
- There’s my new neighbor. English must be his second language. There’s no reason for me to go through the trouble learning their language to tell them about Jesus – they should learn my language!
- That guy is wearing turban. Ooh. There’s no reason for me to invite him to church. This message isn’t for him.
- That friend is a different race from me. I can’t invite them to our church. Our church is for my race. Their church is for their race.
Brothers and sisters, hear my heart: There is no worse racism than withholding the saving message of Jesus from someone, simply because they look different from you! If that is us, when that is us, we need to REPENT! Repent and turn to our Jesus who really is his own race: a divine race, a sinless race, a perfect race – he’s God himself and all people came from his creation. Asian, African, Hispanic, Native American, White…whoever from wherever, God created them, loved them, and died for them.
What does John 3:16 say? “For God so loved the world. The World. THE WORLD!!! That he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him, whoever, whoever, whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life!”
Jesus is inclusive. He is the Savior of all people. He wants us to reflect that.
MYTH #3: Someone Else Will Tell Others of this Inclusive Jesus.
Think about what told the Magi about their Savior. It was a star. Brilliant and bright. It was obvious to these men that this was a special star. God was shining that star so brightly that people from very far away knew that God had a very special message for them.
That star is no longer in existence. But…that doesn’t mean the light has gone out.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” He was talking to his disciples He was talking to you. Previously he used starts to point people toward Jesus. Now he wants to use you.
To continue Jesus says, “You don’t light a lamp and put it under a bowl.” That would be foolish. Similarly, you don’t learn about Jesus and then…not tell anyone! That’s foolish and you can’t expect others to learn about Jesus this way.
Shine. Shine in your actions. A smile. A hug. A gift card. A listening ear. These are things that speak through languages. These are things that speak to people - even if they are of a different race: YOU ARE LOVED!
That needs to be a goal of our this 2015. As a church we will to think of ways to reflect that truth – to speak to people with our words, our worship, and our actions – this is a church for you. You are included in his message of Jesus!
Shine in your words. Tell others about Jesus in your interactions. As Raleigh becomes more and more global, teach these global neighbors about the Savior you have in common.
You know those mission videos that show parts of Africa or Russia and how they need to hear about Jesus. Those are in our backyard. You can be a part of this! You can be a part of this now!
Take a look at your Connection Cards. On the back are some ways we are reaching out in 2015. Can you be a part of this? Some are simple. Some take some courage. All of them will be backed by the power of the Holy Spirit. The same God who put the star in the sky to guide the wise men, has put you on this earth to guide your neighbors.
Brothers and sisters, shine! Shine to tell of your Savior. Shine to tell of the Savior of the World. Shine together!
Have you ever looked up at the night sky and seen one star peeking out? One star gives a little light, but it’s not enough to see much without street lamps and flashlights. But if you head out into the country on a clear night – stars are everywhere! Many stars light the way easily.
That's us. Together we will light the way to Jesus. With our actions and words pointing people to the inclusive love of Jesus.