December 25 – Matthew 2:1-12
Main focus: Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s promises to us.
In the past four weeks of Advent, we’ve seen how Jesus is greater through the stories and lives of biblical persons. The significance of his birth and life far surpasses any man or woman who has or will ever exist. This week, we reached the climax of the Advent season and the entire story of Scripture. Every biblical person we’ve studied this Advent season has reflected Christ, displaying how Jesus is greater. All of God’s word has pointed to this moment, and what a joy it has been to celebrate the birth of Christ!
Year-end giving is a big deal for us since every year a significant portion of our yearly budget is given in the last six weeks of the year. Earlier this year we transitioned to a new giving platform: Online Giving. Still need to switch over? Want to review past gifts or need to update your giving information? Head over to vintagenc.onlinegiving.org.
We begin this week with Matthew 2:1-12, where a group called wise men followed a star to find Jesus. The identity of these wise men is unknown, but it is most likely that they were scholarly Gentiles from a region north of modern day Iran. We also don’t know for certain how these wise men knew that this unique star was pointing to a king or someone worthy of worship. The best guess we have is that it was by special revelation from God that the wise men saw and were prompted to follow the star.
Next, we see Herod the Great enter the scene. Herod had two big problems as king. First, being the Roman puppet king of Judea, he represented to the Jewish people the ongoing occupation of their homeland by a Gentile empire. But second, Herod wasn’t even Jewish. He was an Edomite born from the line of Esau, not the line of Jacob, from whom the Davidic heir would be recognized by the Jewish people. Understandably he was unsettled by this news from the wise men about a promised king. The Greek word written here in Matthew for “Christ” means “anointed,” or to Herod’s ears, “Herod’s rival” (Matt. 2:4). As we’ll see, Herod will go to any length to hold on to power with an iron grip.
These wise men shared with Herod the words from the prophet Micah, which we touched on in the first week of Advent (Micah 5:2). Herod then asks them how long it has been since they first saw the star and does some quick math to figure out how old this new rival is. Herod tells the wise men he supposedly wants to visit and worship this new king, but skimming ahead we’ll see that he desperately wants to kill this new king. Matthew 2:13-18 tells of Herod’s horrific orders to slaughter all males under two years old in that region, in turn fulfilling the prophecy from Jeremiah 31:15. In discussion, this will help us see the stark contrast between his threatened response to the birth of Jesus and the faithful response of the wise men.
After this, the wise men continue following the star until it brings them from Jerusalem, south to Bethlehem, directly to Jesus. If you know your astronomy, you might know that stars and planets move from east to west, not north to south. Quite clearly this ‘star,’ or whatever astronomical phenomenon it was, was guiding and directing them to worship the newborn king. Here we can see the sign from the Lord to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah (Isa 7:13), signifying the birth of our Lord Jesus.
And this sign takes them not to a palace, or a manor, or any other building in which you might expect to meet a king. It takes them to the small house of a poor family from Nazareth. Matthew 2:6, an echo of Micah 5, gives a beautiful insight into the lowly origins of Christ’s birth and is worth reading again:
“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.”
In the ancient world, the family and place in which you were born defined who you were and what you would become. But the Son of God chose to be identified with the most modest in society. How beautiful is it that our savior comes from a meek birthplace and associates with the least, the lost, and the lonely? Particularly in comparison with the cruelty of Herod, we see the gentleness and compassion of Jesus the Greater King. The arrival and birth of the Messiah display God’s mercy, kindness, and love for His children in not sending a harsh dictator but a gentle and kind advocate.
• Can someone read Matthew 2:1-12?
• What stood out to you in this passage?
• Skim ahead to Matthew 2:13-18. Why do you think Herod reacted to Jesus’s birth this way?
• In what ways do you think you are inclined to resist or be suspicious of Jesus’s rule and reign in your life?
• How has Advent helped you see the goodness of Jesus’s rule and reign?
• Through our Advent series we’ve seen how the whole Bible anticipates the coming of Jesus. How does this affect the way you view and read all of Scripture?