We Have Come to Worship Him
(Part 2 of 5 part article, by John Piper)
Continuing…. There are at least five truths that Matthew wants us to see in this story about Christ and worship
1. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews, and Should be Honored as Such.
Verse 2 announces clearly whom this story is really about: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” It’s about a newborn child destined to be King of the Jews. Now, in itself that would not be a very great thing. Somewhere alive in America today there are probably three or four children or young people under the age of 18 who are going to be President of the United States some day. But nobody really cares about this, or sets out to find them or honor them.
But verse 4 makes clear what the magi really mean by “King of the Jews.” It says, “Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Herod had been called “king of the Jews” by the Senate in Rome for almost 40 years. But no one called him Messiah. Messiah means the long-awaited God-anointed Ruler, who would overcome all other rule, and bring in the end of history, and establish the kingdom of God and never die or lose his reign.
We don’t know how the wise men got their information that there was such a king coming. But it is clear that Herod got the message: these fellows are not searching for a mere, ordinary, human successor to me. They are searching for the final King, to end all kings. And, of course, unlike Anna and Simeon in Luke 2, that is the last thing Herod was looking for. He didn’t even know the simple Scriptures about where the Messiah was to be born.
So he asks the scribes, and the one text that they focus on is Micah 5:2,6 “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.” Now that doesn’t sound very extraordinary either. The reason is that the only purpose for which the scribes quoted the text was to answer Herod’s question: Where? And the answer is Bethlehem.
But what if Herod had asked them, “Who?” They might have read on in Micah 5: “(2) His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. . . . (4) And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.” So this king is not just coming into being in the womb of his mother Mary. “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Or, as John’s Gospel says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). And this king would not be limited in his realm to Israel. “He will be great to the ends of the earth.”
That’s the first truth and this is why worship is on their mind! And it leads us to the second truth in this text about the Messiah.
2. Jesus is to be Worshiped not just by Jews, but by all the Nations of the World, as Represented by the Wise Men from the East.
Notice that Matthew does not tell us about the shepherds coming to visit Jesus in the stable. His focus is immediately on foreigners coming from the east to worship Jesus. Verse 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, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?'”
So Matthew’s Gospel portrays Jesus at the beginning and ending of his Gospel as a universal Messiah for the nations, not just for Jews. Here the first worshipers are court magicians or astrologers or wise men not from Israel but from the East – perhaps from Babylon. They were gentiles. Unclean. And at the end of Matthew the last words of Jesus are, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”
This not only opened the door for us gentiles to rejoice in the Messiah, it added proof that he was the Messiah. Because one of the repeated prophecies was that the nations and kings would, in fact, come to him as the ruler of the world. For example, Isaiah 60:3, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” So Matthew adds proof to the messiahship of Jesus and shows that he is messiah – a King, and Promise-Fulfiller – for all the nations, not just Israel. For us, not just Jews. (Part 3 tomorrow)
(Friends: If I had been the one to come up with a name for the day Christ was born…I probably would have named it “Christforus-mas”) 😊