We Have Come to Worship Him
(Part 4 of a 5 part article, by John Piper)
There are at least five truths that Matthew wants us to see in this story about Christ and worship…con’t with Truth # 5:
5. Worshiping Jesus Means Joyfully Ascribing Authority and Dignity to Christ with Sacrificial Gifts.
There are four pieces to that definition of worship, and all four are grounded in this text.
First, I see the magi ascribing authority to Christ by calling him “King of the Jews” in verse 2: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?”
Second, I see the magi ascribing dignity to him by falling down before him in verse 11: “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.” Falling to the ground is what you do to say to someone else: you are high and I am low. You have great dignity and I am lowly by comparison.
Third, I see the joy in these ascriptions of authority and dignity in verse 10: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Now this is a quadruple way of saying they rejoiced. It would have been much to say they rejoiced. More to say they rejoiced with joy. More to say they rejoiced with great joy. And even more to say they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And what was all this joy about? – they were on their way to the Messiah. They were almost there. I cannot avoid the impression then that true worship is not just ascribing authority and dignity to Christ; it is doing this joyfully. It is doing it because you have come to see something about Christ that is so desirable that being near him to ascribe authority and dignity to him personally is overwhelmingly compelling.
And the fourth part of the definition of worship here is that we do our ascribing with sacrificial gifts. Worshiping Jesus means joyfully ascribing authority and dignity to Christ with sacrificial gifts.
Now we have learned in this series on worship that God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25). So the gifts of the magi are not given by way of assistance or need-meeting. It would dishonor a monarch if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages. Nor are these gifts meant to be bribes. Deuteronomy 10:17 says that God takes no bribe. Well, what then do they mean? How are they worship?
The gifts are intensifiers of desire for Christ himself in much the same way that fasting is. When you give a gift to Christ like this, it’s a way of saying, “The joy that I pursue (verse 10!) is not the hope of getting rich with things from you. I have not come to you for your things, but for yourself. And this desire I now intensify and demonstrate by giving up things, in the hope of enjoying you more, not things. By giving to you what you do not need, and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, ‘You are my treasure, not these things.'” I think that’s what it means to worship God with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
And so may God take the truth of this text and waken in us a desire for Christ himself. May we say from the heart, “Lord Jesus you are the Messiah, the King of Israel. All nations will come and bow down before you. God wields the world to see that you are worshiped. Therefore, whatever opposition I may find, I joyfully ascribe authority and dignity to you, and bring my gifts to say that you alone can satisfy my heart, not these.”
Conclusion…Part 5…Monday 😊