Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Insights 4

Seeing The Invisible

Let’s go back to our Christmas Play again. We watch it every year. Joe and Mary have experienced the angelic visions—those guys (in most plays they are girls) in the super white robes with the halo above their head have told them both that the Baby is Jesus. Joseph and Mary get married, and then head out to Bethlehem. On the way, Mary goes into labor and Joe goes into a panic. He has to find a way to get Mary off that Donkey! They find an innkeeper who permits the young couple to stay in the barn with the animals, having to barter the price over the screams of the lady in labor. The baby is born. Above the manger is a star shining down a beam of light into the manger and lighting up the scene. They wrap up the baby and place Him in a manger filled with straw, and suddenly visitors start to show up. First the shepherds and the drummer boy, who are quickly followed by the three Kings from the Orient with their procession and gifts. They all bow to the Newborn Messiah and worship Him.

Great story. Just wish it was in the Bible. :) I truly do not know why, but when we began to produce Nativity Plays, we felt that we had to write a screenplay that did not agree with the book. I think we should put in our bulletins, “adapted from the Bible”, produced by J.J. HOLMAN. (if you did not get that joke, don’t worry about it) In the above scenario, the only thing truly accurate was that the shepherds did come and find the baby wrapped up in cloths and in a manger.

Today we are going to look at the Three Kings from the Orient.

1. How many Kings were there?
2. Were there any Kings at all?
3. Where did they meet Jesus and offer gifts?
4. How old was Jesus at the time?
5. What was the star?


First of all, the easy stuff, then I want to see a pretty cool practical application. How many Kings? Don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say. There were three gifts mentioned, and we know that there was more than one person giving them…so we surmise three, but that is just a guess. Also, they were not Kings. They were philosophers and astronomers. They had seen something in the heavens and concluded that it had to be a sign from the Gods.

Now, where did they meet Jesus? It was NOT at the stable. Jesus was about two years old, and was at home with Mary while Joseph was gone somewhere when they arrived, but He returned the next day. He was probably working. It was in Bethlehem, but by this time Joseph had built or purchased or borrowed a home to live in with his young family. Look at the Bible.

(Mat 2:1) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

(Mat 2:2) "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."

(Mat 2:3) When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

(Mat 2:4) Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

(Mat 2:5) They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

(Mat 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.' "

(Mat 2:7) Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

They saw the star the night Jesus was born, then it disappeared, this is why in a few verses they are filled with joy when it appears again. How long ago was it?

(Mat 2:8) And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."

This word, “Child”, is not the same Greek word as baby. This would be equivalent to our word, “Toddler”, and referred to a young child of around two years of age. It is used consistently through the passage. Then, notice how old the children were that Herod had killed, the last verse…two years old and under.

(Mat 2:9) After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

(Mat 2:10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

(Mat 2:11) After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


There is no mention of Joseph here. They saw the Child, who was most likely asleep at this time of the night, and His mother. They worshipped Christ, then left.

(Mat 2:12) And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

That night, God tells them to not go back to Herod. So, they circumvent Jerusalem on the way home.

(Mat 2:13) Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."

After they have had their dream, woke up and gone home the next day, Joseph has come home. He hears all that has happened and sees the gifts, then they all go to bed that night. The angel appears to him in a dream and says to get out of town before sunup and run to Egypt.

(Mat 2:14) So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.

Joseph wakes up, grabs his family and what little they can carry, and they take off in the middle of the night.

(Mat 2:15) He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON."

(Mat 2:16) Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.


So, here is how it happened. On the night that Jesus was born, there was a supernatural sign in the sky that God allowed a few wise men from real far off to see. They spent the next two years traveling in the direction of the ‘star’ that they had seen. Somehow, they had connected the dots and even though they lived a two years journey away, knew that it meant something to the Jews. They arrive in Jerusalem, discover that they are now seven miles from the two year old event. They must have still been somewhat discouraged, because there was an assumption being made. The baby was not recognized or known as the King, and had been born two years ago. How in the world would they know if He was in the village, and if so, how would they find Him? So..that night the star appeared again. They followed the star and went right to the house.


Now, I have an opinion about the star, and then we will see the application. I called this lesson, “Seeing The Invisible”. This title comes from what I believe about the star.

I do not think that the star was an actual cosmological star. I think it was the supernatural, spiritual glory of God. I actually think that there were only two groups of people in the world that saw this…the Shepherds and these wise men. I think that when the angelic host with the glory of the Lord all around them began to praise God in the Highest…this spiritual glory was seen by the shepherds…and by the wise men thousands of miles away. No one else.

Why do I think this? Well, a couple of reasons. What would happen in your town if in the middle of the night, in the sky, there was a light like the noon day sun (a Biblical description of God’s glory)? What would people do? Would 99% of the population of your town…and then again of all the surrounding towns, cities and villages…would 99.9% of the people simply ignore it? Yet this is what happened in this story. The shepherds saw the angel, the angels, and the glory of God…but nobody else seemed to know anything had happened. Only the shepherds went to find the baby, and they had to tell their story. No one said, “Oh yeah! I saw that light also!”

The wise men saw this ‘star’ (light in the night sky) and knew that it was a supernatural sign. They knew that it was sent from God. It was more than just a reading into the star chart…it made them take a two year journey.

But notice something else about the star. They saw it once, two years ago, then it vanished.

(Mat 2:2) "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."

They were NOT following the star. They had seen it. Past tense. Look at what the King asked…’When did you see this star?”.

(Mat 2:7) Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

Why was the King having to ask this? Why hadn’t anyone in the entire realm seen the star? Why were there no reports of celestial signs in Jerusalem?

And, if the wise men were following the star…then why would Herod need their help finding Jesus? It would be like a grand opening of a mall or something where the spotlights are scanning the sky…only in reverse. Just follow the spotlight and kill the kid. No problem.

Only, no one in Jerusalem had seen the star two years ago, and there was no star in the sky right now. That is why the wise men had to…

(Mat 2:8) And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."

The king did not say, ‘Keep following the star’. He said to go and look for the kid. There was no star to follow. Then a miracle happens.

(Mat 2:9) After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

The light in the sky was back! The star once more was in the sky…only more than that. It wasn’t a stationary light.

(Mat 2:9) After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

It was a start leading them. It had movement. They did not perceive a direction, like the North Star or the Southern Cross. This star actually moved ahead of them in such a way that they could follow it over a small seven mile journey. This is a pretty precise beam of light if it could lead them with such detail.

(Mat 2:9) After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

It took them to the exact house and shined down on it so they knew that they were there. But notice that no one else was seeing this. They were the only ones. Also, look at their response..

(Mat 2:10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

They knew that God was leading them. This was the same sign that they had seen and it thrilled them. But, there were no curious neighbors, no frightened villagers, no wide-eyed children, and no angry soldiers following the same spotlight. Why?

Because the wise men could see the spiritual. They could perceive the invisible. They could in this moment walk by faith and their faith had sight. I believe that for some reason, well the grace of God, He allowed this men to find the Savior and He led them to Jesus by this spiritual light of glory.

When you know Jesus, when you truly follow Him, then you too can began to see things…maybe not like this but you will begin to understand from a spiritual point of view, to see from spiritual perspective, to react from a spiritual desire, to live spiritually.

This Christmas, are you looking and walking by faith?

Joe

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