Faithful Seekers of the King
Adult 1 Sunday School Class Matthew 2:1-12 December 24, 2017
Theme: People often search for the best ways to honor someone they look up to and revere. How can we best honor a special person? The magi traveled a great distance from their own country to Bethlehem to give gifts and pay homage to Jesus, the child born King of the Jews.
Understanding and Interpreting the Scripture (responses are in bold print)
Please explain the meaning or significance of the following verses
* Matthew 2:1, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” This verse sets the stage of where Jesus was born and identifies Herod as ruler, and the conflict that would ensue between the two. Herod was not Jewish, his father was an Edomite and his mother, was an Arabian. He was installed by Rome to maintain order among the Jewish subjects. Herod was a murderous and paranoid tyrant who was suspicious of everyone, even among those in his own family. The “east” referred to Babylonia, Arabia and Persia. The “magi” saw this astronomical phenomenon that would lead them to the birthplace of Jesus. Magi were people who mixed black magic and astrology and were looked down upon by God’s people. The magi were used by God to save Gentiles from their futile religion.
* v.2, “Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” King of the Jews was a title given to Herod by the Romans, and Jesus called King of the Jews set up an unintentional conflict. These wise men were learned scholars who studied the heavens and interpreted its changes. They concluded that this star (heavenly phenomena) would lead them to the birthplace of the Messiah. God used the magi’s pagan superstitions to draw them to Jesus. They came to see where the Christ child lay and brought gifts to worship and revere Him as the new born King. This brought Herod and his people out of a spiritual slumber with the wise men; and caused them to think about the meaning of an everlasting God. Remember, that it was foreigners who understood that the Messiah had come, after first seeing the star.
* v.3, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod, the paranoid and suspicious king, was troubled at the hint that a king was born. He had spent considerable time and energy to have the Israelites view him as king, and didn’t know how his people would respond to this event. He realized this was a threat to his monarchy.
* v.4, “And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.” Herod called the chief priests and scribes who knew the OT scriptures that might identify where the Christ child would be born.
* v.5, “And they said unto him, in Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,” The chief priests knew from the OT (Micah 5:2) that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, even though in later years these same priests would oppose His teachings. The priestly opposition is foretold here by the fact that they did not accompany the magi to worship the Christ child. Knowledge of the Scriptures does not guarantee that your heart is right with God.
* v.6, “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel,” The word “least” indicates that although Bethlehem was considered smaller, not as important, and not the historical relevance of Jerusalem, it was significant as the birthplace of David, and now the Messiah. There are some similarities brought out by the word, “least”. David was small in stature, yet appointed king; David’s father thought of him as of no consequence, yet like David, Bethlehem was not by any means the “least”. The verse says that someone substantial will come out of the City of David who will emerge as chief among leaders who will rule Israel. The Greek word for “rule” indicates the He will feed His sheep. This eventually will not only include Israel, but for all people.
* v.7, “Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.” Herod, “inquired of them diligently”, means that he wanted to know specifically when and where the Christ child would be born. It was more of an interrogation than a questioning. The phrase “what time did the star appear” indicates he wanted to fix the time of birth so that he could kill all children born about that time (Matt 2:16), in hopes of eliminating the Christ Child.
* v.8, “And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.” Herod plays nice with the magi, and tries to use them to accomplish his underhanded goal to seek and destroy the Child. Herod’s desire to worship the Christ Child was the epitome of hypocrisy. These actions illustrate the lengths that evil doers will take, to undermine the work of God.
* v.9, “When they had heard the king, they depart; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.” The star led them to the place where Christ lay. Just as the light of the star lead the magi to Christ; the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding is the light that will lead us to Christ to fulfill His purpose in our lives.
* v.10, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” The star was not seen while they were speaking with Herod, but after they left the king, it appeared again, and they rejoiced. It was the star that they had seen back in their homeland and they were filled with joy with this confirmation.
* v.11, “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” When the magi visited Jesus, he was in a house, which intuitively indicates that the shepherds visited Him first in a manger. They presented Him with gold symbolizing Jesus as king; sweet-smelling frankincense for burning in worship and prayer for Jesus; and myrrh the embalming spice, for Jesus the crucified Savior. The magi symbolize reverence for Christ, treasure represents assets which they had, and gifts represents sacrifice which they made in coming there.
* v.12, “And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” The Lord spoke to the magi in a dream to save them from being a part of Herod’s plan. Through divine intervention the Lord directed them to not return to Herod, but to return home another way.