The Entrance of the King
Pastor Arn Buck
Heart Song Worship Center
As we see God interact with us it sometimes might seem that He is haphazard. God is never haphazard in anything that He does. If he was, He wouldn't be God. His plans and deeds reflect His wisdom. Things might appear as haphazard due to our inability to comprehend ways. In the midst of a trial His interaction with us sometimes appears to be confusing. When that trial is complete and we look back on it, we can then see how wonderful His plan was.
The Bible is full of examples of God's wisdom. All that He sets out to do comes to pass. His plan to redeem fallen mankind was announced right after the fall of man. It was foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament by typology. It was predicted by the prophets with complete accuracy. He carefully set the stage first one of the most significant events in history. We can observe His wisdom and the detail of His planning by looking at some of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem to fulfill Old Testament prophesy. God, being faithful, will always be true to His word and promises.
Micah 5:2 (NLT) But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.
By saying that Jesus was born in Bethlehem to fulfill prophesy, it doesn't address the question of why Bethlehem? God could have made His entrance into the world any place He chose. He could have made a grand entrance through the ruling family in a great city. Yet He chose a humble family in a small town. What is the significance of Bethlehem? It appears that God likes to have depth and dimension to what He does. Bethlehem in Hebrew is Beth-lechem. It means the house of bread. Considering that name isn't this a perfect birthplace for the true bread of life to enter the physical world? The second part of the name "lechem" signifies flesh. It refers specifically to the part of the sacrifice that was burnt upon the altar. With these two definitions in mind, let's look at how Jesus describes Himself in the following passage. Jesus taught this is at the synagogue in Capernaum.
John 6:48-51 (NLT) Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh."
Manna was food provided by God to the Israelites while they were in the wilderness. As any other physical food it provided a limited amount of energy. It had to be eaten every day to sustain life. Even though they ate manna, each of them eventually died a physical death. Jesus as the bread of life is sustenance for our spiritual life. He has the power to sustain us past our physical death and onto eternal life.
At the end of verse 51, Jesus brings together the concept of the living bread and the sacrifice of His flesh. He knew that the sacrifice of His physical body upon the altar of Calvary was necessary for Him to become our life sustaining bread. This passage shows in Jesus' own words how the name of the town that He was born in reflected His core purpose for coming into this world as He did. He came as the sacrificial lamb and the bread of life to redeem fallen mankind. Although Bethlehem was a small, insignificant town in man's eyes, its name was well suited to re-enforce purpose for coming to earth.
Praised By Shepherds
The shepherds outside of Bethlehem are the first group of people to learn of the most important birth in recorded history. God chose them to witness one of the most magnificent displays of heavenly glory portrayed in the Bible. It showed that although few in the physical world was aware of the significance of the birth, it was truly a major event in the heavenly realm. Is it a stark contrast to the blindness of Israel.
Luke 2:8-20 (NLT) That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger." Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others-the armies of heaven-praising God and saying, "Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased." When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
In Biblical times Shepherds were typically hired hands to watch flocks owned by others. They often lived with the flocks and protected them from wild beasts and robbers. At times they were could find themselves traveling to isolated areas in search suitable pastures. Their profession sometimes kept them physically distant from the mainstream of Jewish society. In this sense they were not unlike the poor and the sick who were isolated from society and especially from the religious leaders. In this sense they were not unlike the those that Jesus sought to minister to. Knowing the hypocrisy the religious leaders, Jesus sought sincerity in the hearts of the social outcasts. The acceptance and worship of the shepherds is representative of the acceptance of Jesus by the outcasts and His rejection by mainline Jewish society.
Because of it's proximity to Jerusalem many experts believe that some of these sheep were raised to be sacrificial lambs for the temple. If this is true they were quite an appropriate to view the newborn Lamb of God who would become the perfect sacrifice to end all sacrifices.
The Magi Pay Homage
To establish authority it fitting for a king to be acknowledged by others of royalty or high importance. To accomplish this God led Magi from the east to pay homage to Jesus. Although many speculate about them, the scriptures provide little evidence to support these claims. Although tradition says that there were three wise men, this is not stated in the Bible. The view is based on the number of gifts that they brought. Their title as Magi supports that they probably came from outside of Israel. As He did with the shepherds, God was foreshadowing Jesus' rejection by the leaders of Israel. A common theological view states that God used the Magi to show Jesus' future acceptance by the Gentiles.
Whoever they were, they had to be convinced that Jesus was a great king. Although it was a sign in the heavens that caught their attention, their knowledge of Jesus must have been imparted to them through the Holy Spirit. They acted upon their faith. Their decision to travel to Bethlehem exposed them to the hardship and dangers of travel. Travel the trip would be uncomfortable, it would take a great amount of time, and it would be quite expensive. They were led to Him by a star.
The Magi gave expensive gifts to Jesus acknowledging Him the King of the Jews. The gifts that they presented are believed to have special significance. Gold because of this value is believed to be a gift for royalty. Frankincense was thought to be a gift for deity because it was one of the ingredients in the incense that was burned in the Holy of Holies. Myrrh was a spice used to anoint a body for burial. These gifts show that God had given the Magi a special revelation concerning Jesus.
God doesn't do things just for show. To properly pay homage and worship Jesus it was important that those doing it were sincere about what they did. This prevented God from using the local ruler, King Herod the Great, to do this. King Herod not only outright rejected Jesus' authority. He was intent on destroying Him. In fact it was likely that the gifts from the Magi provided the finances for Jesus' family's flight to Egypt to escape Herod. The Humility of God The strength of God's love for us can be shown by His willingness to shed His godly powers in order to become a man. This was necessary for two reasons. Firstly, He had to live a sinless life in order to be the unblemished sacrifice for the redemption of fallen mankind. Secondly, He had to be an example to us. He had to show us how to be one with the Father - to show that it was possible. In order to do this He had to expose Himself to temptation, He had to make Himself dependent on guidance and empowerment by the Holy Spirit just as us.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
When we pray to Him we can be assured that He not only listens to us and that He knows, first-hand, the difficulties that we face each and every day. His victory should give us hope. We are truly blessed to have a God who has demonstrated His love for us in ways that we could not have imagined.
We looked at some of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus we saw that even the name of the town He was born in had significance to Jesus' mission. He is the bread of life. He could only become that by sacrificing His flesh at Calvary.
We looked at His wisdom in announcing Jesus' birth to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem. It was important for God to have earthly witnesses to such a major event in His plan. The group that He chose to reveal this to represented the ones who best received Jesus during His ministry to us on earth. It was the outcasts of Jewish society. It was those who realized that they had a need for Him.
We also saw how he used the Magi to acknowledge the royalty of Jesus. God made that fact so clear to them that they were willing to make a long and perilous journey to pay homage the Newborn King. They brought expensive gifts that were fitting for a king. They represented the future acceptance of Jesus by the gentiles. This single act would have a major impact on history and the governments of the world.
We finally saw who God demonstrated His great love for us by giving up His godly powers. His willingness to endure hardship and suffering shows how important it was to renew His relationship with us. He became like us to be an example to us on how to be one with the Father and how to be fully obedient to God's calling.
Postscript - The Non-threatening Baby King
Many people feel very comfortable with the image of the baby Jesus in a manager. He is non- threatening to us. How could such a cute little baby endanger us? To many it is comforting to see God in a form that is weaker and less capable than us. This is especially true for those who have not repented of their sins and surrendered their life to Him.
Romans 5:8-11 (NLT) But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God's condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
On our path to salvation we must reach a point where we see God, not as the helpless baby in the manger, but as threatening. We must see Him as a holy righteous judge who has every right, all authority, and all power to judge us and condemn us for our sinfulness.