Mercy Over Anger – Sermon on Matthew 8:1-13 for the Third Sunday of Epiphany

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Matthew 8:1-13

When [Jesus] came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.”And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

centurion with a sick servantWhen he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.”And the servant was healed at that very moment.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

All the Scripture lessons today (2 Kgs. 5:1-15; Ro. 12:16-21; and Mt. 8:1-13) speak of both mercy and anger. Naaman, the commander of Syria’s army has leprosy and is mercifully healed by God through the prophet Elisha when he washes seven times in the Jordan. But, when Naaman first heard about how this healing would come, he was angry and wasn’t even going to do as God directed him through Elisha.

In our Epistle lesson (Ro. 12:16-21), we Christians are told to be merciful instead of getting angry and vengeful. We are told to not be haughty, but to associate with the lowly. We are told to not repay evil for evil and never avenge ourselves, but leave vengeance to the Lord. We are commanded to overcome evil not with anger but with good.

But the theme of mercy and anger is a little harder to notice in this Gospel text. Mercy is easy to see. Jesus is merciful to two men. First, to a leper who was physically and spiritually unclean but then receives better than he asks. And second, to a Gentile centurion who had a sick servant. This centurion, a commander of at least one hundred men, believes that even though he was unworthy to have Christ come under his roof our Lord has both the ability and mercy to speak a word from far away and heal his servant. So, you might be wondering, where is the anger in this Gospel text?

After Jesus praises the centurion’s faith, Jesus talks about the anger of those who spend eternity in hell. In the outer darkness, Jesus says people will experience only weeping and gnashing of teeth for eternity. That phrase “gnashing of teeth” is not some sort of torture, like an eternal dental procedure. “Gnashing of teeth” is a Hebrew expression of anger and rage. A person who is angry gnashes his teeth at the one who has made him angry. (You see this in Ps. 112:10and other places in the Old Testament.) You can watch this happen when children are angry with their siblings or peers. They clench their jaw, show their teeth, and growl. Hell is where anger and rage never go away and is never satisfied. And we need to consider this for a bit to see the horror of hell.

Those who are in hell insisted on going their own way in this life. They want to be their own lords rather than let God be their Lord. They insist that they be judged according to their own righteousness and merits (which is only a big, smoldering pile of scat anyway), and so they will be. They will be judged and condemned because their trust is in their own righteousness rather than in Christ’s righteousness won for them on the cross and given to them by God’s grace and mercy. And they will be angry with God because they think God has been unfair. In hell, people are given over to their own anger for eternity.

Jesus gives this picture in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt. 25:31-46). The goats are justly condemned to hell for their sins, but they are angry with God for not seeing what they thought were their plethora of good works. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk. 16:19-31) Jesus also shows how unbelievers grumble and angrily insist on their own way even when they are suffering. The rich man is in anguish and sorrow in hell begging Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers. Abraham says, “They already have Moses and the prophets.” In other words, they have the Scriptures, so they don’t need any further warning. But the rich man says, “That won’t work. My idea is better. Send Lazarus.” Even in there in hell, the rich man rejects the power and truth of God’s Word and angrily insists on his own way.

AngerHell is the place where people are given over to their anger. It is full of people whose pride has lead them to think that God owes them something because they are so good and righteous or because they belonged to the right club or had the right lineage. But they are wrong and so they are in torment stewing in their anger against God and there is no relief or release. All of that is the gnashing of teeth. So, when Jesus speaks of what hell will be, He gives a picture of darkness, sorrow, and anger.

Now, we need to consider this picture of hell as a place of eternal anger a bit because anger is so prevalent in our society. Anger is probably the most acceptable sin in our culture. We give in to it all too easily and quickly, but our expressions of anger reveal only our pride.

Someone cuts us off while we are driving, and we get angry. We sinfully think, “How dare that guy think he is so important that he cut me off like that?” Well, maybe he actually is more important. Maybe he is going to say goodbye to his dying relative.

Someone jumps into an empty line at the grocery store with a full cart while we have to wait holding only a gallon of milk. Or a coworker fumbles through a task leaving us to pick up the slack. Or our child forgets to do the chore we expected them to do and because of their absent-mindedness we end up behind schedule. We get angry because we see every inconvenience as an injustice against us. Our pride has been hurt, and we try to get even with that person or we take our frustration out on the first vulnerable target in our sights. In doing so, we act as though any hinderance to us is of cosmic significance. And our anger leads us to respond wrath and vengeance.

But by becoming angry – listen to this now – by becoming angry, we are stealing from God. “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says God. To give in to anger is to bring a little piece of hell upon yourself. In doing so, you hurt yourself and those you love. Your anger reveals your pride, and it is weakness. It is unhealthy and dangerous.

Repent. Let it go. Turn the other cheek. The Holy Spirit does not ever move you to anger. None of the fruits of the Spirit – neither love, nor joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, nor self-control – none of those have anything to do with anger. Instead, the Holy Spirit moves you to pity, compassion, patience, forgiveness, and mercy.

Now, pay careful attention here because this is the most important thing about this sermon. Mercy triumphs over anger. Consider Naaman in our Old Testament text. He went off in a rage when he thought Elisha’s prescribed ceremony was foolish. Naaman was a strong man, but we see that his strength was not in his military might rather in his humility and submission to the Word of God.

Same with the centurion in this Gospel text. While he had authority over many men and could order them around, he lacked the authority to make his servant better. He could not say to his servant’s sickness, “Go away.” And he lacked the authority to say to his servant, “Get better.” jesus-lamb-slain-silver-goldHe couldn’t do it because he didn’t have the strength or authority. The centurion’s truest strength was his submission and faith that Christ’s authority far surpassed his own. So, the centurion in faith and hope asks Jesus to merely speak the word, and his servant is healed at that very moment.

Dear saints, your Savior’s mercy is more than His anger toward you. Trust in that mercy. And when you are tempted to be angry with others, remember that God is just. He is just and merciful. May we, as His children, be like Him. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


Gifts and Mercy – Sermon on John 2:1-11 for the Second Sunday of Epiphany

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John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” wedding at cana water into wineNow there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have become drunk, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Notice first that John doesn’t call this miracle of Jesus a ‘miracle.’ It is, of course, a miracle to take somewhere between 120-180 gallons of water and turn it into wine in an instant. But John doesn’t call it a miracle, he calls it a ‘sign.’ And importantly, this is the first of Jesus’ signs and manifests His glory. This sign becomes the standard by which all other signs of Jesus are known. This sign shows how Jesus loves to give good gifts even when they aren’t known, recognized, or appreciated. And, therefore, this sign shows us how beautiful is Christ’s love and mercy.

Jesus attends a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Galilee is a region that isn’t all that important. The kings, rulers, religious leaders are mainly in Judah to the south. And Cana is a town that was so small and insignificant we still aren’t sure where it is – archeologists haven’t discovered it yet.

At that wedding feast, the wine had run out. Either those planning the wedding didn’t plan properly, or (and probably more likely) the guests had been too busy refilling their glasses. The master of the feast (and we’re going to come back to his statement) will say that the good wine that Jesus provides is a mistake because the guests have become drunk using the same word that the Scriptures will repeatedly warn against.

So, this first sign, this first miracle of Jesus isn’t like His other miracles in the Gospels where Jesus gives sight to the blind, makes the lame walk, gives hearing to the deaf, cleansing to the lepers, freedom to those possessed by demons, and resurrection to the dead. But this turning water into wine is not simply a parlor trick that Jesus does to impress people. It is an act of pure mercy. Jesus turns water into good wine for a bunch of people who already had wine.

Mary lets Jesus know the party has run out of wine. And Jesus doesn’t seem to want to get involved. But Mary has faith that Jesus will do what is good, so she tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Jesus could have told everyone the feast is over, pack up, and go home. But He doesn’t. His mercy extends far beyond our imagination.

Jesus tells the servants to fill six stone water jars that are there for the Jewish rites of purification. These rites of purification were an addition to God’s commands for His people to be clean. The Pharisees had a bunch of rules about washing before eating (see Mk. 7:1-5where the Pharisees will accuse Jesus’ disciples of not following these man-made rules). So, these jars aren’t there to hold drinking water. In fact, you probably wouldn’t want to drink water from these jars as much as you wouldn’t want to drink from a bowl of water that people had used to wash their hands.

Water into Wine at the Wedding in Cana.jpgJesus tells the servants to fill the jars with water, and they fill them up to the brim. And, at Jesus’ command, they take some of it to the master of the feast. The master tastes it, and it isn’t water anymore. It is wine. The master didn’t know. The guests didn’t know. Only Jesus, Mary, the servants, and the disciples know that this had been water miraculously turned into wine.

Now, we have to slow down for a minute and consider the words of the master of the feast: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have become drunk, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

Practically speaking, the master is absolutely right. You don’t waste the good stuff on people whose taste buds are numbed and who are probably going to throw it up anyway. You serve the good tasting wine first and serve the crummy wine when they don’t really care what it tastes like any more.

But in doing this, the master of the feast takes on a satanic role. And, I think (you can disagree) that is why John quotes the master of the feast. He is saying that there is a huge waste in giving good wine to people who cannot appreciate it, people who are going to abuse it, and to people who have been abusing it. You could almost say that the master goes to the groom and says, “You are some fool for giving people good wine when they can not appreciate it.”

This is what the devil says about God as God continually gives us His gifts of grace and mercy. Satan is enraged that God would love and forgive us who do not appreciate His gifts and mercy.

Cross and CommunionBut, dear saint, that is precisely the point. God is willing to give His gifts and mercy anyway. This isn’t a license to go on and sin because God will forgive you anyway. In fact, you are to abhor what is evil and hold to fast to what is good. Love one another. Outdo one another in showing honor (Ro. 12:9-11). And do all of that as you remember that God gives better than you deserve or appreciate.

Finally, remember that this sign occurs, as John says, ‘on the third day.’ This third day is the last in a series of days that John tells us about. The first day was back in Jn. 1:29where John the Baptizer says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Then, John says ‘the next day’ Jesus called His first few disciples. Then, this miracle occurs ‘on the third day.’ John could have kept his reckoning of time any way he wished. He could have said Jesus is proclaimed to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world on Tuesday; on Wednesday, Jesus gets His first disciples; and on Thursday, Jesus was at a wedding in Cana. Or, John could have just kept saying, ‘the next day, the next day, the next day…’ But John doesn’t. John is pointing us to the fact that this is ‘the third day’ which is a foreshadow of the resurrection. ‘On the third day,’ the day of the Resurrection, Jesus gives wine is not earned, deserved, or even appreciated to sinners who at best deserved to be told to go home.

Dear saints, you live in the time of ‘the third day.’ Jesus lives. The shadow is past. Your sins are died for and forgiven. The resurrection is now. The marriage feast has begun. The Holy Spirit is given. You receive the best wine and all of Jesus’ gifts. But it is still not what it will be.

Jesus will return. The trumpet will sound, and then the wedding of the Lamb of God will begin in earnest. And never forget that you are His bride, His beloved. Come and receive now what you have not earned, deserved, or can even fully appreciate. Receive it knowing that your Lord is not afraid to give it to you. His love reaches to the heavens; His faithfulness stretches to the sky (Ps. 108:4). Come and receive His gifts and mercy. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Exalted – Sermon on Matthew 3:13-17 for the Baptism of Our Lord.

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Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus' Baptism Spirit Descends13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”Then he consented. 16And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our texts today (both this Gospel lesson and the Old Testament lesson [Josh. 3:1-3, 7-8, 13-17]) bring us to the banks of the Jordan River. And to understand what is going on at Jesus’ baptism, we have to understand what happened in Joshua.

In that Old Testament reading, all the people of Israel are outside the land that God had promised to give to them. They had been waiting and wandering in the wilderness for forty years. Their leader, Moses, went up on a mountain to die. And Joshua, as God’s appointed man, takes over the leadership responsibilities.

Anyway, it is time to enter the Promised Land. So, God tells Joshua that He is about to exalt Joshua in the sight of all Israel so that the people will know that God is with Joshua as He had been with Moses. The priests who carry the ark of the covenant are to stand in the Jordan, and the waters of the river will be cut off from flowing so that the people can pass through on dry land. Just as God parted the waters of the Red Sea to lead God’s people out of bondage and slavery in Egypt (Ex. 14), God will lead His people through water into their own land.

The priests were carrying the ark and as soon as their feet are dipped in the brink of the Jordan (which, like our river here, floods its banks) the swollen waters stop flowing. The river stands and rises up in a heap. The people pass into the Promised Land near Jericho. And Joshua is exalted in the sight of the people just as God had promised (Josh 4:14).

So, what does this text from Joshua have to do with Jesus’ Baptism? Well, first the place is the same – the Jordan River, but there is so much more. Bear with me for a bit.

When John was out in the wilderness preaching and baptizing, he was there by the Jordan River – the place where God’s people entered their own land. Now, baptism is something that had been going on well before John ever started doing it. When someone who wasn’t a Jew converted and wanted to become part of God’s people, they would be baptized. The idea was that Israel had all gone through water to enter the Promised Land and become God’s people through their ancestors, so people who were converting would also go through water.

But remember, John was baptizing people who were already Jews. John is out there calling people back to their roots, back to the Jordan, back to where God brought them into their own land and made them a people. And they are being baptized ‘unto’ repentance (Mt. 3:11), confessing their sins, and receiving forgiveness. Sinners are going to John. They receive a baptism that is for sinners and brings about repentance.

Baptism of Christ - TheophanyTo that very place and in that very context comes Jesus Christ, our Lord. And what is He coming to do? He’s coming to be baptized!

John says, “No way! No sinner’s baptism for You.” But Jesus corrects John, and John consents. Jesus enters the waters of the Jordan. The heavens open. The Holy Spirit descends like a dove. And a voice from heaven says, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

There is a lot for us to see in those two verses (v. 16-17). But to get the whole picture, we need to hear what John has to say about this event in the Gospel of John(1:29, 32-34[it’s in your Scripture insert]). After Jesus had been baptized, John is hanging out with his disciples. He sees Jesus and points to Him saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John goes on to say how he saw the Spirit descend on Jesus and remain on Him after He was baptized. And John testifies saying, “This is the Son of God.”

So, here is the whole picture:

When Jesus, our great High Priest, was baptized, He stepped into the Jordan River. But the waters did not part like they did for the priests carrying the ark of the covenant. Instead, the heavens opened, and God proclaimed His presence in this world. And what is Jesus, our High Priest, here to do? He is here to be the sin-bearer.

All the sins of the people who had been baptized by John are there in the Jordan River. Jesus enters those waters. And as He is baptized, Jesus sucks up all those sins into Himself like a sponge. As Isaiah wrote, “[Jesus] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. The Lord laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:4, 6, 11). That is why John can say that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

As God lead His people through the Jordan to exalt Joshua in the sight of the people, God led Jesus (who shares Joshua’s name), the new and greater Joshua, and exalted Him by saying, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” And know why it is that God is pleased with His beloved Son. It is because He, in His baptism, takes on your sin. He takes on your sin so He can carry it for you. So He can bear it to the cross for you. So He can bear God’s wrath against that sin for you. So that He can die in those sins for you. And so that, when He rises from the tomb leaving it empty, your sin is nowhere to be found.

Baptism 2Christ’s glory, His exultation is to call you and chose you who are not wise according to worldly standards, not powerful, not of noble birth. Instead, He is exalted to choose us who are foolish, weak, and despised in the world (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

Christ’s glory is to be numbered with us transgressors and to bear our sin (Is. 53:12). He has taken your shame, your pride, your lust, your iniquities and given you His righteousness.

God’s delight and pleasure is in His Beloved Son, Jesus. And that is where you are. In your Baptism, you were united and clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27). You were buried with Christ in your Baptism so that you would be joined to His resurrection (Ro. 6:3-4). Jesus has indeed fulfilled all righteousness, and you are in that. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds inChrist Jesus. Amen.

The Magi – Sermon on Matthew 2:1-12 for Epiphany

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Matthew 2:1-12

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” herod and the magiWhen Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the magi secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Before we dive in here, I would just like to note something: One of Martin Luther’s sermons on this text is 110 pages long. As tempting as it is to preach a three-hour sermon, I promise to be slightly more succinct. You’re welcome.

When Matthew says there in v. 1, “behold,” he’s putting up a big sign. Matthew wants us to slow down and be amazed at what is going on in this text. If we put it in today’s language, v. 1 could be translated, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, check this out, magi from the east came to Jerusalem.”

Now, who are these magi? We have to clear up some misconceptions that have become so engrained in our minds. Sometimes, we call them ‘wise men.’ Well, there is nothing in the Scripture that identifies them as ‘wise’ – at least not anything they do is particularly wise, except for when they worship the Christ Child. They may have been educated, learned men, but not ‘wise.’ In fact, we will see how they are constantly dependent on the Word of God to do the right thing. Sometimes, they are called kings like in the hymn “We Three Kings.” But there is nothing to indicate that they were kings or lords or governors or rulers or anything like that. The Scriptures indicate that they are well off financially, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they are kings. And there is nothing to tell us for sure that there were three of them. All we know is that there were at least two because the word magi is plural. They do bring three gifts that are fit for a king – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (The idea of there being three of them is kind of nice unless you like to imagine a fourth magi standing sheepishly in the corner while the other three give their gifts.) So, who are these magi?

The Scriptures call these guys μάγοι which is where we get our word ‘magicians.’ Now, we aren’t talking about street performers who can tell you what card you drew from a deck or pull a rabbit out of a hat. This ‘magic’ that they would have practiced is satanic stuff. The pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, had some magi at his disposal when he had a dream in Daniel 2(:2-11). Nebuchadnezzar called in his magi, enchanters, and sorcerers (see how these jobs are lumped together). He wanted these people to come tell him what his dream was and what it meant.

So, when the first readers of Matthew came across this term ‘magi,’ they would have understood this to mean these men would have been involved in witchcraft, astrology, sorcery, fortune-telling, speaking to the dead, magi travelingOuija boards, etc. – all things that the Scriptures consistently forbid because they are all demonic, satanic practices. So, again v. 1, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, check this out, magi from the east came to Jerusalem.” It’s absolutely shocking. These are the first Gentile (non-Jewish) people in all the Gospels to seek Jesus, the Son of God.

Through their demonic practices, probably astrology but whatever those practices were, they see a star that leads them to Jerusalem and to Herod. They ask, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star and have come to worship,” not just give Him honor and respect, “we have come to worship Him.” Herod could have legitimately said, “Well, you’re in luck. I’m Herod, king of the Jews. Go ahead and bow down.” But even Herod, for all his evil, wicked, murderous ways, even Herod recognizes he isn’t divine and deserving of worship.

But notice what Herod does do. He summons the chief priests and scribes and asks notwhere the descendant of King David would be born but “where the Christwas to be born.” Herod makes the connection – the King of the Jews these magi are looking for is the Christ, the promised Messiah.

The chief priests and scribes rightly go to Micah 5:2which states that Christ the King will be born in Bethlehem. So, Herod calls the magi back in secretly; he has a private meeting with them to find out when they first saw the star. We know his intentions were evil because right after this text, Herod will use the information from that meeting to try and kill Jesus by exterminating all the boys in Bethlehem who were 2 and under.

epiphany iconThe magi take leave of Herod. The star appears again to lead them (Had it disappeared for a time?). They see it and “rejoice with exceedingly great joy.” And they find what they’ve been looking for, what they have been traveling for months to find. There, in a house, is the infant Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. And they worship the Child who will grow up and die on the cross for them. But then, notice, they have to be warned in a dream to not return to Herod. And they return to their country by another way.

So, there’s the text, and there is so much we could focus on: How an infant Child is worthy of worship. How the chief priests and scribes and all the people of Jerusalem trembled in fear when they should have been crawling to the house to worship the Child. But today, we are going back to behold, to check out, the magi. And most importantly how God graciously leads them to Himself.

God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4) – even these magi who practice demonic arts. And God gives them signs to see even as they live in their sin. But those signs don’t lead them directly to the king they are looking for. God could have used the star to bring them straight to Jesus, but remember that God always works and calls people to Himself through His Word. And those signs lead the magi only as far as the Scriptures. Remember, they followed the star which, initially, only got them as far as Jerusalem and Herod; Herod connects the magi to the chief priests and scribes; and the religious leaders are the ones who introduce the magi to the Scriptures (specifically Micah 5:2).

Now, I want to be clear that I’m going to speculate for a moment here. But it isn’t, at least in my opinion, reaching very far: These magi learn about the sacred text from Micah 5about the one they are seeking. They would have probably been used to studying ancient texts, so it is very conceivable that they would want to know more about what Micah had to say. When you have been traveling for months to find something and stop to get more directions, you want to be sure those directions are legitimate. The passage about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem was from Micah 5:2. And, if you keep reading and get to Micah 5:12, God says there, “I will cut off (lit.exterminate) sorceries from your hand, and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes.” So there is no question that God uses the star to lead these magi to the Scriptures. But conceivably, the magi study the Scriptures further which leads them to repentance of their livelihood, and finally to their Savior.

Now, even if that isn’t the case, here is the point: Don’t give up on praying for your friends and family who are far from God even when it seems that they are so far from God you think they are a lost cause. Point them to the Scriptures. Point them to Jesus, the Word who became flesh and brings God’s mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. To do that, of course, you will have to know the Scriptures.

Cross and CommunionAnd always remember, that God doesn’t give up on you either. Through the same Scriptures, God has led you here to Himself. He hasn’t used a something as uncertain as star or a dream. He has led you with something more certain (2 Pet. 1:19) – His Word. He has led here to receive His mercy, grace, and forgiveness. He leads you now to His altar to receive His very Body and Blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Leave your sins behind. Come, taste, and see that your God is merciful and gracious, full of steadfast love and righteousness. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.