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Bible Study Notes

Matthew 2:1-12

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
The Real Living Nativity

 The Real Living Nativity 
 
General Idea: This passage depicted for many centuries to countless people the classic Christmas scene. Wise men guided by a star sought out the new King. An uproar occurs that causes Joseph to flee with his new wife and child far away from his home, work, relationships, religious community and family. All because Christ is God incarnate and demands a response from His creation. So we all respond to Him in various ways. The response to Christ's birth in 5 BC: The universe responded with a star, the gentiles responded with honor, and the Jewish rulers responded by trying to kill Him. How do you respond?

Where is the new born king of the Jews, the visitors asked? The very same question is asked of us, where is He in us and in our church? Is Jesus just a mere baby that is under our domain or is He the LORD sitting on high? How we see Jesus and how we worship Him in our hearts and minds will govern how you are in life and how you grow in Him. This is the question that spawns, how will your church be, how will it grow spiritually with conviction and discipleship, or decline from Him and be a meager club? If so, all you will be doing is keeping the natives happy and content while God goes unnoticed and dishonored and people go unfulfilled and unfed by His Word and Spirit. Herod was deeply disturbed of Jesus, even as a baby. Yet, Jesus comes to disturb! He comes to wake us up from our meager life and complacency and thus convict us of our sin so to lead us with His love, care and grace to the wonders of life and the eternity to come. So do we give Him our treasure or our distain of contempt? Do we allow our being to be disturbed so we are convicted and grow, or do we recoil in complacency, or hate and pride?

1.The visit Of the Magi/Wise Men occurred when Jesus was between 1 month and 2 years old. Herod died in 4BC, thus Jesus was born in 5 to 6BC (Matt. 2:16; Luke 2:22-39). The honored family was now living in a house in Bethlehem, and not in their hometown of Nazareth as it is over 50 miles way, a tough several day journey from Jerusalem with a newborn. The birth most likely occurred in the springtime (defiantly not in the cold of winter! The date of Christmas was moved to December 25th in the 4th century to get rid of the pagan holiday of ‘Winter Solutes') around when we celebrate Easter, when the census was taken along with the Passover. This was the only way to gather all the heads of the Jewish households to Jerusalem, as most would have traveled there anyway. The Romans were very efficient and this would have killed two birds with one stone.

a.A scene of many “nativity sets” through the centuries, the honor of the birth of the True King. The Magi were not kings themselves, but scientists, philosophers and advisors to kings. They were from the Persia/ Babylonian areas (modern Iran and Iraq) where Abraham was from and Daniel and the Jews lived in captivity for 70 years. Thus, they would have been well acquainted with the Scriptural predictions from their former Jewish captives, from Daniel's, and Balaam's prophecy (Nub. 24). Some people think they were a group of three priests and astrologers from Persia or Babylon and their names were Melchior, Balthasar, and Caspar and were later baptized by Thomas; but this is not found in Scripture but in legend and myth! The ‘astrologers' if they were that, since there is no Biblical evidence, they may have not have been looking for a ‘star sign', but just saw something they never seen before, such as the pillar of fire in Exodus. Some had suggested that they been given special revelation from God, but this too is not found in Scripture!

b.In the first century period no king in the near east could rise to power without being discipled and then crowned by the Magi! Thus they held considerable power and influence (Dan 5, Acts 8:4-25). The word Magi is the root for magic, which leads to all kinds of needless and unfounded speculation regarding them.

c. The Roman Empire was a ‘western empire' that was isolated from the east. Thus the Meads and Persians were the biggest threat, because of isolation and political differences and thus were violent enemies and were always fighting, and that fighting took place in Palestine, the in-between land! So when Herod heard that the Magi were in town he was rattled! Because they had absolute power and choice on what the Persians did, from war to setting up kings. And they were looking for a new king, which further terrified the insecure Herod who spent a lifetime of killing his family, sons and all potential enemies. Hence his extreme reaction and panic by the killing of all the young children.

d. The presence of the "three wise men" is the picture of what Christmas is too many people. But the number is not given to us, there could have been 3 or 4 or 2 or 10...

2.The baby Jesus who needed an occasional diaper change and a breast to be fed from, was still fully God and Creator and to be worshiped!

a.Their journey would have taken several months, thus they were not there when Jesus was born, but came month's later, sorry nativity sets! (By the way while you are removing the wise men until March, tear off the angels wings too! Nowhere in Scripture are Angels described with wings, this comes from renaissance paintings and Christmas pageants. Only Seraph and Cherub's and such have wings, the angels who hang around the throne room of God. Sorry to be a wet blanket to your Christmas ideas, just trying to be Biblical, of course my wife will not let me remove the wings off our nativity set. We always must be careful not to take tradition and fiction as fact! (Acts 17:11)

b.Gifts were given to Him! (Remember that the quality of gifts does not necessarily imply the quantity of givers!) These gifts most likely made their flight to Egypt possible, as they were poor and did not have the recourses for such an expensive journey!

c.Worship was honored to Him! The wise men were able to go beyond their cultural misgivings and knew that Jesus was worthy to be worshiped and that is the point here! Where the officials of Judaism were not!

3.The ‘Star' “cor-cha” in Hebrew meant something that shined or blazed forth, it can mean a star as in the heavens, an angel, or some kind of light that leads such as the burning bush or the star of Joshua (Nub. 24:17).

a.Scripture alludes to the fact the star stood still in the sky, whereas stellar phenomena always move, unless of course God acts upon it.

b.Some have suggested that the star was the planet Jupiter, which such astronomical events are often associated with the birth of kings as is a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn or comet. But the only astronomical evidence (I asked a friend who is an astronomer at Cal Tech) is a possible supernova which is now the ‘Crab Nebula' as observed by the Chinese and Babylonians around the time of 5BC. But again stellar phenomena always move, the star of the Magi stayed in place!

c.Thus, the most likely scenario is the star was God's glory shinning/peeking out of heaven and not an actual supernova or some other astronomical event as people have suggested.

d.Herod KNEW! He made the connection, and furiously sought to find out as shrewdly as possible to find this Messiah, so he can protect his throne. The High Priests and the Jewish leaders knew too! They were the political power and rulers, who by pride, ignorance or fear, chose to destroy God's Messiah rather than worship Him!

The principle point of the visit of the Magi is, "We have come to WORSHIP Him" (Matt. 2:2, 11). It is a picture to God's sovereignty even as a helpless infant, He was worshiped. He is the Eternal God and Creator and sits on the throne of Haven; He is our Savior and Lord. Three pagan kings saw this, do you? Does your church? Or do we just seem Him as a helpless baby in a manger so cute and so uncontrived? We have to see Christ as Lord, not just as a mere cute cuddly baby. A baby is dependant and in need, it is no threat or hazard or conviction. We control a baby, and the baby is totally dependent on us as caretakers and protectors. Christ was a baby in His human form; However, He is no longer a baby! Yet, He is in many Christian minds, perhaps for the aforementioned reasons. As a baby, we can control Him and not worry of His conviction or precepts. So, Adore Jesus as a baby, worship Him as Lord. But do not ever think of Him as merely a baby that you have power or control over, for His is still sovereign and our God!

The Magi were a superb example of spiritual diligence! Consider the cost and time and danger to travel back then. That they believed without all the resources we have today! Are we willing to sacrifice or at the very least be diligent to find Christ, to serve Christ and to worship Christ? Even though we live in a callous and unbelieving world, let us be diligent and contrite as the Wise men were! True servants of the Lord can be found in unlikely places, and those who we expect to be the true servants such as the chief priests and scribes can be fakes (John 1:11; 2 Tim. 2:19)!

Questions:

1.What Christmas traditions do you and your family have?

2.Does this study put a damper on your vision of the first Christmas or give you more inspiration and wonder?

3.Do you have people who are wise that you can go to for advice and guidance?

4.Is Jesus as a baby more appealing and comforting to you or as a “man” teaching the truths of the Kingdom? Why?

5.Why do some people like Jesus only as a baby?

6.How do you respond to Christ as Lord?

7.What do you think about how people responded to Jesus' birth? Place the emphases on the differences between the way the gentiles responded and how the Jewish rulers responded.

8.In what ways have you seen the Magi depicted in churches and department stores?

9.How should you regard the Magi?

10. Why would some Christian's overemphasize their role saying they received special revelation?

11. Describe a typical nativity set by drawing a picture or imagine one, then rearrange it how the Bible records the events. How do you feel about it? Does it challenge you beyond you acceptance and traditions?

12. What other beliefs do you think you may have that you drew from Christian culture or the secular perception of Christianity and how is it really? Conceder Easter, family traditions, even your church service and prayer life…

13. Why did Herod react the way he did?

14. Jesus as a baby who needed all the things a baby needs, diaper changes and a breast to be feed from, was still fully God and Creator and to be worshiped. How is this humbling? Why did He do this?

15. Why would pagan gentiles leave their home and travel to a distant land that would take over a year for a round trip, and be very expensive in harsh conditions to see a foreign King?

16. Do you think the Magi realized the baby was God?

17. What would cause you to leave everything for a harsh expensive journey?

18. True servants of the Lord can be found in unlikely places, and those who we expect to be the true servants such as the chief priests and scribes can be fakes. So how can you tell who is speaking truth and who is putting on a show?

19. What can you learn from the Magi? Even though we live in a callous and unbelieving world, how can you be diligent as the Wise men were?

20. Are you willing to sacrifice or at the very least be diligent to find Christ, to serve Christ and to worship Christ?

Are you willing to sacrifice or at the very least be diligent to find Christ, to serve Christ and to worship Christ?

© 2002, 2004 R.J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

 
 
 
 
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