David Saunders - Visiting Worker, Maroota - 2012

Hymn 82, "Follow Me, Come Follow Me"

Matthew 2.  Who is Matthew?  Matthew was a man who knew Jesus personally; he talked to Him, listened to Him and loved Him.  Matthew had a job as a tax collector but, one day, he realized that God wanted him to tell people about Jesus and God used him with his great faith in Jesus to write a book, Matthew’s Gospel. This is the story that he has recorded.  Matthew greatly believed in everything he wrote about and he knew it was true for us to pass on.  He wrote the book as an older man, and it is possible that Matthew was only a little baby himself at the time of Jesus’ birth.

He wrote about Jesus’ beginning in His country, the land of Israel.  A lot of the people there were Jews with different customs and they had a Roman Governor.  It is not so much the history that is interesting, but we are looking at people who had their very own experience and who got to know Jesus.  The city of Jerusalem is still in Israel and so is Bethlehem, and they are only about 12km apart. Jerusalem was a real religious city; they had the temple, a magnificent building, and it meant a lot to the Jews.  There was a lot of learning done there, and they had their esteemed judges.  Near it was this other town called Bethlehem and of all the places on earth that Jesus could have been born, that is where God chose for Him to be born.

Jesus was with God from the beginning, in the most wonderful setting where God dwells in His invisible kingdom.  Jesus was there, loved by God, His Father, and the mystery to us mortals is that Jesus left that place that is beyond our description, and came to the earth as a helpless little baby.  His mother was Mary and people thought that Joseph was His father.  But Joseph was a very good step-father really, because God was Jesus’ Father and that is where it needs faith.

Matthew 2, Matthew wrote that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Hundreds of years earlier it was said that God’s Son would be born there.  Micah 5:2, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”  Some shepherds lived very close to Bethlehem and on the very night of Jesus’ birth, an angel told them that Jesus was born that day in Bethlehem.  They were so impressed and badly wanted to see this baby, so they left their sheep and went to find this little one-day-old baby.  He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, little strips of linen like the poor children were dressed in, lying in a manger which the cattle fed from.  They saw something that was not very impressive naturally, but God arranged that.  He could have had Jesus born in a palace, but that is how He started life on the earth and the shepherds saw it and rejoiced.

Eight days later, Mary and Joseph went up to the temple in Jerusalem where an old man, Simeon, had been waiting to see him.  Luke 2:34, he picked Him up and said, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against.” There was also an old lady there, Anna, and it was the highlight of their lives and gave them hope that this little life would grow to be the Saviour of men and women.

Matthew 2:1, “There came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 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.'”  We really know nothing about these men.  The day Jesus was born was the greatest event in this earth, but most people knew nothing about it.  But these men lived a long way from Bethlehem and they used to watch the stars.  They saw a star they had never seen before and I marvel at their faith, because they knew that the promised one, Jesus, was born.  God let them know that He had fulfilled His promise so they left their country without any doubts and they went to find Jesus, and they could have travelled for months.

The shepherds saw Jesus as a helpless little one-day-old baby, yet they knew He was going to be their hope of eternal life.  Now, Matthew records these wise men turning up in Jerusalem.  They just missed it by 12 kilometers!  As they were getting closer, they could have assumed that such an important birth would have happened in Jerusalem.  The interesting thing is, they didn’t go there to sight-see or to learn about anything else, but they came to see this little one that was born.  To them, the effort was worth it all.  They asked people in Jerusalem, “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.” They were so guileless, they had no idea that there would be people that would hate Jesus.  They would be amazed when they got to this religious city and nobody knew where Jesus was.  The shepherds had seen Him, and Simeon and Anna had seen Him, but God kept His birth from anyone that would be an enemy.

King Herod had been king for a long time and he didn’t want to hear about any other king that would be a threat to him.  He was just consumed with jealousy.  As the king, he would have a powerful network but he had never heard about this miracle birth, even though it was only 12 kilometers away.  So, Herod gathered many of the chief priests and the religious people and said, “Where is this Jesus?”  The wise men had seen King Herod in his palace, and I suppose it would be very impressive, but it didn’t impress those men.  They were looking for Jesus and wanted to find Him.  They were so convinced that God had started them on this journey, but where was He?  The point of this story is that we are all the same.  We really don’t know anything about it, and God in His great kindness starts leading us to get to know Jesus, and it is a very individual thing.

Verse 8, King Herod 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.” So the wise men went to Bethlehem, and the amazing thing is that nobody went with them after all the way they had come.  God was working with them and He didn’t want them to be distracted, and He separated them from every other influence that would distract them.

As they were journeying, they saw the star again, and they never took their eyes off it.  Verse 10, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”  How can you describe rejoicing with exceeding great joy?  It is the anticipation of being with Jesus.  And they still hadn’t seen Jesus!  They realized that God had got them on track again and they were filled with hope that God was with them and would lead them to Jesus.  They weren’t worrying about how far they had come.  People make a big effort to come to the Gospel meetings and they are never sad about it; somehow, God makes it up to them.  For some of you coming to this convention, just to feel that God has got us on track again is a wonderful thing.

So, these wise men were guided.  Verse 11, “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”  They found Him in a house, not a manger. It could have been months or even a year that they travelled, we don’t know.  I suppose that house in Bethlehem looked like any other house.  Jesus was not a one-day-old baby any more.  He was a little infant and He would look like any other little boy.  But what God put in these men’s hearts was, “This is the life that will grow to be your Saviour.”  God has a plan that one day, people who love Him and follow Him will be with Him forever.  I think the wise men believed in God’s promises and it filled their spirits with hope.  It was so humble, and they had just come from the place of pomp and ceremony which didn’t impress them one bit.

They fell down and worshipped Jesus.  Imagine the joy it would have given Joseph and Mary.  There is no joy like it, to see people come to the Gospel meetings and see that it is meaning something to them.  At the beginning, we hardly have any hope for some, but we see the change.  These wise men, with all their learning, were such humble people and they saw the sincerity of Jesus; they saw God’s great plan and they never would have been impressed if it had been just outward show. They saw the real thing.

After they gave Him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, God warned the wise men that they should not return to King Herod.  They got away before Herod could get any of his spies onto them and they went away so happy with the promise of Jesus.  The very same night, Joseph and Mary were urged to flee too, and they did it.  They loved Jesus and they fitted in with God’s plan.  They went to Egypt and stayed there until it was safe to bring Him home again.

So, around the birth of Jesus there were people that God wanted to honour by bringing them in touch with Jesus.  You can think of all the people that were so close, yet God never revealed it to them.  We feel that God is interested in us personally; He wants to guide us to Jesus, to experience the joy of believing in Him and coming into His presence.  The parallel to this story is that the wise men are typical of us on a journey through life, and they got the very essence of what God intended.  They got to love Jesus.  God led them right to where Jesus was. God will not give you up; He will lead you to where Jesus is, at His right hand.  We can relate to these people.  The wise men made a great effort and they could have thought the journey was too much, but their faith helped them to keep going until they experienced Jesus for themselves.

Those of us in this ministry are soon going out to tell this story over and over again.  We are very grateful for people who love the Gospel story and who can tell someone else, “There is a Gospel meeting starting; it means everything to me.”  We get a feeling for people that are interested, people like Simeon and Anna, not looking for pomp and show but for the Truth.  They are the kind of people that still get helped.  We are grateful that God was over the top of all this work and these people were faithful to fit in with it, and I hope we can go with exceeding joy as we experience the presence and comfort of Jesus.