The King’s Worshippers
December 26, 2021
We are well familiar with the Christmas stories:
- the appearance of Gabriel to Zacharias and Elizabeth announcing the arrival of John the Baptist as the forerunner of Christ — and Zacharias’ unbelief and silence.
- the appearance of Gabriel to Mary announcing her pregnancy with the Messiah and her willing submission to the will of God.
- the appearance of the angel to Joseph announcing Mary’s pregnancy and Joseph’s willing obedience to follow the God-ordained message to maintain his marriage to Mary.
- the birth of Jesus in humble circumstances in Bethlehem and the subsequent need to flee to Egypt because of Herod’s rage.
Throughout these stories, there are OT quotations, hymns of praise (esp. in Luke), and many revelations of the nature of Christ, so that as Jesus grew Luke tells us that Mary “treasured all these things in her heart.”
And while these stories are about Jesus, we also do well to pay attention to the secondary participants in the stories; God includes them in His Word so that we learn through their examples (or non-examples) as well. And the account before us this morning is just such a story. Jesus almost seems secondary, as others take center stage in the account. One commentator said it well when he said about Matthew 2:
“The primary purpose of this chapter is not to portray the King in His infancy and childhood; there is nothing in the chapter which describes Jesus Himself. The leading aim is to indicate the reception given to the Messiah by the world.” [Toussaint, Behold the King, 47.]
This chapter is about worship and the need to worship Christ and the failure of too many to worship Him.
The infant Jesus was also infinitely sovereign King who was worthy of all worship.
What does it mean to worship God? I have read several helpful definitions:
- “Worship is the work of acknowledging the greatness of our covenant Lord…It is something we do.…[And it] is honoring someone superior to ourselves.” [Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth]
- “[Worship] is paying attention to God’s revelation (both special, the Bible, and general) and responding to it.…Worship is revelation and response.” [Allen and Borror, Worship]
- “Worship is an act of the understanding, applying itself to the knowledge of the excellency of God, and actual thoughts of his majesty.…It is also an act of the will, whereby the soul adores and reverenceth his majesty, is ravished with his amiableness, embraceth his goodness, enters itself into intimate communion with this most lovely object, and pitcheth all his affections upon him.” [Charnock, quoted by Packer in A Quest for Godliness.]
I might simplify these explanations of worship to say that worship is simply delighting in God and doing His will. It is cultivating an internal satisfaction in Him in our hearts that results in transformed lives of obedience. To worship God is to delight in Him and to do what He says. That definition will be helpful as we consider several contrasting responses to Jesus in Matthew 2.
In the story of Jesus’ early days on earth, observe and consider three possibilities for worship:
1. Herod, who wanted to be worshipped (vv. 1-3, 7-8)
2. The Religionists, who were apathetic about worship (vv. 4-6)
3. The Magi, who worshipped (vv. 1-2, 9-12)
Download the rest of this sermon on Matthew 2:1-12.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.
Photo: Matthias Stom, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.