In our day of instant news and the ability to use Google to find something quickly (even things that are not true), it is interesting how people respond to what they hear or see that is “new.” News is just what is sounds like: new information about recent and sometimes important events. What is most interesting is that the same news can result in very different reactions. For example, at the end of an election cycle, when the winners have been determined and announced in the news, there are generally three main reactions:
- Great joy. Now everything will be better and the evil that was is no longer or was kept at bay.
- Extreme sadness combined often with anger and a sense that the world is now crumbling.
- Indifference. Whatever! So what? This too shall pass.
I never really thought about the third one in the context of Matthew’s gospel. Gospel is a word created from the Old English words for “good” and “news.” This morning John Piper helped me see something I have missed before. It isn’t surprising that I missed it, because I miss many things. But today I get it. John was talking about a section of Matthew’s Gospel chapter 2. To make it easy for you to read, here it is:
Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV) “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 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.’ 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 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.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 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.’ 9 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.”
Did you see it, or did you miss it much like me? The three responses captured in this short passage are what we might expect today:
- Great joy. The wise men knew who this child was and worshiped him. They viewed him as God.
- Extreme sadness combined with anger. Welcome to King Herod’s world view.
- Indifference. Sadly, this was the apparent reaction of the religious leadership. These were the people who should have been eager to meet their Messiah, but their focus was elsewhere.
The link for Dr. Piper’s article is below. However, I suspect the link may not work after today, so I quoted this devotional in its entirety:
Two Kinds of Opposition to Jesus
“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)
Jesus is troubling to people who do not want to worship him, and he brings out opposition for those who do. This is probably not a main point in the mind of Matthew, but it is inescapable as the story goes on.
In this story, there are two kinds of people who do not want to worship Jesus, the Messiah.
The first kind is the people who simply do nothing about Jesus. He is a nonentity in their lives. This group is represented by the chief priests and scribes. Verse 4: “Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Well, they told him, and that was that: back to business as usual. The sheer silence and inactivity of the leaders is overwhelming in view of the magnitude of what was happening.
And notice, verse 3 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” In other words, the rumor was going around that someone thought the Messiah was born. The inactivity on the part of chief priests is staggering — why not go with the magi? They are not interested. They do not want to worship the true God.
The second kind of people who do not want to worship Jesus is the kind who is deeply threatened by him. That is Herod in this story. He is really afraid. So much so that he schemes and lies and then commits mass murder just to get rid of Jesus.
So today these two kinds of opposition will come against Christ and his worshipers. Indifference and hostility. Are you in one of those groups?
Let this Christmas be the time when you reconsider the Messiah and ponder what it is to worship him.”