The Visit of the Magi and other important things

Sunday School Lesson, December 27, 2009-Cherry Street Church of Christ, New Albany, IN


TEXT:   Matthew 2:1-12(NKJV)  (Vs 1-6-use for intro)
1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 
2saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 
4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6    ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,      Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;     For out of you shall come a Ruler     Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” £
7Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 
8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 
10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 
11And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Matthew 2:16-23(NKJV)
16Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 
17Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
18    “A voice was heard in Ramah,      Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,     Rachel weeping for her children,     Refusing to be comforted,     Because they are no more.” £
19Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 
20saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 
21Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 
23And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

LESSON Background:  Although our  lesson in the printed text  deos  not start til  verse  7, I want to spend a  little time on the   first  6  verses and  possibly  clear  up some  misconceptions commonly  held when  referring to the  Wise Men or “Magi.” Also, I  want to talk  a little  bit  about the name “Herod.”

Matthew  2:1 –New King James Study BibleThe events of ch. 2 probably took place some months after Jesus’ birth. Several reasons may be offered to support this conclusion: (1) Joseph and Mary were living in a house (v. 11); (2) Jesus is referred to as a child, not an infant (v. 11); (3) Herod murdered all the male children two years old and under (v. 16); and (4) it would have been strange for Joseph and Mary to offer the sacrifice of the poor, a pair of turtledoves or pigeons (see Lev. 12:8; Luke 2:24), if the wise men had just given them gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Thus the wise men must have arrived after the ritual sacrifice described in Luke 2:22–24, 39. Herod the king is Herod the Great, who reigned over Palestine from 37 b.c. until his death in 4 b.c. A crafty ruler and lavish builder, Herod had a reign marked by cruelty and bloodshed. The word translated wise men can refer either to fraudulent sorcerers (see Acts 8:9, 11; 13:6, 8) or, as here, to a more honorable class of astrologers.

-The name Herod is used in the  NT  as a family name, like the  word “Caeser.”  There were  many  named Herod  in the New Testament.  The  one  mentioned  ehre is Herod the  Great (see the  above notes.) 

One misconception is that  there were only  3  Magi who came– this comes  from the fact that  3  gifts were  given. Another  misconception is that they were  present at the  manger scene.  The   manger  scene  as  we  see it has many things  wrong with  it.   When the  Magi came   the family was in a  house. Also, why  would Herod and the  whole city be  troubled by 3   foreigners on camels. 

Matthew 2:2  born King of the Jews: These words would have struck both terror and fury into the heart of Herod. His star in the East may refer to a star supernaturally introduced into the heavens, discernible only to students of the sky. The star reappeared to guide the wise men to where Christ was (v. 9). The fact that it was called “His star” indicates that the wise men identified the star with the arrival of the King of the Jews.  This is  from Dr. Warren Wiersbe– We do not know how many magi there were. From the three gifts listed in Matthew 2:11, some people have assumed there were three kings from the Orient, though this is not certain. But when their caravan arrived in Jerusalem, there were enough of them to trouble the whole city.

The  first  question asked in the  NT:  in Matthew 2:2 “Where is He who has  been  born  King of the Jews.”  Why would that  question  trouble Herod?

-The  Magi were a heriditery priestly sect started in  the  kingdom of the  Medes, later incorporated in the Persian Empire. bythis time  they  had  migrated to the Parthian Empire and  were known as “king makers.”   Daniel was  called  “Rab Mag,” or Chief of the  Magi in Daniel 4:9 “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the Spirit of the Holy God is in you, and no secret troubles you, explain to me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its interpretation. Daniel 5:11   There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.  12Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and £explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.”

Matthew  2:3 When the  Magi came to  King Herod, he  had  no idea  how  to answer  thier questions– he  called a   meeting of  his  religious  advisors–  Matthew  2:6 they   told him in  Micah 5:2(NKJV) 2    “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,      Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,     Yet out of you shall come forth to Me     The One to be Ruler in Israel,     Whose goings forth are from of old,     From everlasting.”

Our printed  Lesson  starts  right here.

I. Worship (Matthew 2:7-10) 

     A. Treacherous Seeker (vv. 7-10) 

Matthew 2:7 Herod meets with the  Magi in secret to find out  when the  ‘Star” appeared to them. This  becasue Herod, like the  wise men, assumes that the  appearance of the star  coinincides with the date of the Messiah’s birth. As we said  earlier, the   Magi  bay this time in  history were   operating in the Parthian Empire (Present  day Iran and  Afganistan.)

Matthew 2:8  Read some the  notes in  quarterly under  verse  8.

B. Truehearted Seekers (vv 9-10)

Matthew 2:9 They went on their  way— about  7 miles away.   They are  led to Bethlehem– this is  not the stable of Luke 2:7–  It is   at  least  40 days  after the  birth of Jesus– because  when he was   dedicated in the Tempel, his  parents gave the  sacrifice  fo a poor  person.

Matthew 2:10 The wise men undoubtedly would have been discouraged by their failure to find the King in Jerusalem, by the lack of knowledge concerning the birth of the Messiah among the leaders, by the disinterest among Israel, and by the weariness from the long journey. The reappearance of the star must have brought great joy and encouragement to them.

This is the  end of this part of the  printed text.   Vs. 11-15  give  us more of the  story that  we would misss if  we  just  skipped on to verse 16.

Matthew 2:11 Tells us  about  the magi before the Christ Child and the  gifts they gave Him.  Gold symbolized royalty; frankincense was a fragrance; myrrh was the ointment of death. These gifts provided the financial resources for Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt. (on  a  side bar–  in the  Millenium, the  kings  of the earth  bring Jesus the  first  2  gifts–but  not the  third–no need for  it– He has  died  once for all for the  sins of the  whole  world.)

matthew 2:12 –Magi told in a  dream that  Herod  had   deceived them and to return to their country by a way not through Jerusalem.

Matthew 2:13-15  tell of the  “Flight to Egypt.”  We don’t  know  how  long they spent there. We find out  something of this in Matthew 2:19

Our printed Text  begins  again in Matthew 2:16

II. Destruction (Matthew 2:16-18)

      A. Herod’s Murderous Rage (v. 16)  This is another of  the many  accounts we have   in scripture all the way from Genesis where we see Satan trying  to destroy the messianic line of Jesus. Here is a  man  Herod, assiisting Satan in this  task. Read  from the  quarterly starting at “Herod’s character…”

      B. Herod’s Unwitting Fulfillment. (VVs. 17-18)  Dr. Wiersbe writes, Herod’s anger was evidence of his pride; he could not permit anyone to get the best of him, particularly some Gentile scholars! This led him to kill the boy babies two years of age and under who were still in Bethlehem. We must not envision hundreds of little boys being killed, for there were not that many male children of that age in a small village like Bethlehem. Even today only about 20,000 people live there. It is likely that not more than 20 children were slain. But, of course, 1 is too many! Matthew introduced here the theme of hostility, which he focused on throughout his book. Satan is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44), as was King Herod. He lied to the magi and he murdered the babies. But even this horrendous crime of murder was the fulfillment of prophecy found in Jeremiah 31:15. In order to understand this fulfillment, we must review Jewish history.

As we have  said  in our  study this month, Matthew, in his  Gospel, goes to all lengths to show that Jesus fulfilled   many  prophecies of the  OT in  reagards to being the Messiah Here   he  points  in  matthew 2:18   the  passage in 
Jeremiah 31:15(NKJV)  15Thus says the Lord:      “A voice was heard in Ramah,     Lamentation and bitter weeping,     Rachel weeping for her children,     Refusing to be comforted for her children,     Because they are no more.”

III. Protection (Matthew 2:19-23) 

       A. The Coast is Clear! (vv. 19-21)

Matthew  2:13-15 had  told us that  God, through an  angel had  instructed Jospeh to take  his  family to Egypt.  That would  also fulfil Hosea 11:1    here in Matthew 2:19  another  angel or maybe the same one reappears to Joseph  to tell him it is time to return from Egypt

Matthew 2:21– Joseph  obeys and  brings the  family  back to  Israel– in Matthew 2:22 he does  not  settle in Judea but   goes to the  district of Galilee as  per the  angel of God  so that  Matthew 2:23 might  fulfill another prophecy from the Old testament

Refer to the   Concluding remarks.


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