Church Sermon

Epiphany 2014 (Matthew 2:1-23)

Rev John Bremner, Unknown Date
Part of the Festival Sermons series, preached at a Epiphany 2014 service

Matthew 2: 1 – 8; 9 – 15; 16 – 23.
Epiphany – Communion

Matthew 2: 1 – 8.

1. A surprising thing – these Magi.
How would we translate ‘magos’ into today’s language?
- astrologer
- astronomer
- philosopher
- scientist
- Not ‘King’!, except in the sense of being highly regarded, perhaps feared. They were not rulers.

These Magi were seekers after truth, wherever it was to be found. They were open to the unexpected. They came from the centre of scientific thought and culture in those days – the area we now call Iraq and Iran.
We live in a society which too often tries to separate science and faith. For the Bible there can be no division: truth is truth is truth – and those who seek the truth must be open to the truth being found in the most unexpected of places. Biblical faith has nothing to fear from scientific truth; neither has scientific truth anything to fear from Biblical faith.

2. The Magi come to worship. But what about Herod? He fears – for his trade is fear; he rules by fear; he is no lover of the truth. He will worship no-one. He who ought to have shepherded God’s people (King of Israel) has no time for the One who comes to be Israel’s true King.

Matthew 2: 9 – 15.

1. Herod tries to use trickery – but the Magi see through his scheming. They “withdraw” quietly, slipping out of the picture. Those who seek truth with honest hearts recognise a lie when they see one!

2. Like the Magi, Joseph, too, “withdraws” from the scene. He, in humble faith, is willing to trust in God and go into the unknown, just as the Magi did.

3. The Old Testament story is brought to mind: Abraham travelled in faith from the East to the Land of Canaan. Joseph and later his father, Jacob, and brothers, travelled to Egypt. “Out of Egypt have I called my Son” – the story of faith is the story of journeying in faith. The Magi journey in their quest for truth. Joseph journeys in faith, trusting in God’s protecting power.

Only Herod stays put. Only he refuses to risk following God’s call!

Matthew 2: 16 – 23.

How often in this chapter have we heard the phrase ‘this was to fulfil the word of the Lord by the prophet…’?

It is difficult for us to see all this as ‘God’s plan’. We want a god who makes us comfortable, one who keeps us safe and free from all danger, one who doesn’t allow this sort of disturbing thing to take place. “Why does God allow this….?” is so often our question.

This chapter of Matthew’s Gospel makes it quite clear to us: the God of the Bible doesn’t do things in the way we would do them; his plans involve us in confronting the reality of the world we live in, the real world, the world which suffers because of our refusal to put our faith in God – in other words, the world made by Herod and his ilk. And that includes us, for we, too, are like Herod in so many ways.

God asks us a simple question: Do you want to live like Herod, or do you want to put your trust in me? There is no ‘middle way’ – for our ‘comfortable, cosy god’ is, in fact, a god made in our image of what we would like to think of ourselves. Herod thought the same.

Matthew is telling us quite clearly that Jesus Christ is God’s plan for the world. Jesus Christ will reveal to us the reality of our sin (our rebellion against God) – and the remedy for that sin (the cross). Matthew is telling us that if we are to understand the truth of who Jesus Christ is, we must put our trust in God and follow where he calls.

And that, I would suggest, is God’s Word to us at the start of this new year. May he grant us to seek his truth, to hear his Word and to offer ourselves in humble worship. Amen.

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Matthew 2:1-23

1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2Saying, 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. 3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and 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. 9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw 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 exceeding great joy. 11And 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. 12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. 13And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 16Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. 21And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts 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. (KJV)

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