Are you in the Herod group, antagonistic and bitter and hating against Christ? Are you in the chief priests and the scribes group, uncommitted, indifferent? Or are you in the group of the Magi? Do you have in your hands the gold fit for a king and the myrrh fit for a mortal man and the incense fit for God? You see him as the God, man, the king. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. You know, there's no reason to believe that Jesus was actually born on December 25th, and it might be good that we don't know the exact day of Jesus' birth because he needs to be our focus the other 364 days of the year as well. Still, you can be thankful that there is a holiday celebrating Jesus' birth, a time when even unbelievers are open to Bible teaching, perhaps more than any other time in the year. And with that in mind, John MacArthur's message today on Grace To You will provide a rich dose of truth that you can communicate with loved ones in the next few days. It's all part of John's series, The Birth of the King. So if you have a Bible nearby or our study Bible app, turn to the Gospel of Matthew, and here's John. Take your Bible and let's look at the second chapter of Matthew, Matthew chapter 2. The theme of the New Testament, as you well know, is Jesus Christ. He is the theme of the New Testament. Particularly, is he the object of these four Gospels, as they are known, that begin the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each of these Gospels, each of these evangelist writers portrays Jesus Christ in a unique way.
Although they all four cover his life, they cover it in very, very unique styles and from a very, very unique perspective. In Matthew, he is the sovereign who comes to reign and rule. In Mark, he is the servant who comes to serve and to suffer. In Luke, he is the son of man who comes to share and sympathize. In John, he is the son of God who comes to reveal and redeem.
Now let's pick it up where we left it off last time in verse 4. Now Herod had to do something. So it says in verse 4, when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where the Christ should be born.
Isn't that interesting? Now he should have known without asking. Do you know that it was common knowledge where the Messiah would be born? Everybody knew that.
There wasn't even any question about it. Herod should have known it. And maybe he didn't know it, but he just wanted to be sure. He didn't want to waste any time. He wasn't really confident.
He wanted an official declaration from the brain trust. It is so incredible. It is so incredible that they gave it to him. Verse 5, they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel. They quote the Scripture to him. They quote Micah chapter 5 and verse 2. And every Jew in history is faced with Micah 5, 2. Hey, the prophet said he would be born in Bethlehem. Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
What are you going to do with it? Want to hear something else? Even the chief priests and the scribes, the leading politicians and the leading theologians said he would be born in Bethlehem, as Micah said.
Now listen to me. When some Jewish people come along today and say, Well, the Messiah is not a person, it's an attitude. I say to you, Well, they didn't think so in Jesus' time. The ancient rabbis didn't think so. They said it was a person because an attitude can't be born in Bethlehem.
But a person can. Or they say that the idea of Messiah is the idea of the perfection of a Jewish kingdom. You can't have the perfection of a Jewish kingdom born one day in Bethlehem either. The Messiah is a person, an individual, not a nation and not an attitude. And His birth must occur in Bethlehem. And listen, if Jesus is not that Messiah, then what is Micah talking about? What are the scribes and chief priests talking about?
And what is Matthew talking about who was a devout Jew? The Sanhedrin said it was Bethlehem. The prophet Micah said it was Bethlehem. Matthew said it was Bethlehem. It was Bethlehem. And all history comes together to agree the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, just where Jesus was born. And interestingly enough, God had to get the Romans to make a decree to get Joseph and Mary down there so He could be born there. He's got everybody working out His will.
It's amazing. These orthodox literalists with perfect head knowledge were never touched in their souls. Oh, man, if I could tell you, the death blow of legalism. So they were indifferent, the chief priests and scribes. By the way, they didn't stay indifferent long. Later they became hateful, venomous, plotting murderers. And the whole time, from the indifference of Matthew 2 to the plots and the murders at the end of the gospel of Matthew, all the while they had full knowledge of all the prophecies being fulfilled by Jesus Christ. And they rejected with full information. And Jesus even reminded them that all they had to do was check the Scriptures they were supposed to be so expert in. In John 5, 39, He says, search the Scriptures, for they are they which speak of Me.
You're experts. So we see immediately, now watch this, we see immediately they're divided into three groups. Group number one, in response to Jesus Christ, is the group that could be characterized as hatred and hostility. Hatred and hostility. Herod was afraid this little baby would interfere with his life. He was jealous, fearful. He didn't want this little baby intruding in his life, upsetting his apple cart, changing things. And he sought to eliminate him. And some people still felt that way 33 years later and they did it.
And you want to know something, some people feel that way today. Jesus' interference in their life. He bothers them. He upsets their plans.
And if they had their choice, they would eliminate Him. And Jesus in John 15 said to His disciples, if the world hates you, don't be surprised they hated Me. And when you go out, they'll hate you, and they'll put you in prison, and they'll kill you and think they're serving God in doing it. So there's the hatred and the hostility, second category. And the hatred and the hostility is exemplified by Herod. The second category is what I call the indifferent.
The indifferent. And the indifferent is characterized by the chief priests and the scribes. They were so engrossed in their bandy about theology. They were so engrossed in their political intrigues and their games to get power. They were so engrossed in making money in the temple and turning a buck as fast as they could at the expense of the people.
They were so lost in all of their religion that it didn't even matter to them that He was born. They were just indifferent. And there are many like that today, and I always think of lamentations where Jeremiah, bless his heart, cries out to Israel and he says, Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?
I mean, can you possibly be indifferent? Maybe this is the worst. I always think of Studdert Kennedy's poem. It says, When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree. They drove great nails through hands and feet and made a Calvary. They crowned Him with a crown of thorns. Red were His wounds and deep, for those were crude and cruel days and human flesh was cheap. When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They never heard a hair of Him. They only let Him die. For men have grown more tender, they wouldn't give Him pain. They only just passed down the street and leave Him in the rain. Still Jesus cried, Forgive them, for they know not what they do. And still it rained, the winter rained that drenched Him through and through. The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see and Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary. Studdert Kennedy is saying he'd rather have the hatred than the indifference. And thirdly, there was adoring worship, characterized by whom?
The Magi. And it's always that way with Jesus. Some are hostile, some are indifferent, some are adoring and they worshiped.
So, the arrival and the agitation. Let's look at the acting, verse 7. Then Herod, when he had privately called the wise men, this time he thought he ought to have a private meeting. If he had another public meeting with these guys, everybody would really know something was up.
So he had a private one. And he inquired of them diligently, What time the star appeared? Here, folks, I call this acting because this has got to be one of the biggest acts of hypocrisy in all the Bible. This guy is so phony and the wise men don't know it.
They're from the east, they don't know what's going on. The first meeting was public, but this meeting is going to be secret because Herod has a ruse on his mind. A sly plan, the big lie, and the chief priests and the scribes would know it, the wise men won't know, and it'll be real subtle. He didn't say how old is the child, but he said, When did the blazing forth appear? And I think he did that to play up to their astrology and their astronomy interest. Tell me about that star. You guys are big on stars, tell me about that. When did that appear? As if it was astronomy that was his interest.
His real interest was to kill the little baby. And by the way, it's interesting that the star is not now visible at all. They saw it in the east, disappeared, and they left and came to Jerusalem. They haven't seen it since. What time did the star appear? It says he inquired of them diligently, and the word in the Greek is exactly.
I mean, give me the day, guys, will you? I want to know when that baby was born. And we don't know what their answer was, but obviously Herod figured if he killed everybody two years and younger, he'd get them for sure. Maybe they told him it was a six-month period and he figured, well, just to be safe, I'll get everybody two years and under in case the star was a little late. And over in chapter 2, verse 16, it says that he slew them all.
On what basis? From two years old and under, verse 16, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the Magi. He wanted to know. What a hypocrite. Verse 8, and he sent them to Bethlehem and said, now after he'd gotten the information, go and search diligently for the young child, and when you have found him, bring me word again that I may come and worship him also.
It's very ugly, isn't it? Here was the blessed, glorious, majestic Son of God. Here is the fool of fools, instead of falling at his feet, desires to take his life.
What a fool. He would kill the Savior, the only Savior. And so the Magi became unwitting tools for the destruction of the Messiah, thinking they were being helpful. I love the subtlety of Matthew.
I just thought of this. The subtlety of Matthew. He is again emphasizing that Christ is a king, not only by his lineage, not only by his homage, but by his rejection. If he wasn't a king, do you think this king would be upset about his birth?
No. He's a king, and Matthew hits it every way he can. So the arrival, the agitation, the acting, and now the adoration. The journey is complete for the Magi in verse 9, and this we'll see very quickly.
You remember this, so beautiful. And when 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. There's their old friend, the star. What a day of rejoice. Lo, the star. Verse 10, when they saw the star, they what? Rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. They had seen that thing in the east.
It had gone away. They had come all the way to Jerusalem, and they didn't know specifically where to go or what to do next, and there was the Shekinah of God again, and they knew they were on the track. An interesting note, by the way, in verse 9. The star which they saw in the east, literally in the Greek says, the star which they saw in its rising. The star which they saw in its rising. In other words, the star, I think, which had never before existed, and they saw it come into existence.
It means way more than just appearing in an area. The star which appeared in its rising, and now the Shekinah appears again, and now they really got it together. They got a sign revelation from God, and they got the word of God, Micah 5, 2, and those two things converge on Bethlehem and go right over a house.
That's why I say it wouldn't be a real star, because it would be pretty tough for a real star to get down on top of a house without burning up the whole earth. The Shekinah of God, as it descended in the Old Testament many times, just descended right down on top of that house. They were so happy. Verse 11, and when they were coming to the house, and by this time they're in a house, not a stable anymore. The baby's a few months old now, and they found a place to stay until they can gain the strength to go wherever God's going to tell them to go, because they know it's a new life for them. They have the Son of God now.
They can't just go back to doing what they do unless God tells them, and they are waiting. So they were in the house. When they were coming to the house, they saw the young child with Mary. By the way, whenever Mary and the baby are mentioned in verse 11, verse 13, verse 14, verse 20, and verse 21, the baby is always mentioned first.
The concern is with the child. Charles Wesley put it this way, veiled in flesh the Godhead see hail the incarnate deity. That's right. So they came in. They saw the young child with Mary, his mother, fell down and worshiped not her, notice that please, not them, but what?
Him. They worshiped him. They honored him as a king. They did what you do only to gods. They fell on their knees and worshiped him. And worship, beloved, belongs only to Jesus Christ, only to God, to none other, for none other is worthy. Those people, remember, tried to worship the apostles. No, don't worship me, Paul said. They tried to worship Peter and Caesarea. No, don't worship me.
John tried to worship an angel in Revelation. No, he said, don't do it. They worshiped right here, and there was no rebuke, none at all.
You're doing what you ought to do. Nobody said stand up, stand up. Oh, no. This was God. This was the king.
They did right. Oh, I tell you, somewhere along the line, I think maybe we've lost the art of worship. So they worshiped, and they worshiped in giving, and that's a great way to worship. You say, oh, now we're going to break the spirit of worship to take the offering. That does not break the spirit of worship.
I used to think like that a long time ago. How can we get the offering out of the service? Because it's so kind of crass, and when I realized it, they came to worship. How did they worship? They didn't bring a big organ and go, hmm. They didn't drag in a stained glass window, look at it.
They didn't climb up on a hill and do this. How do you worship? One very tangible way. They worshiped by what? Giving. Giving. The expression of praise. What did they give? They gave some pretty good stuff. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Fascinating gifts. Gold, you don't have to talk about. You know what gold is. Gold was a super, super valuable thing, still is. By the way, gold was used for only the best things. It was used extensively in the construction of the temple and all of its contents. Read 1 Kings 5 to 7, 2 Chronicles 2 to 5, gold was used. It was worn as jewelry, and if you happen to be real rich, you could use it as utensils.
Valuable. What about frankincense? Pure incense.
And incidentally, an incision was made in the bark of a certain tree growing in Arabia, and the resulting juice came out, and this juice was white. This was incense. In fact, I think the original Old Testament Hebrew word is the idea of this white juice, and it had various uses. It was used, obviously, it was to be fragrant. It sent off a fragrant scent. It was used in the meal offerings, Leviticus 2, as the scent was symbolically rising to God.
It was used in Song of Solomon at a wedding. I mean, when you got ready for your wedding, you put on that stuff and you smell real good. Perfumes old stuff, folks. Frankincense. Then there was myrrh. A little tree in Arabia, a little tiny tree, also gave forth a beautiful perfume, and that was myrrh. They used it in Proverbs to perfume the bed, to put on your clothes. According to Esther chapter 2, when Esther was getting all dolled up to come into the king, she put on myrrh to smell good. And also, myrrh was used in the same bridal procession where frankincense is used.
Mixed with wine, in Mark 15 it served as an anesthetic, and it was used in John 19 in preparation of Jesus' body for burial. And so there was gold, very precious. There was frankincense, a beautiful smelling incense, and there was myrrh, lovely ointment and perfume. Now the significance went way beyond the natural use of each gift. They were just lovely gifts.
Very, very valuable. In fact, I personally believe that this poor family, Joseph and Mary, had nothing, and Joseph was now removed from his job. They were a little while later sent into Egypt, remember, by God?
They had no way to support themselves in Egypt. He would have had a difficult time in a foreign culture establishing himself, and I'm very confident that the gold and the frankincense and myrrh were the resources, the bank account that was used to support the little family as they first began before they made their way finally back to Nazareth and he picked up his old trade. This was their livelihood.
This was their support. Valuable thing, but let me go a step further just in closing. Gold is a gift for a king. Gold is associated with a king. Joseph, when he was in Egypt, who was the vice regent next to the king, it says was given a gold neck chain. Daniel the same was given gold as he stood next to the king. Kings in the Bible had crowns of gold, scepters of gold. Solomon had gold all over the place. And the description of Solomon in 1 Kings 10, gold is mentioned 10 times. Gold was the gift for a king.
And what is Matthew telling us? Jesus is what? King. He's a king. He's a king. And we meet Jesus in terms of his kingship. When you come to Jesus, listen to me people, when you come to Jesus, you are a lordship salvationist. You come as a subject to a king, to a lord. And so it is before we must be friends with Christ, we must be subjects of his lordship. And so they came and said he's a king.
They said it with a gift. And then there was myrrh. What was myrrh? Myrrh is the gift for a mortal.
It's a perfume to make life a little less odorous, to make burial a little less repulsive. Myrrh was the gift for a mortal man. And he was a man. In fact, myrrh was especially the gift for one who would die. He was a man and he would die. And so a gift for a king and a gift for a man.
He was both. And there was frankincense. The great old scholar, early church father, whose name was Origen said, this is the gift to God.
Frankincense speaks of deity. Incense was always offered to God. It was a fragrance that rose to God. In the Old Testament it was stored in the front of the temple up in a special chamber and it was taken and added to the offerings.
It was sprinkled so that the sweet savor would rise to God. And in Exodus 30 it says, the incense is for God, not the people. In fact, and I love it, Ezekiel 16, 18, God says it's My incense. It's My incense.
It was used even in the holy of holies. And so they come and by the gold they say He's a king. And by the myrrh they say He's a man. And by the incense they say He's God. Now maybe they didn't know they said all that, but that's the beautiful symbolism of it. So the arrival and the agitation and the acting and the adoration and finally, verse 12, the avoidance. And God took over these wonderful magi. He wanted them to take the message of the king back to Persia, the message of the new one, the Messiah, the anointed one.
And so they were warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod to tell him about the baby and they departed to their own country another way. And so God cares for the magi and God cares for the Savior. Let me close with this. Listen, would you? I don't know which group you're in tonight.
You do. Are you in the Herod group, antagonistic and bitter and hating against Christ? Are you in the chief priests, the scribes group, uncommitted, indifferent? Or are you in the group with the magi? Are you lined up to get in to worship?
Do you have in your hands the gold fit for a king and the myrrh fit for a mortal man and the incense fit for God? Do you see him as the God and man, the king? This is Grace to You with John MacArthur. He is president of the Masters University and Seminary. He's also pastor of Grace Community Church, both in the Los Angeles area. And today he showed you how to keep Jesus at the center of your Christmas celebration. The title of John's current study from the book of Matthew, The Birth of the King.
Well, a quick and important note here. Today, December 21st is the deadline. If you want to pick up a MacArthur study Bible or any other item from Grace to You and receive it before Christmas. John, you have the details and you also have a few gift suggestions.
Well, I do. And we're we're definitely getting down to the wire here. This is the last day to order resources in the United States and have them delivered by Christmas. Orders must be placed with next day shipping by phone before 4 p.m. Pacific time or by Internet before 2 p.m. Pacific time.
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You can order the whole series if you do that. A high discount is offered or you can order any volumes that interest you from the books of the New Testament that you would like to know more about. Commentaries are the best way to dig deep in the scripture. Then One Perfect Life, the story of Christ weaving together the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, in one chronological narrative that tells the full story. It's a powerful way to see the life of Christ blending the New Testament gospels together and other passages of scripture as well in the beginning and the end of the book. And then Biblical Doctrine, a thousand page book, all the categories of systematic theology, everything you wanted to know about theology and everything you didn't know you needed to know.
Not just for pastors, but anyone who loves the Word of God. It's a reference book. You can look up any doctrine in the back and it'll take you to the page where it can be explained to you.
Biblical Doctrine. And then, again, to remind you, the MacArthur Study Bible is available in the New American Standard, the New King James or the ESV with footnotes and everything that comes with the Study Bible. Everything from hardback to premium leather is available and still discounted 25 percent. So if you order your Study Bible today, you'll save that 25 percent off the regular price. Order today by 4 p.m. on phone or 2 p.m. on the Internet.
That's right. These helpful resources make ideal gifts for new believers and veteran saints alike. To receive the MacArthur Study Bible, One Perfect Life, Biblical Doctrine or the MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series in time for Christmas, place your order today. Our toll-free number is 800-55-GRACE.
That's 800-55-GRACE. And call today before 4 p.m. Pacific Time. And you will need to speak directly to one of our customer service representatives to place your Christmas order. Again, call before 4 o'clock p.m. Pacific Time or place your order online before 2 p.m. Pacific at gty.org and make sure you use next-day shipping. Again, our website, gty.org. And friend, thank you for praying for John and the Grace to You staff. That's really the most important way you can minister to us. Also, if you get a moment over the next few busy days, we would love to hear how John's verse-by-verse teaching is helping you grow in your love for the Lord. Email is a great way to contact us. You can write to letters at gty.org. Or if you prefer regular mail, the address here is Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson reminding you to watch Grace to You television this Sunday. And join us tomorrow when John continues his look at the birth of the king with another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace to You.
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