Luke 2:39, 41-52
Last week, as we were looking at the relationship between the Law and God's grace, we saw that the Magi could not have come to Bethlehem to visit the Christ child there.
We saw that they came some time later.
So, this morning, we are going to pick up on this story of the visit of the magi, and look beyond.
As we left the recording of the events that took place in Jerusalem on the eighth day, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had journeyed back to Nazareth (Luke 2:39):
39. And when they had performed everything according to he Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.
Beginning in 2:1, Matthew records what took place next:
1. Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
Note that Matthew doesn't mention that the magi came after Jesus, Mary and Joseph had left Bethlehem, but only after Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
But unlike Luke, who doesn't even mention the magi, Matthew tells us that the magi first came to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem, seeking the whereabouts of Jesus.
2. "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him."
Even these non-Jewish mystics came seeking God's Messiah, for they, too, realized that they needed a savior.
3. And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Herod was troubled because he was afraid of losing his position of authority, for if even foreigners came to believe in Christ the King, then all Israel would surely turn to Him, and away from Herod.
4. And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he [Herod] began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born.
5. And they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet,
6. 'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler,
Who will shepherd My people Israel.' "
Herod assumed that the Christ Child would be of the people living in the place of His birth; thus, he sought only where the Child was to be born, as Micah the prophet foretold (Micah 5:2):
2. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.
Continuing in Matthew:
7. Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared.
As we go on, remember that Herod sought the time of the star's appearance.
8. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, "Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him."
Herod sent the magi to Bethlehem, but did they really go there?
9. And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was.
God's special star led them to Jesus, and not to Bethlehem; in fact, it led them to Nazareth.
God's grace will always confound the proud people of this world.
10. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
11. And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Here is further confirmation that Jesus was not in the stable in Bethlehem when the magi visited Him, Mary, and Joseph.
They were living in a house.
12. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.
If you look at a map of Israel, you will see that Bethlehem is slightly south of Jerusalem, and that Nazareth is some distance to the north; thus, the magi did not go back to Jerusalem, but continued north on their way home.
13. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."
The Lord knew that when the magi failed to return to Herod, he would continue to seek to kill Jesus; so the angel warned them to depart for Egypt.
14. And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt;
15. and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Out of Egypt did I call My Son." [Hosea 11:1]
Joseph didn't wait.
He got up and immediately took his family and left for Egypt.
And Herod, that is, Herod the Great of whom we have been speaking, lived only a short time afterwards, perhaps dying in the same year that they left for Egypt.
16. Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi.
If Herod slew all the male children two years old and under, perhaps the star had appeared almost two years before this massacre, and the magi hadn't come until Jesus was almost two years of age.
17. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet [Jeremiah 31:15] was fulfilled, saying,
18. "A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
And she refused to be comforted,
Because they were no more."
It is obvious that Herod believed in God and His Messiah, His Son Jesus; yet he still fought against God by trying to change what God had already put in place.
Herod believed the truth, but he had no personal relationship with the Lord.
There are many people all around us, today, who are like Herod; they know the truth, but live the lie; as a result they are no better than any of Satan's demons.
This is why you constantly hear me say, "You must be born again!"
This is why you constantly hear me say, "Unless true and unconditional love is evident in a person's life, that person is probably not saved, no matter what they say with their mouth."
And this kind of love is not limited to God and human beings; it must extend to the whole of creation.
A person who is truly saved seeks the Lord and follows His direction.
Herod obviously went to hell, even though he apparently "believed".
This should be a very sobering message for those who say they believe, but show no change in life-style.
Let's return to Matthew and see what happened next (2:19).
19. But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying,
20. "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead."
Jesus may have been only three years old at this time.
They most likely were in Egypt only one year or so.
21. And he arose and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee,
23. and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."
The reason that I'm expressing these dates and ages of Jesus is because Archelaus became Herod in the year 4 B.C., but didn't return from Rome until the year 3 B.C.
Now so that you don't get completely confused, Jesus was actually born in the year 6 B.C., for the people who established our present calendar made a mistake with the starting date.
So what happened next?
For this account we must return to Luke, beginning with 2:41, at a time when Jesus was 12 years old.
41. And His parents used to go to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
Here is further evidence that they had returned from Egypt many years before, for we are told that they journeyed to Jerusalem every year.
42. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast;
43. and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. And His parents were unaware of it,
44. but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances.
45. And when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for Him.
Here is still further evidence that Jesus and His family had been back from Egypt for some time, for His parents were very comfortable with His being with other members of the community.
46. And it came about that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions.
47. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
He was studying for His Bar Mitzvah, and he was doing it all on His own. He wanted to learn about His Father, and the ways in which the religious leaders interpreted the Scriptures.
He wanted to be in the Temple!
So, I ask the youth who are here today, "Are you here because you want to be here?"
When we are truly God's children, we want to be in His sanctuary.
48. And when they [His parents] saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You."
49. And He said to them, "Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?"
Wouldn't it be wonderful if every time parents went looking for their children they would find them in church?
The world would surely be different.
50. And they did not understand the statement which He had made to them.
I suppose most parents of today wouldn't understand their children's desire to spend their time with God, either.
51. And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
I keep praying that there would be more children like Jesus, for every one of them is capable of being like Him.
And I pray for more mothers like Mary, who would truly treasure the things of God in their hearts.
52. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
If we are children of God, then we, too, should continue to increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Most people seek being in favor with other people, but not with God.
If we are truly Christians, then we should be recognized for who we are, not only by each other, but also by the world around us.
This is what it takes to be a merry Christian, and it's the merry Christians who truly have a merry Christmas.
Return to: Sermons Archive