December 12, 2017

The Birth of Christ Brings a Decision

John C. Vaughn

Each Gospel writer presents a slightly different perspective. Matthew addresses the Jews to prove that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah. The first three verses of chapter two illustrate the implications of that fact.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, 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. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew’s first chapter presents the genealogy of “Jesus the King,” the natural son of Mary, the adopted son of Joseph, who, under other circumstances, would have been “Joseph the King.” In 2:1–3, Matthew arrests our attention with a contrast: those far away were drawn near, while those nearby were still far off. In spite of the secularization of modern culture, men cannot escape this contrast. Men are drawn to the underlying truth of Christmas by their deep longing for the joy that it promises. And yet men are driven away from that truth by their deep jealousy for control of their own lives. So it was when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Wise men, even though they were far off, were drawn to the Savior, but wicked men, though they were nearby, were driven away.

Daniel had called Him “Messiah the Prince,” and Prince He was indeed. When Matthew closed his Gospel he had made the point that Jesus Christ was not only the King of the Jews but the King of the Universe. We look at the story from hindsight, but consider it from the ancient perspective. “When Jesus was born …” is an amazing statement. G. Campbell Morgan described this child as “the Eternal God, contracted to a span.” His unique conception, followed by a normal human birth, brought Him to us as a baby—an infant! Not a single word yet preached, not a single work performed; the power was not in what men realized, but in what God was revealing. Matthew said it in 1:23, reminding us of Isaiah’s promise, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

Paul taught the Corinthians that this witness is “to the one … the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.” Some “seekers” still ask for help from selfish men. They expect direction to the “King of the Jews” from Herod — himself interested but unmoved. First Corinthians 1:26 tells us that not many wise men come to Christ. The shepherds found their way immediately, but the wise men, even with a star to guide them, went instead to Herod. Herod went to the scribes, not for understanding but to stay in control. Of course, we acknowledge the wise men for having the wisdom to come at all. They were so moved by the birth of the incarnate King that they were not afraid, at first, to call him King in the presence of Herod the king. (There is a sermon in this story on the precision of the capital “K.”)

Our persistence in the Great Commission is helped by remembering that wise men today, though far off, are drawn near by the birth of Christ. He promised that when He was lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself. He was lifted up on the cross. When we preach Christ crucified, we make the point of the incarnation: He was born to die. Wise men take refuge not in the sentimentality of the Nativity but in the shocking reality of Calvary.

Therein is the offense that causes wicked men, though near, to be driven away by the Incarnate Christ. Though some would say that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same God, the Son of God said otherwise. To the unbelieving Jews, He said, “Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.” And though Islam tips its turban to the teachings of Jesus, its doctrine is clear: “Allah has no son.” When Herod heard the question about the “King of the Jews” and understood that the wise men had “come to worship him … he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Truth is often not good for business, for family ties, or friends. It brings contention and conflict. It causes men to lose control. They feel the wind that would drive their sails, but they will not pull up the anchor of sin. To them, the Good News is not good at all. Again this year, wicked men celebrate the birth of Christ so long as it is not a threat to their own sovereignty. The gospel is a question of life or death: the birth of Christ brings a decision. Wise men, even though they are far off, are drawn to Him, but wicked men, though they are near, are driven away.

John Vaughn is the President of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International.

(Originally published in FrontLine • November / December 2007. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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