Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel which was written by Jesus disciple Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses one through twenty-three of the second chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the apostle Matthew brining is face to face with an account of the birth of Jesus Christ. What is so interesting and unique about the words with Matthew presents ya with is that His is only one of two accounts of the birth of Jesus Christ. Other than the beloved physician Luke and the account he wrote concerning the birth of Jesus, Matthews account is the only other record we have concerning His birth. In the first seventeen verses of the first chapter of Matthews gospel we find him writing concerning the book of the generations of Jesus Christ. Using seventeen verses the apostle Matthew mentions a number of names which began with the days and time of Abraham. Beginning with Abraham, Matthew traces the lineage of Jesus Christ—not only to Abraham who was the father of Israel and the father of faith, but he also linked the lineage of Jesus Christ to David king of Israel. This is absolutely remarkable, for by doing so, not only does Matthew directly link and connect Jesus Christ to Abraham as the heir an fulfillment of the promise, but he also links Jesus to David as the heir and fulfillment to the throne. In Jesus Christ—not only do we see the perfect and ultimate heir to the promise given unto Abraham, but also in Christ we see the perfect and ultimate fulfillment of the throne which was given unto David and promised unto his descendants until one day the ultimate ruler would sit upon that throne and rule and reign with an everlasting reign and government. What an absolutely incredible thought it is to think that Jesus is the Son of Abraham, and as such is heir to the promise, and is the Son of David, and is heir to the throne.
Within the first seventeen verses of the first chapter of this gospel we find Matthew mentioning a series and number of names in order that we might be brought face to face with the history which led up to the manifestation and appearance of the Messiah. It is absolutely imperative and necessary that we begin with this series of names, for although these names might seem somewhat mundane, and perhaps even trifling, they nonetheless point us in the direction of the history that brought about the manifestation of the Messiah. What so fascinates me about the first seventeen verses of the first chapter of this gospel is that there are names we are familiar with, and there are names we have never heard of. There are names we are familiar with, and lives and stories we understand and recognize, and there are names we aren’t familiar with. There is contained within this list of names a number of names that many have undoubtedly heard of, or have even been aware of. This is actually truly astonishing, for contained within this fact is the wonderful and powerful truth is that despite some of these names not being known by those who came after them—perhaps even by those who were present during their generation—they nonetheless existed within and upon the earth to being about the manifestation of the Messiah. Despite the fact that there were names within this list that are unfamiliar with us—such names existed in the shadows in order that the ultimate Light might be manifested within and upon the earth. There were those whose names are found on this list whose stories we will never know or be aware of, and yet they were part of the history which led to the manifestation of Jesus Christ in the earth, as well as being part of the Messianic expectation and hope that was present within and upon the earth for centuries upon centuries.
Within the first chapter or Matthews gospel we are brought face to face—not only with the book of the generations of Jesus Christ, but also with the birth of Jesus and the announcement that was given unto Jospeh by the angel Gabriel in a dream by night. This first chapter of Matthews gospel does not mention anything about the angel Gabriel appearing unto Mary, for it would be the beloved physician Luke who brought us face to face with the account of the angel Gabriel appearing unto Mary in order to pronounce the coming and appearing of the Messiah. Within the first chapter of Matthews gospel we encounter the lineage and genealogy of Jesus Christ, and the history that brought us to the point in time when the messiah would be brought forth among men upon the earth. Also in the first chapter is a powerful testimony of Joseph, for the birth of Jesus as it is recounted by Matthew first begins with the reality that Jesus would be born of a virgin, and how when Joseph discovered that Mary was with child—knowing that he was not and could not be the father—he sought to put her away quietly, so as to not put her to an open of public shame and disgrace. What happened next was a wonderful intervention of the Lord, for the Lord sent the angel Gabriel unto Joseph by dream at night to help him understand that what was taking place within the earth, and what was taking place within the physical womb and body of Mary was indeed not of man, nor was man responsible for that which was conceived within and inside her. What we find in verses eighteen through twenty-five of the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel is not only an intervention within the life of Joseph, but it was also an emphatic declaration concerning the work which was taking place within the life of Mary. When the angel Gabriel appeared unto Joseph by a dream at night, he not only instructed him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, but the angel Gabriel also declared unto Joseph that what was taking place within the womb of Mary was of the Holy Ghost and not of man. How absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to consider that Joseph was of such worth and such value to the plan to bring the Messiah into the earth, that the Lord of heaven would send Gabriel to him by night to instill courage in his heart to take Mary as his wife. This actually has more significance in it than even meets the eye, for Joseph’s name is found at the end of the lineage of Jesus Christ—“And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matthew 1:16). The angel Gabriel intervened within the life of Joseph, for Joseph was in fact a direct descendant of David king of Israel, and therefore was an integral part of the lineage and genealogy of the Messiah within the earth. Consider if you will the words which are found and recorded in verses eighteen through twenty-five of the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel as follows:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on those wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 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. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called His name JESUS” (Matthew 1:18-25).
The more I read, and the more I consider that which is found within this particular set of verses, the more I am confronted with the awesome reality that when the angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph by night in a dream, he not only instructed Joseph to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, but the angel of the Lord also declared unto Joseph that what was conceived within the womb of Mary was not of man, nor came as a direct result of any union with man, but came as a direct result of the Holy Ghost coming upon and overshadowing her. In fact, in the eighteenth verse of this particular chapter we find Matthew—when speaking of the birth of Jesus Christ—speaking of the birth of Jesus as taking place before Mary and Joseph came together, as well as by a direct act of the Holy Ghost. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of what is found within these verses, for what we find in these verses is a wonderful and powerful testimony concerning the work of God—a work which cannot and will not be brought about by the will of man, nor by the plan of man. When Jesus Christ was brought forth into the earth, He was brought forth by a direct act of the Holy Spirit, as only the Holy Spirit could produce within Mary the life of the Messiah. This reality has more application than merely the birth of Jesus Christ, for within John’s gospel—not only within the first chapter, but also in the third chapter—we find the reality of our being born of the Spirit, and not born of the will of man, nor by the flesh. Consider if you will the words which are found and recorded in the first chapter of the gospel according to the apostle John, as well as that which is found in the third chapter of the same gospel:
“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:9-14).
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I had said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:3-8).
In both of these passages we are brought face to face with the fact that when it comes to the children of God—when it comes to the children of God being born of God within the earth—they are not born of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, and God alone. What’s. more, is that when speaking unto Nicodemus, Jesus Christ—who Himself was brought forth and manifested as a direct result of the Holy Spirit of the living God—declared that except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Jesus would go on to declare unto Nicodemus that that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Jesus then instructs Nicodemus to not marvel at what he just said, when He spoke of being born again, for just as the wind blows wherever it goes, and we hear the sound of the wind, but cannot tell where it is coming from, and where it goes, so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Jesus Christ was Himself—not only conceived of the Spirit, but also born of the Spirit of the living God. This reality was expressed explicitly by the apostle Matthew in the first chapter of the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, for it was Matthew who declared how Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Ghost before her and Joseph had even come together in marital unity and relations. Oh how absolutely and incredibly wonderful and powerful this truly is, for within it is a wonderful and powerful truth that when we speak of the life of Christ being conceived, brought forth and manifested within the earth—while the manifestation of Christ as being born of a virgin will never happen again—we speak of it in direct connection with an act that cannot be performed by man, nor can it come as a direct result of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but by the Holy Spirit Himself. There would be those who would try to bring forth the manifestation of the Messiah within the earth of their own accord, and of their own volition, and yet try and try as they might, they are completely incapable and unable to bring forth the manifestation of the Messiah. I firmly believe that within the account of Jesus Christ being conceived within the womb of Mary before her and Joseph even came together in marital union brings us face to face with the awesome reality that any true manifestation of Jesus the Christ within the earth comes not from any act of the flesh, nor even as a direct result of the will of the flesh, nor as a direct result of the will of man. When we speak of the manifestation of Jesus Christ within the earth, and even within our own hearts and lives, we must recognize and understand that it can only come as a direct result of union with the Holy Spirit, for only the Spirit can bring forth the life of the Messiah within our lives.
When Matthew writes and speaks of the birth of Jesus Christ, he doesn’t write anything concerning the angel Gabriel appearing unto Mary and declaring unto her the plan of God to bring about the Messiah within and through her life. Matthew mentions nothing about the shepherds who were out in the field watching their sheep by night, nor the angels appearance unto them proclaiming great tidings of great joy. Matthew mentions nothing of Simeon and Anna who were both devout and just and righteous individuals who were waiting for the coming and promise of the Messiah. [As a side note, it is absolutely wonderful to read the account of Anna and Simeon, for through their lives and examples we see that there was still a Messianic hope and expectation that was found within the earth. There is not a doubt in my mind that there were men and women during Jesus’ day who had within their hearts a wonderful and powerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah—one that provided them with great hope and anticipation for one who would come as Savior of Israel, and the Redeemer of Israel.]When we read of Matthew’s account of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, we find him writing concerning Mary, and how Mary was found to be with child before her and Joseph came together in marital union. Matthew’s account concerning and regarding the birth of Jesus Christ presents us with the fact that it was indeed an act of the Holy Spirit, and that man had absolutely nothing to do with what was about to take place within the earth. What’s more, is that Matthew presented us with Joseph the son of David seeking to put away Mary privately and quietly when he discovered that she was with child. When Joseph learned that Mary was found to be with child—and that not by any union or relation with him—instead of growing angry, instead of growing bitter, instead of growing offensive and resentful, he merely sought to put her away quietly and privately, so as not to expose her to public shame and guilt. This in and of itself is actually quite astounding, for it confronts something within us that we experience more often than not—the desire to walk away from, and perhaps even run from that which we don’t understand. Joseph discovered that Mary was with child, and he knew that the child was not his, because they had not yet come together.
Undoubtedly Joseph wondered how this could have taken place, and perhaps on multiple occasions thought and wondered to himself how this could even take place. Undoubtedly Joseph did not understand that which was taking place within the life and womb of Mary, and as a direct result of this lack of understanding, he sought to put her away quietly. This is something worth noting and making mention of, for how many times have we walked away from, and even attempted to run away from that which we don’t understand—particularly, and specifically when we are speaking of the work of God within our lives. How many times do we seek to abandon that within our lives which does not make sense to the natural mind, but is in fact a direct work of the Holy Spirit within our lives? I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his epistle unto the churches in Galatia, which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of this epistle beginning with the twenty-first verse:
“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the Scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free” (Galatians 4:21-31).
As you continue reading in the New Testament gospel of Matthew, you will find that in the second chapter, Matthew continues writing and speaking concerning the birth of Jesus Christ. In fact, in the opening verse of the second chapter, the apostle Matthew writes how Jesus was born in Beth-Lehmann of Judaea in the days of Herod the king. Matthew would go on to write how during those days there came wise men from the eat to Jerusalem, in order that they might diligently seek out and search for the Messiah who was born King of the Jews. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that when the Messiah was finally being brought forth into the earth, it was not shouted from the mountain tops, nor was there any voice from heaven declaring the arrival of the Messiah within the earth. In fact, if you read the account of the birth of Jesus you will find that it was of course announced to Mary and Joseph, but in addition to being announced unto Mary and Joseph, it was announced unto the shepherds who were watching their sheep by night. While it wasn’t openly announced unto the wise men who came from the east to Jerusalem in search for the Messiah, the wise men were nonetheless led to Jerusalem by His star in order that they might find the One who was born king of the Jews. When the birth of the Messiah came about, and when the manifestation of the Messiah was brought about within the earth, it was not publicly announced from heaven by the Lord, and the only proclamation that was made from heaven was the angel which announced the birth of the Son of David in Bethlehem—an angel who was joined with a company of angels proclaiming glad tidings of great joy. Please don’t miss the significance of this, for there were only two occasions when Jesus was finally publicly manifested in the earth when a voice came from heaven and proclaimed Him to be the Son of God in whom the Father was well pleased—the first which came at His baptism in the Jordan River, when after He emerged from the waters, the heavens were opened, the Spirit descended upon Him as a dove, and the voice of the Father declared on that day that this was indeed His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased; and the second, which came when He was transfigured atop the mountain in the company and presence of Peter, James and John. It was there on the mountain when not only was Jesus transfigured before them with the glory He had with the Father from the beginning, not only did He appear to be talking with Moses and Elijah, but also a voice from heaven burst forth and declared that this was His beloved Son. Aside from these two occasions, there wasn’t an open and public proclamation that was made concerning the arrival of the Messiah, and even though the star appeared in the sky leading the wise men to the place where Jesus was, they had to follow the star and search out the Messiah.
SEARCHING OUT THE MESSIAH! SEEKING OUT THE MESSIAH! I can’t help but consider the account of the wise men, as well as the account of the shepherds who watched their sheep by night, and how both accounts provide us with a wonderful truth and application within our own lives. When you read the account of the wise men who came from the east in order that they might find Him who was born King of the Jews, you will find that there was no voice from heaven which proclaimed unto them the King of the Jews had come, nor even who the King of the Jews was, nor where He was born or staying. Though the star of the Messiah appeared unto the wise men in the east, and they followed it to Jerusalem, they had to make up their minds to follow the star wherever it led, in order that they might search out, and ultimately find the Messiah. Matthew records how the star appeared unto the wise men in the east, and how they initially followed the star unto Jerusalem where they met with Herod. It was there in Jerusalem where they inquired of Herod concerning this one who was born King of the Jews, and it was there in Jerusalem where the wise men recounted their story of the star appearing unto them in the eastern sky, and how they followed the star unto Jerusalem to search out the Messiah. If you continue reading this passage of Scripture, you will find that after Herod had inquired of those before and around him concerning where this King of the Jews would be born, he discovered that this King of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem of Judaea. Once discovering where the Messiah would be born, Herod then called forth the wise men unto himself, and inquired of them what time the star had appeared. Immediately following this, he sent the wise men unto Bethlehem in order that they might search out the child with all diligence. I happen to find this to be absolutely and incredibly remarkable, for although the star appeared unto the wise men in the eastern sky, they not only had to make the decision to follow the star, but they also had to discern what the star meant. Once these wise men discerned what the star meant, and how the star pertained to the arrival of the Messiah, they had to diligently search out the Messiah. One thing we must recognize concerning the birth of the Messiah, is that upon His birth, He was not brought forth unto the shepherds who watched their sheep in the field by night, nor was the Messiah brought unto the wise men in the east. Both the wise men, as well as the shepherds needed to make the decision to rise from their places, and to search out the Messiah. Not only was their no public announcement in Jerusalem concerning the arrival and birth of the Messiah, but even when the angels appeared unto the shepherds by night, they had to rise from their place in that field and go unto where the Messiah was.
While the Messiah was born in Bethlehem, the shepherds had to make the journey to that place in order that they might come unto and actually see the Messiah with their own eyes. I can’t imagine what that journey must have been like for the shepherds as they left their sheep in the field in order that they might find the One who was the Great Shepherd. LEAVING THE SHEEP TO FIND THE SHEPHERD! Little did the shepherds know that they would be leaving the sheep in the field in order that they might come unto the Shepherd who was lying in a manger in Bethlehem. The shepherds had absolutely no clue that they as lowly shepherds were about to come face to face with the Great Shepherd—and although he didn’t didn’t look much lying there in a manger, He would grow to declare of Himself that He was the great shepherd and was the door of the sheep: Consider if you will the words which the apostle John wrote in the tenth chapter of his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, beginning with the seventh verse:
“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:7-18).
Although the star appeared unto the wise men in the eastern sky, they needed to study the star and discern what its appearance actually meant in the course of history. Once they recognized and understood what the star itself meant, they needed to make the decision to rise from their place in the east—much like the shepherds needed to rise from their place in the fields—in order that they might search out and find the Messiah. How absolutely wonderful is it that even as early as the birth of the Messiah, there were those who were searching for, and those who were searching out the Messiah. Even as early as the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, there were those who left their places in the world in order that they might come unto and find the Messiah whose birth was foretold by the ancient Hebrew prophets. Were it not for the appearance of the angel in the sky on that starry night, the shepherds would not have known that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem, and would have remained in the field with their sheep. Were it not for the star appearing in the eastern sky, the wise men would have remained in the east and continued on with their lives just as they had always done. It’s amazing how a single star can change everything, and how the appearance of angels can change the entire course of one’s life. It was the appearance of the star which changed the lives of the wise men who came from the east, and it was the appearance and message of the angels which forever changed the lives of those shepherds who watched their field by night. When Jesus Christ would become a man and would be publicly manifested within the earth, there would be those who would seek after and search Him out, in order that they might hear His teaching, and that they might experience the signs, the wonders, and the miracles He performed upon the earth. There was even one occasion when men and women sought Him out because they ate of the loaves of bread and the fish when Jesus multiplied a young lad’s lunch before them in the earth. What we must recognize and understand is that what was taking place in the earth was people being brought from their respective places in order that they might diligently search out and find the Messiah whose birth was long foretold and declared among the ancient Hebrew prophets. The question we are presented with when reading the account of the birth of the Messiah is—while it is true that the Messiah has already come and been born of a virgin within the earth—whether or not we are going to be ones who diligently search out and seek after the Messiah. Are we going to be those who rise from our places within the earth in order that we might come near to, and find the Messiah who was born King of the Jews—the Messiah who is coming back one day for His body and His church? Are we ones who are willing to rise from our place in the earth in order that we might search out the Messiah, for it was the prophet Jeremiah who emphatically declared in his letter unto the captives:
“Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:12-14).
As you continue reading the account of the wise men who came from the east to search out the One who was born King of the Jews, you will find that when they followed the star to find Him, they brought unto Him gifts of gold, of frankincense and of myrrh. I would dare say that there is a tremendous truth and application that is found within the actions of the wise men, for throughout the years the birth of Jesus Christ has been directly connected to Christmas, and the story of the nativity has been intrinsically linked to the giving of gifts unto each other. Christmas has come to be known as a time when we give gifts unto each other—gifts unto our parents, gifts unto our children, gifts unto our siblings, gifts unto friends, gifts unto relatives, gifts unto co workers, and the like. I would dare say that the account of the wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem, and to where the Messiah was living is one—not of gifts being given unto others, but gifts which were brought unto the Messiah. Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous word of instruction that is found and contained within this, for when was the last time you viewed Christmas as a time of the year when you give gifts unto the One who was born King of the Jews? Please note and please understand that I fully recognize that we are to give gifts unto the Messiah each and every day of the year, and that we are to continually bring our sacrifices and our offerings unto the Messiah. What I am referencing is viewing Christmas as a time when we can emerge from our places and not only give gifts and offerings unto the King of the Jews, but also give of ourselves afresh and anew before Him. What if we began viewing the Christmas holiday as a time when—yes, we can still give gifts unto others, and in fact receive gifts ourselves, but we give of ourselves brand new and fresh unto the One who was born King of the Jews. The wise men didn’t come unto the One born king of the Jews in order that they might receive, but in order that they might offer unto this young child that which was due unto Him. What if we viewed the account of the wise men—not only as a powerful word of instruction to search out the Messiah in order that we might find Him, but also to search out the Messiah in order that we might give unto Him afresh and anew? SEARCHING OUT THE MESSIAH & BRINGING THE GIFT OF OURSELF UNTO HIM.