Stephen Caswell © 2004
It has arrived so quickly, Christmas Day 2004. The Christmas Story involves so many different people; Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, the Wise Men, King Herod, the Religious Leaders. Today, I would like to focus on just one person Jesus Christ. We will see that the sweet Babe of Bethlehem is far more than this. We will see 3 things. Jesus Is Sovereign, Jesus Is Sinless, Jesus Is The Sacrifice.
Gifts Of The Magi
There is a beautiful legend about the three Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem. It seems that one of them was a young man, and in his youthful idealism he looked for a King. He carried gold, a fitting gift for royalty. Another was middle-aged, and to satisfy the deep questions that disturbed his maturing mind, he longed to find God. His gift was frankincense with which to worship God whom he hoped to find. The third was aged, with many a sin-stained year behind him; he longed to discover a Savior. Feeling that his Savior must be a sufferer, he took with him a gift of healing myrrh.
a. The Word of God
According to Matthew 1: and Luke 3: both Mary and Joseph were descendants of King David. The Old Testament foretold that Messiah would be a descendant David. Jesus Christ being a descendant of David has legal claim to Israel’s throne. The angel told Mary that Jesus would sit on the throne of His father David. Jesus was a descendant of the royal tribe, the tribe of Judah. The prophets foretold that a virgin would conceive and bear a son. This is what happened to Mary. She conceived the Babe by the Holy Spirit.
They traveled to Bethlehem to be registered by the Romans because this was Joseph’s home town. David came from Bethlehem and His greatest Son, the Messiah, would be born there too. Matthew 2:4-6: And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.
b. The Testimonies Of Men
Matthew 2:1-2: Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.
The wise men traveled from the East searching for the One, born King of the Jews. Somehow God had revealed to them that His Son had become a man. They knew that Jesus Christ was unlike any other King. I believe that they knew that He was God in the flesh. They searched diligently for him even though their journey was long and hard. When they found the Christ Child they bowed down to worship Him. The word worship, προσκυνέω, means, to prostrate oneself before, to kneel down before as an act of reverence. The wise men worshipped Jesus Christ as God. They submitted themselves to Christ as His servants. There is no evidence that they showed such respect for Herod. After they worshiped Christ they chose expensive gifts to present to Him. We should learn from their example. Firstly we present ourselves to God and then what we have.
2 Corinthians 8:3-5: For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
The wise men gave themselves and then carefully chose their gifts from their treasures. Matthew 2:11: And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
These gifts reveal that they understood Who Jesus was and why He had come. Gold is a gift fitting for a King. Foreign Ambassadors would present gold to kings as tribute money. They had told the people of Jerusalem that Jesus was born King of the Jews. The gift of gold they presented was a gift worthy for a king. When Pilate judged Christ he asked Him if He was the King of the Jews. Jesus replied that He was born to be King. When He was crucified the sign read Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Peter said that God had raised Christ from the dead to be both Lord and Christ. When Jesus Christ returns to Earth, He will come back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Christ is King!
Gold speaks of sovereignty. The wise men recognized Jesus Christ as King. They believed He was their Messiah. They bowed down and worshipped Him. Firstly, they gave Him their lives. Then, they gave Him gold, a gift fitting for a King. Have you recognized Christ as your King? Does He reign in your heart? Have you submitted your life to His will? Have you presented yourself and your treasures to Him? Why Not?
The second gift presented to Jesus Christ was frankincense. Frankincense is an ointment or perfume; it suggests the fragrance of the life of sinless perfection. The furniture in the temple was anointed with oil containing frankincense. This was because it was dedicated to God’s service. When frankincense was burnt in the temple it gave off a beautiful aroma that symbolized the presence of God. Jesus lived a perfect life, from His birth until His death. Because He was born of a virgin He had no original sin. Christ was tempted like we are yet remained sinless. He was raised under the Law and kept it. Jesus obeyed both His Father and His human parents. Christ lived the perfect life; the life God intended us to live. Christ’s life spread an aroma of God’s presence; His love, mercy and grace.
Not only was His life free from sin, it was also dedicated to God’s service. Jesus Christ dedicated His life to others. He spent His time on earth serving both God and mankind. Luke 4:18-19: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. Christ’s service yielded a sweet aroma of God’s presence. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit to serve God. In fact the word Messiah means anointed one. Jesus Christ lived to do His Father’s will.
A Letter To Roman Senate
The following is a translation of a letter sent by Publius Lentulus to the Roman Senate. There appeared in these days a man of great virtue, named Jesus Christ, who is yet among us; of the Gentiles accepted for a prophet of truth; but his disciples call him the Son of God. He raiseth the dead, and cureth all manner of disease. A man of stature somewhat tall and comely, with a very reverend countenance, such as the beholder must both love and fear.
His hair the color of a chestnut full ripe, plain to the ears, whence, downward, it is more orient, curling and waving about his shoulders. In the midst of his forehead is a stream or partition of his hair, after the manner of the Nazarites; forehead plain and very delicate; his face without spot or wrinkle, beautiful, with a lovely red; his nose and mouth so forked as nothing can be represented; his beard thick, in color like his hair, not over long; his look innocent and mature; his eyes gray, quick, and clear.
In reproving, he is terrible; in admonishing, courteous and fair-spoken; pleasant in conversation, mixed with gravity. It cannot be remembered that any have seen him laugh, but many have seen him weep; in proportion of body most excellent; his hands and arms delectable to behold; in speaking, very temperate, modest and wise; a man of singular beauty, surpassing the children of men.
The wise men gave Christ Frankincense which speaks of a sinless life. Christ lived the perfect life that God requires of us. How can we be perfect before God? By accepting Christ as our personal Savior, then His righteousness becomes ours. Have you trusted in Christ? Is He your Savior? Or are you struggling to please God in your own strength?
The third gift presented to Christ was myrrh. Myrrh was a desert shrub that produced pink flowers. It was sometimes known as the rock rose. It is very fragrant and valued for its perfume. An interesting fact about myrrh is that it has to be crushed before it gives forth any fragrance. The more it is crushed the more fragrant it becomes. Myrrh was often used to embalm the dead. Myrrh presages the sufferings Christ would endure in bearing the sins of the world. It speaks of His suffering and death.
She Makes it Personal
The story is told that Steinberg, the artist, struck with the beauty of a gypsy girl, took her to his studio and frequently had her sit for him. At the time he was at his masterpiece, Christ on the Cross. The girl used to watch him work on this painting. One day she said to him, He must have been a very wicked man to be nailed to a cross like that. No, said the painter, On the contrary, he was a very good man, the best man that ever lived. He died for others.
The little girl looked up at him and asked, did he die for you? Steinberg was not a Christian at the time, but the gypsy girl’s question touched his heart and awakened his conscience so he became a believer in Him whose dying passion he had so well portrayed.
Not only did Christ live the life we should have lived, He also died the death that we should have died. When John the Baptist first saw Christ at the Jordan River, He said Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John said this, 3 years before Christ’s death. Jesus was born to die. When Pilate had examined Jesus Christ, he said that he found no fault in Christ. He said that Jesus Christ was a just or righteous man. Jesus didn’t die for any wrong doing of His own; He died for your sin and mine. Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 5:7: Remove this wicked person from among you so that you can stay pure. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. Jesus died for us; for our sin. The third gift the wise men gave to Christ was Myrrh which speaks of sacrifice. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The Court Jester
One of my favorite comedy movies is the Court Jester starring Danny Kay. In this film an impostor takes the throne by force. A group of loyalists seek to return the rightful heir, a baby to the throne. This baby had a royal birthmark. At the end of the film the loyalists present the royal child to the people showing his birthmark. Everyone bows before the infant and says your majesty. This is the fitting response.
This morning we have seen that Jesus Christ is God’s anointed King. The testimony of this is clear. Therefore we must respond appropriately. Firstly, we must believe in Him. Then, we must worship and give ourselves completely to Him. Only, after we give ourselves we can present our gifts.
Numbers 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.