Matthew 2

Matthew 2: Yada, Yada, Yada…

If you ever watched any of the Seinfield television series, a show about nothing, you heard this expression….’yada,yada,yada..’ This is actually a real Hebrew word that means to know or be known.  We began this study of the Gospels at Peter’s instructions- as he wrote in 2 Peter 3:18, the last line of his last letter:” Grow in the grace and  knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The first time we see this word in Scripture is in Gensis 4:1, where we read – ‘ Adam knew his wife Eve…(KJV) Yada is the Hebrew word used there. The NIV states it even more implicitly- ‘Adam lay with his wife.’ All of sudden we realize this is a word of intimacy. But knowing someone is multi-dimensional task. Paul wanted to know  Him in the power of his resurrection in Phil. 3.   Jesus said to Phillip, “ have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me..” ( John 14) Paul prayed in Ephesians 1: 17- ‘ that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give you a spirit  of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.’

This word ‘yada’ implies to know something or someone in detail. To know all about someone, the facts- where they went to school, grew up, accomplishments, history.  You may know a lot about a favorite president, or a famous athlete or musician, yet not actually ever met them in person. This is one dimension of knowledge.

Yada means to know something technically. This means you know how it works, you have understanding. Moses knew the ways of God. He knew something about how God worked, so did Abraham that is why he prayed like he did for Sodom and Gomorrah. Do you see how knowing the Lord better, can enable you to pray more effectively?

Yada means to know someone by personal experience. This means you have had an encounter with them a personal experience whereby you learned something about them.  Perhaps you worked with someone on a project and this experience was something you shared and learned about the other person because of it. You learned their ways of doing things: “ He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.: ( Psalm 103:7) Have you experienced the Lord in your life?

Yada means to know someone face-to-face.  Jesus said to Phillip, have I been with you so long, Phillip and you do not know me.  If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. No man has seen God face to face and lived. Moses wanted to see his face, but God hid him in the cleft of the rock and placed his hand over eye so Moses could glimpse the afterglow but not his face. This encounter produced a glow on Moses’ face. Have you seen the affects God has had on others and on your own life  in their face?  This change in behavior which can be observed is sometimes reflected in their appearance.  I believe there is a transparency that redemption brings which reflects an inner peace with God.

And the fifth dimension  of knowing is intimacy. Because that is what God wants a personal, one-on-one intimate relationship with you. “Christ in you, the Hope of Glory.” That is why we are called the bride of Christ.

Today in some ways, we contemplate Christmas in August.  Again, we will look at parallel stories as we see the visit of the Magi, recorded only by Matthew which took place several months after the birth of Christ. We will also look at the familiar scene of the shepherds tending flocks in the field who receive notice of the arrival of the Lord Jesus by the angels and their subsequent visit to pay homage to the infant Jesus with his mother and Joseph in the manager in Bethlehem.  We will see how some came to grow in their knowledge of the Lord and how others did not.

Matthew is the only gospel writer who records this visit of these men from the east, known as Magi. Why was this important?  Matthew wanted to provide the evidence, this Jesus was recognized as king, thus he wanted to record this event.  The wise men came to worship a King, not a Savior.

As we continue to look at fulfilled prophecies watch what happens in today’s lesson as we see the sovereignty of God worked out to fulfill the following prophecies:

  1. The Lord Jesus  was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  2. He was to be called out of Egypt.  ( Hosea 11:1)
  3. There was to be weeping in Ramah. ( Jer. 31:15)
  4. He was a root from the stem of Jesse and therefore to be called a Nazarene (Isa. 11:1)

Matthew 2:1 tells us “ After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  and asked, “ Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?”  Before we investigate these important visitors, which occurred months, even up to a year after the birth, let’s go back to Bethlehem and see what occurred and led up to that fulfilled prophecy.

We read in Luke 2:1- “In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone was to return to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register  with Mary who was pledged to marry him and was expecting a child.”

Now who was this Caesar Augustus?  He was the grand  nephew of Julius Caesar and ruled as emperor of the Roman Empire from 27 BC to 14 AD.  In what appears to be a completely unrelated decree, Caesar Augustus decided at this time ( estimated 4 BC ) to take a census. This is what brought about Joseph and Mary’s trip to Bethlehem from Nazareth.

What would happen 2000 years ago on what we celebrate as Christmas was God came to earth to be with us. The Word had become flesh and would dwelt among us. This was the turning point of history.  The birth of Jesus Christ, next to His crucifixion was the most momentous event in the history. It became the focal point of all history.  We literally measure time by the Lord Jesus’ birth. BC- is before Christ. And AD, which is ‘anno domini’ meaning the year of our Lord. 2013, the date that appears on every document and calendar in the world is saying- it has been 2,013 years since the Lord Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

Jesus would make an impact on the world as no one ever had or ever will.  No one is like Him.  He was described by John as –  ‘ the one and only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ Do you realize Jesus never wrote a book? Yet  one cannot begin to count the books that have been written about Him.  I have probably over 300 in my own home. He never held a political office, yet one day, every knee shall bow and tongue confess that He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  He altered the world completely.

So let us look back at this first Christmas and see who missed the first Christmas and why and who did not miss the first Christmas and why. And in doing so, we will see why people are still missing the meaning and significance of the first Christmas , when God became flesh and dwelt among us- Immanuel,God with us.

The Innkeeper.

Luke 2 tells us of the birth in the manger,a scene familiar to all of us who know the story. “ Mary gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because  THERE WAS NO ROOM IN THE INN.”   Although the innkeeper is not mentioned by name, there was an innkeeper who when Joseph inquired about lodging, told him there was no room in the inn.  How did he miss this occasion?  Well, he probably explained to Joseph, it is this census, it has filled the town up. There are no rooms anywhere.

Do you know why the innkeeper missed Christmas? Missed the opportunity of a lifetime to have the Savior of the world born in his inn?  He was simply busy. He was pre-occupied with  business.  It was a rush season. There was a lot going on- a lot of activity in town. We don’t know what kind of person he was, only that in his preoccupation with his business and the busyness of his life, he was completely ignorant of what was going on. How many people will miss the Christ of Christmas simply because they are preoccupied with the business of life that creates so much busy-ness.  In other words- don’t bother me with this Jesus- I am busy doing something else.  I have discovered there is a very simple reason a lot of people miss the Christ of Christmas- they do not want Him to interfere with their lives.  In fact, if you are a Christian and you let something else make you too busy for Christ, I guarantee He will interfere with your life.

Herod the Great.

Herod missed the first Christmas also. He was not ignorant of the prophecy – he was well informed.  The story in Matthew 2, tells us when the Magi arrived  and announced they were there to worship the one born the King of the Jews, we read Herod was disturbed, was troubled.  Herod the Great was king of Judah and approaching 70 years of age, why did a baby born probably a year earlier bother him?  Why did Herod fear this child?  First of all, the Magi, were important men.  Their arrival would have been noteworthy for they were an impressive delegation of wise men, known as ‘king-makers’ in the east.  You will notice, we are not told there were ‘ three wise men’, this is a myth that has grown from the fact they brought three gifts, made popular as a Christmas legend through songs and Christmas cards depicting their visit to the manger, which is not scriptural. They would visit the child at a house, not a manger. This group which arrived may have been a force of anywhere from 50 riders and soldiers to over 300. They got Herod’s attention and his response is fear- his throne is threatened.

Herod the Great was a ruthless man who would destroy an enemy or perceived enemy or threat to his power in a heartbeat. He will have the male children under 2 years of age  in Bethlehem and it vicinity killed. ( Thus the prophecy of the  weeping in Ramah.)

Herod missed the first Christmas because his fear was someone else would take his throne. There are a lot of people today who have missed the Christ of Christmas, because like the innkeeper they are just busy with life.  There are others who like Herod have missed and continue to miss the Christ of Christmas because they do not want to allow anything or anyone to interfere with their life or lifestyle. This Jesus wants to be king of their life, but they want to be king of their own lives. They don’t like His rules and do not want Him to rule over them. Do you remember what the Jews said “we don’t want this man to be our king!” ( Luke 19:14)

The Religious Leaders.

Interesting when the Magi appeared before Herod they wanted to know:’ where is the one born king of the Jews?’  Herod called in the chief priests and the teachers of the law and asked them where was the Christ, the King of the Jews to be born.   “ In Bethlehem of Judea” was their answer as they knew the prophecy of Micah.

They knew exactly where he was to be born.  But did  you notice in the account we have here in Matthew 2, none of them even went with the Magi to see this one born the king of the Jews. Why of all people, these religious leaders who knew the prophecy, miss Christmas and the Christ of Christmas?  Herod feared His rule and threat to his throne. The innkeeper was busy with lots of things.  The religious leaders were indifferent.  They just did not care. Apathy. The Messiah was not important to them. After all they were self- righteous. Their works saved them. They could pray they were glad they were not like the publicans. They kept the law- they did not need a savior. They did not need  a physician, because they were not sick. They were in their own minds – perfect.  In fact, when the Lord Jesus began his ministry, they would oppose him and become his principle enemies. Do you know where indifference comes from?  Think about the powerful, important people you may have run across in your life time- most of them will not give you the time of day, unless you are important also or are important to them. They are shaking your hand while looking to see who else is there more important than you. They are indifferent to you because you are not necessary to them, nor can you add to their importance. The root of indifference is pride. A sin that God hates.  Jesus said it best:  “ I did not come to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance.” ( Matthew 9:13)   Today there are more and more people who miss the Christ of Christmas because they are indifferent to Him. Care nothing about Him— don’t particularly dislike Him, just don’t care. So they ignore Him. Don’t care if you worship Him- just don’t care about Him – themselves. In their pride of self-righteousness which also comes masked as superior intelligence, they cannot believe you believe in this ancient book called the Bible, the Word of God.  These are the scoffers, Peter referred to in his 2nd letter. Nicodemus was a religious leader, a member of the Sanhedrin, a master rabbi or teacher. To follow Jesus would interfere with his life and his reputation among his peers. In other words it would cost him to allow Jesus to interfere with his life. He would speak up for Jesus in John 7 and would be immediately made fun of.  He would honor Jesus with 75 lbs of incense and spices for his burial. These were expensive- but the personal costs was much more.

The Roman Empire and it citizens.

Do you realize for the most part, an entire empire missed the Christ of Christmas? Jesus Christ was born and would come of age in the heyday of the Roman Empire. How did an Empire as influential, as long-lasting and sophisticated as they were miss the Christ of Christmas?   In a word they missed the Christ of Christmas because of- IDOLATRY. They worshipped idols. In fact the Emperor declared himself a god to be worshipped along with a whole host of gods of their own making.  In fact, this is the where we find ourselves in the 21st century in America- a land of idolatry, a land of ‘gods’ of our own making.  We could easily list things people worship instead of the God of the Bible.   We are a country of people who like the Roman Empire worship false gods.  Cars, boats, houses, power, popularity, fame, sex, a comfortable lifestyle with no problems.  What it really comes down to- is selfishness that manifests itself in worshipping these things and materialism. Many even are like the Roman Empire which allowed you to worship many different gods, and some have included Jesus in their pantheon of gods.  But the Lord is clear- you can have no other gods before Him.

The People of Nazareth.

Notice in the story of Luke, Joseph went up to Bethlehem from Nazareth, for this is where he and Mary lived.   When the Magi are warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they leave the country another way.  Joseph, is then warned by an angel to take the child and the mother  and escape to Egypt.  God had provided Joseph with the resources he needed to flee in the gifts of the Magi which included gold. While in Egypt, Herod the Great died, not long after he had the male children under 2 years of age murdered.  Joseph and Mary and Jesus return to Nazareth. Thus we see the fulfillment of the prophecy – he would be called out of Egypt and be called a Nazarene.

But look now at those who missed the Christ of Christmas. In Luke 4, we read what happened on a particular Sabbath in the synagogue in Nazareth where Jesus grew up.  Luke 4:14-28 records this event which describes Jesus revealing to the hometown people of Nazareth who he is.  He is telling them publicly- he was the Messiah. What was their reaction?  “ Is this not Joseph’s son? “ They rejected Him. Even to the point of driving him out of town in order to throw him off a cliff.  Jesus made this comment- ‘no prophet is accepted in his hometown.’ Ever heard the quote- familiarity breeds contempt.? Contempt is a lack of respect for someone, a feeling this person is beneath you and not deserving of respect.  Think of all the people who knew Jesus growing up or did business with him as a carpenter. Think of those who thought they were more educated than Jesus, more successful than Jesus and even more religious.

When familiarity is linked with unbelief it forms a deadly combination that the enemy uses to keep one from being convicted of their sins.  Think of the preacher’s son or daughter, the deacon’s children, those who have been raised in a Christian home and know the stories of the Bible but for whatever reason reject these truths.

Many people celebrate Christmas. They have a tree, exchange gifts, have family time around a traditional meal.  They embrace the baby in the manger- it’s easy and He is adorable as all babies are. They do not embrace Him as  God.

Who Celebrated the First Christmas?

The shepherds  in the field we read about in Luke 2.  How appropriate the angels would reveal to shepherds the Lamb of God. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find Him a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared  with the angel praising God and saying- Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will to men.” The shepherds response:  “They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby who was lying in manger. When they had seen Him,they spread the word about what had been told them  about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

Now as you well know- this is a story known to many in this country. It is a familiar story- but for some the familiarity breeds contempt.  They don’t mind the baby in the manger- just don’t want Him to be their King, His authority over their lives , and they don’t need a Savior, so no thank you.

Others have heard the good news the shepherds did 2013 years ago and  said – ‘ let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ But many who have heard are not willing to go and see. They do not open a Bible or attend church.

Interesting when John the Baptist told this two young protégé’s, John and Andrew: ‘ Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. ‘   When they heard this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and said,” What do you seek?” They said, Rabbi, where do you dwell?  And he answered – “ Come and See.”

Have you heard the good news and decided like the shepherds to go and see.  For this is still his invitation to the world- come and see.  Come and See the Christ of Christmas.

The First Christmas Eve .

We can only imagine what the first Christmas Eve in heaven was like, but Scripture gives us some insight, as what may have been the farewell speech of God the Son on that Christmas Eve as He prepared to enter this world in flesh as a baby born in Bethlehem. “ Therefore when Christ came into the world, He said:

“ Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burn offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘ Here I am- it is written about me in the scroll, I have come to do your will, O God.” ( Hebrews 10:5-7)He came to die for our sins.  A body had been prepared for Him. When He came- we know was in the fullness of time. God’s perfect timing.

Why did He come?  WE cannot be saved by his virgin birth, no matter how miraculous it was and is.   His sinless life, exemplary as it is and was, could not save us. All of this was for one purpose- so He could die for us.  He was born to die.  He paid for our sins.  His resurrection on the third day assures us, It is finished. God is pleased with His atoning sacrifice.

And there is no name under heaven by which men can be saved, but the name of Jesus. Come and see the Christ of Christmas.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14