New Year’s Message 1/02/2022 “ONLY SIX MILES”

January 2, 2022   /      /   First Baptist Church Charleston

Matthew 2:1-6

 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, 2 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.”

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 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.’” (Micah 5:2)

It was only six miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.

            ONLY SIX MILES. That’s not very far.

So many questions come to mind when we read this passage in Matthew Chapter 2:

Who were the Magi?                               Where did they come from?
How far did they journey?                      How many Magi came to Jerusalem?
What was the “star” they saw in the East?   How did they know what it meant?
How did it lead them? Why did they come to worship the “King of the Jews”?
Why was the whole city disturbed?

However, I want to focus on just one question that the text doesn’t entirely answer:

            WHY DIDN’T THE JEWISH LEADERS GO TO BETHLEHEM?

It was so close. ONLY SIX MILES AWAY. Since they knew that the Messiah was to be born there, why didn’t they go and check out the rumor for themselves?

The Magi: knew so little, came so far, and gave so much.
The Teachers: knew so much, were so near, and did so little.

            It was such a short journey.  ONLY SIX MILES.

Think of all that the teachers of the law knew about the coming of the Messiah:

            He would be born of the Seed of the woman. That’s in Genesis 3:15.
            He would be a descendant of Shem. That’s in Genesis 9:26.
            He would be of the seed of Abraham. That’s in Genesis 12:1-3.
            He would be a descendant of Isaac. That’s in Genesis 22:18.
            He would be a descendant of Jacob. That’s in Genesis 28:14.
            He would be of the tribe of Judah. That’s in Genesis 49:10.
            He would be a “son of David.” That’s in 2 Samuel 7:11,12,16.
            He would be born of a virgin. That’s in Isaiah 7:14.
            He would be born in Bethlehem. That’s in Micah 5:2.

We can summarize in five simple statements what the Jewish scholars knew about Jesus:

            1.  He will be a Jew.
            2. He will come from the tribe of Judah.
            3. He will be a descendant of David.
            4. He will be born in Bethlehem.
            5. He will be born of a virgin.

Who were these scribes and chief priests and teachers of the law that Herod consulted? 

            They were the best and brightest minds of the day.  As professional students of the Torah of God (the first 5 books of the O.T), they studied it both day and night.  They knew the Word of God; loved it; revered it; learned it; debated it; studied it and memorized it. Some of them had memorized the first five books of the Bible in Hebrew. Others had memorized many of the Psalms in Hebrew.

Why didn’t they go to Bethlehem? It was ONLY SIX MILES.

            Let me suggest three answers to the question:

  1. Their knowledge made them intellectually lazy.
  2.  Their religion made them spiritually indifferent.
  3.  Their background made them culturally arrogant

It’s always easy to discount people who aren’t like us.

            Charles Spurgeon remarks upon the Jewish leaders this way:

            “Those who should have been leaders were no leaders; they would not even be  followers of that which is good, for they had no heart towards Christ.”

For all those who feel they are too busy to join the search for Jesus, C. S. Lewis wrote:

            ‘Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

In his commentary on this passage, John Calvin makes the same point:

            “It is truly an instance of base sluggishness, that not one of the Jews offers himself as an escort to those foreigners, to go and see the King who had been promised to their own nation.”

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

As I read Matthew 2, one fact strikes me above all others: 

            Everybody involved had the same basic information. 

                        They all knew a baby had been born in Bethlehem.

                        They all knew who the baby was.

                        Herod knew and tried to kill Him; the scribes knew and ignored Him;

                        The Wise Men knew and worshipped Him.

                        The Bible scholars knew the answer to the question.

They knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but their knowledge   

condemned them all the more because they did nothing about the truth they knew.            

Don’t miss this solemn lesson: It is possible to know a great deal and still miss the truth.

Jesus stands at the end of life’s road for all of us. We will meet Him as King, Lord & Judge.

There can be no middle ground.

            > To ignore Him is the same as to hate Him because you’ll still end up without Him.       
            > And perhaps hatred is nobler than casual disinterest because when you hate,
you at least must pay                          attention to the object of your hatred, and that very attention may lead someday to a
                        change of heart. 

            > BUT to ignore Jesus altogether means to live as if He doesn’t matter at all.

                        But no one can ignore Him forever.

                        We all have an appointment with Christ sooner or later.

                        Jesus stands at the end of life’s road for all of us.

The ultimate question is not how someone else responds but how YOU respond to Jesus. That’s really the only thing that matters.

            Are you with Herod or with the scribes or with the Wise Men?

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