We have been reflecting on the birth of Jesus, and what we found in this season that we celebrate is that when God chose to enter his own creation it wasn't neat and tidy, everything wasn't ideal, so to speak. So today on Christmas Eve we want to focus on the story of the wise men who were called the Magi, from Matthew 2. The title of my message is "Oh Christmas Three." Now, I know when you probably saw it you thought, Oh, Christmas Three, isn't it supposed to be "Oh Christmas Tree?" It's "three" on purpose. It was a tongue-in-cheek way of focusing on something. What we're going to find in this passage is that there are three series of threes in it. There is this three-peat, so to speak, of threes.
The number three in the Bible signifies either completion, unity, or perfection. When you think about the revelation of God in the Bible, it's one God in three persons, the unity of who God is. It speaks about Jesus' earthly ministry lasting about three years. Many significant events in the Bible including the resurrection of Jesus happened on what—the third day. So what we're going to see in this passage is three series of three that are specific to the story of the wise men but also can be applied to all of us in different ways.
Now, the first set of three that we see here in this story is that there are three different kinds of people. There are those who are hostile to Jesus, there are those who are indifferent to Jesus, and then there are those who will worship Jesus. Three types of people, and I'm here to tell you that in this room, in the world that we live in, there are these same three types of people.
Before I explain to you who each person is, I want to share a Scripture with you. It's one of my very favorite in the whole of the Bible because in a lot of ways it sums up the meaning of our lives. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it springs the issues of life." When you think about that verse, what it means is that we—each one of us—need to keep or guard our hearts. Why? Because out of our hearts spring the issues of life.
If you look at every situation, every issue in the world, if you deduce it back to its root cause, it's almost always a heart issue, isn't it. There's something in the human heart that is keeping us from being the people that we want to be, that we know we ought to be, that we should be. It's a lack of compassion or love, a lack of wanting to involve ourselves in the life of other people, in the needs of the world. So when we think about these three types of people, it is important for us to not just think about thousands of years ago but to think about us today, who we are.
Hostile to Jesus
So first those who are hostile to Jesus. In the story, King Herod is hostile to Jesus. This king, this ruler is actively seeking to get rid of Jesus. Why? Because as a ruler, hearing that the King of the Jews was born and he was a ruler there, he's thinking, That child King is challenging my power structure. You find later in the Gospels that when the Magi, the wise men, don't go back to Herod, he actually actively persecutes children to try and do away with someone who will be a rival to his throne.
There are many people today, and no doubt maybe people here today, who when you look at your heart there is a hostility to Jesus. Jesus is intimidating to your own personal power. You would rather Jesus not exist. There's all sorts of people who will tell you why you shouldn't believe in Jesus. New York Times bestselling authors: "Oh, Jesus, Jesus, let's get rid of Jesus, let's pretend like he's not real, let's do all these other things." There's a hostility to Jesus. But that's a heart issue, isn't it? This was God's promised child. But yet Herod was still hostile.
Indifferent to Jesus
There are also those who are indifferent to Jesus. Now, in the account here, you know who was indifferent to Jesus? The chief priests and the scribes. The Magi come seeking Jesus, and they know where he is born, but the scribes and chief priests don't want to go meet him. There's many people even here today, some of us find ourselves to be indifferent to Jesus.
Now, it's interesting that in the account, the people who were the most indifferent to Jesus were actually the most religious people. Because they knew the Scriptures, they knew that he was to be born in Bethlehem, and they heard that he was born. They say, "We know what the Scriptures say but we actually don't want to meet with Jesus." It's easy to use religion as a way to keep Jesus at an arm's length. Why? Because religion and the gospel of Jesus Christ are different from one another. Religion says, I obey God, therefore God accepts me, so I do all these religious things and now God is in my debt and I'm supposed to get whatever I want. So we use religion to keep God away. But that's not the Christian gospel. The Christian gospel is not: I obey, therefore God accepts me. The Christian message is: I am accepted, therefore I respond to God by obeying what he wants. When we realize we're accepted no matter what we do, now all of a sudden God is not in our debt, we just come and say thank you.
So in our story, the religious leaders were indifferent. They knew he was born, they just didn't want to go near him. But you know what's interesting? A lot of people are also indifferent to Jesus not because they're religious; they're just spiritually apathetic. And I don't mean to be crude or rude, but some of us are just apathetic to Jesus. We know that he is God, we know he was born, we know he died on a cross and rose again, but for whatever reason it doesn't move our hearts at all.
Imagine if you had a life-threatening illness, you needed a heart transplant or a liver transplant and somebody said, "I'm willing to give up my life so that you may have life." Are you going to be indifferent to that person? Are you going to say, "Oh, yeah, well, yes, it's great they died but hey, I'm alive, so cool," and you just go on with your life. I don't think so, right? When somebody is willing to give up their life so that you may have life, that's going to impact your heart. You're going to spend the rest of your life thinking, I need to live differently because somebody gave up everything so that I might be here. And that's why if you're here today and you're indifferent to Jesus, you have to say, "God, why is my heart indifferent to Jesus? He gave up his life that I may have it. Not only to give me an abundant life now but to give me an everlasting life for all eternity." Not just I give up my life now so I get heaven later, I get life now and later. It's the complete package. But we shouldn't be indifferent, and some of us find ourselves in that heart space today.
Then third, those who have come to worship. And of course the wise men, the Magi, they've come to worship Jesus. They're seeking after him. They won't stop until they find Jesus. And when they find Jesus, we find that they lavish gifts upon Jesus. So I ask you today, where do you find yourself? Are you hostile, are you indifferent? Or have you come to worship Jesus?
Three types of revelation
There are also three types of revelation that we find in this passage. Now, the word revelation—you're going to love this—in the Bible is the Greek word apocalypsis. Which we get our word "apocalypse" from. Now, I know when you hear the word apocalypse you think, Thank God for Bruce Willis. Because if there's a meteor coming to the earth, thank God for Bruce Willis. He's going to get on a shuttle, he's going to go drop a nuke in that thing and he's going to save the day. When you think of apocalypsis, you think of the end of the world. But you know what the word apocalypsis actually means? It means to open a present, to open a box to see what's inside. I'm here to tell you today, not right now only during Christmas, but every single moment of your life, God wants to open up the present of who he is into and through each one of us. God wants to reveal himself to, in, and through our lives. And in this passage, we see three types of apocalypsis. Three types of presents that are being unpacked for us—general revelation, specific revelation, and personal revelation.
Do you know what the general revelation is? The general revelation is that star that they saw, the star that precipitated or began the journey for the wise men. It's the way God reveals himself to us in nature, in what he created. Do you realize that everything that God has created reveals something about who God is in a very general way. What that tells us is that when you see the rain, when you see ice, when you see the sun, the moon, when you watch something blossom. That tells us something general about the God who created us. And in this story the Magi see the star. There is a general revelation.
There is also a specific revelation when the Magi say, "The King of the Jews was born in Bethlehem." The specific revelation is God's Word, the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. God reveals himself specifically to the wise men, and I believe God wants to reveal himself specifically to us.
Now, I know some people say, "Hey, listen, the Bible, okay, whatever, but my church is nature." I have friends like that, nature is their church. And I say, "Well, listen, the word church actually means a called-out group of people so you can't let nature be your church because nature is not people, it's nature." But the reason God doesn't only give us a general revelation but he gives us a specific revelation is God knows if he does not tell us who he is specifically, we are going to make up our own ideas about God. And not only will we make up our own ideas about God, but we are going to make God after our own image. It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said, "God created us in his image and we've been returning the favor ever since." Left up to our own devices, the average human being is going to make God just like them, likink who they like, hating who they hate, valuing what they value, and devaluing what they don't value.
In a lot of ways we want God to be a Stepford God. You remember the movie or the book, The Stepford Wives? Remember in that movie in that community in Stepford, the men didn't want to have to deal with their wives so they plugged a little chip in their brains and all their wives were perfect, could cook perfectly, were totally cordial, never had an opinion on anything. And all the guys said, "Amen, Merry Christmas." You're going to get coal in your stocking if you said that out loud. But listen, all of us want to have a Stepford God. We want God to be just like us, we want to be able to fortify what we value by saying, "That's where God is at." And I'm here to tell you, God revealed himself to us specifically in the Bible to challenge all of our presuppositions about who God is and what God values. So God reveals himself specifically in the Bible.
And then of course, God reveals himself personally to these wise men. The same account in Luke 2, we find that the angels start revealing themselves specifically to the wise men. And I'm here to tell you that God wants to reveal himself personally and intimately to you, to me, and to all of humanity. Not only is it just nature or just the Bible, there's also that personal intimate revelation of a relational God who knows everything about us and wants us to know who God is. And Psalm 19 lays out the exact same thing for us. Three types of revelation: General, specific, and personal. So, notice this, you have three types of people: hostile, indifferent, and worshiping. You have three types of revelation: General, specific, and personal.
Three offices of Jesus
Finally, you realize that these wise men give three gifts to Jesus. Now, because of these gifts most people think that there were three wise men, but the text actually never says that. They just give three gifts and people say, "They gave three gifts, one gift per person, there must have been three of them." The Bible doesn't say that. But there are three gifts and don't think for a moment that those gifts don't have any meaning. Each one of these gifts tells us something about this child, Jesus, who we worship, who we are celebrating this Christmas and every Christmas. I call this the three offices of Jesus. The three offices of Jesus are that Jesus is the King, Jesus is the Priest, and Jesus is the Savior. Look at the three gifts that we find. They brought Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Jesus is the King
Now, gold. You have to realize that a couple thousand years ago it wasn't like today where if you wanted to buy some gold you go to the jewelry store. It wasn't like that. Gold was even a less common commodity and kings were known for their great stashes and treasuries of gold. When the wise men bring gold to Jesus, they're saying this child is the King of the Jews. That's how the story began, right? We're seeking the King of the Jews, and gold shows Jesus as a King. And he is a King, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Jesus is the Priest
Not only did they give him gold, they gave him frankincense. Now, frankincense was a type of incense, and this type of incense was very common for the priests. It was a sweet fragrance to God. When they brought Jesus frankincense it spoke about this child who not only was a King but he was also a priest. In Jesus' culture the priests, they were the mediator. They stood between the community and God. They witnessed to the community about who God was and they spoke to God on behalf of the community, and Jesus is the Great High Priest, the mediator between you and God.
Jesus is the Savior
So not only is this child a King and not only is a Priest, but they also brought myrrh. Now, myrrh was actually an embalming spice. When somebody died, their bodies in that culture were embalmed with myrrh. When you think about the reality that Jesus was given myrrh at his birth—it speaks about his death and his resurrection. Not only is Jesus a King, not only is he a priest, but he is also the Savior.
I want to close with two Scriptures, both from 2 Corinthians 5. Verse 17 tells us, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; old things have passed away, all things have been made new." That speaks of Jesus as the Savior. No matter what your history, no matter how bad this morning was, yesterday was, last week was, no matter how bad it was, if you find yourself in Jesus, because of his death and resurrection, the past was the past, you've been made brand new in Christ.
Then later in that same chapter, 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "For he made him," Jesus, "who knew no sin, to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him." Brothers and sisters, this Christmas and every day, we have to remember that that Child who we celebrate, who was laid in a manger, lived the perfect life that we could never live, died the death that we deserved, and rose again. That whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life. People have worshipped Jesus for 2,000 years, the wise will continue to.
Daniel Fusco is the Lead Pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver, WA.