Sermon:  The Upside-down Gospel

Summary:  Even though the story of the magi demonstrates that Christ's kingdom in
conflict with the ruler of this world, it also demonstrates that his rule is not just for the
wise and intelligent, but for all who would acknowledge his rule and accept it in their
lives.  Therefore, we need to take seriously his mandate to make disciples of all the

Know:  God desires that we look beyond ourselves and our comfort zone and reach out to
those we normally wouldn't associate with to bring the Gospel to them.

Feel:  A sense of mission to all those who are lost.

Do:  Reflect on how you see those around you, through human eyes, or through God's
eyes.  Do you see rebellious, abominable people, or do you see sheep without a shepherd
that need to know the Good Shepherd.  Brainstorm on ways you can reach out with the
Gospel.  Make a decision this year to share the Gospel with X number of people.

Text:  Matthew 2:1-12

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 28:19-20

1.  Got a letter from someone in New Zealand
	a.  What is the weather like there right now?   It is summer
	b.  When it is summer here, it is winter there
	c.  Their world is upside down
2.  I did some research on Matt 2:1-12 a few years ago
	a.  This is an upside down passage
	b.  Doesn't seem that way
	c.  Very familiar story, think of Christmas programs, everything is right
	d.  Three kings or wise men came to Jesus in the stable right?
		- Only part of that sentence that is correct is "men came to Jesus"
		- Who were they?
3.  Read (Matt 2:1-12)
	a.  Matthew emphasizes in the infancy stories that Jesus is royalty
	b.  1:1 - Jesus Christ the son of David
	c.  Also calls Jesus the Christ/Messiah 
	d.  End of chapter on emphasizes his role as a delivering King
4.  Chapter 2 reveals two things about the kingship of Jesus

I.  His kingship conflicts with the world
	A.  Herod "the King" v.s. the one "born king of the Jews"
		1.  Herod technically not a king, more like a governor
		2.  He appointed as a client ruler by Roman senate
		3.  Matthew uses this term to heighten the conflict
	B.  Herod was troubled along with all Israel.  
		1.  Herod troubled
			a.  Wasn't just because he felt threatened by possible revolt
			b.  Rome's policy - Execute or exile ineffective rulers
		2.  Why all Israel troubled?
			a.  Wouldn't they rejoice at the good news of the messiah?
			b.  Some dismiss this as an embellishment, a legend
			c.  Herod - Ruthless against all "possible" conspiracies
			d.  Had 3 sons executed 
				- Augustus - would rather be Herod's pig than his son
					- It was safer
			e.  Later part of chapter 2 - Committed genocide
			f.  People were concerned because they not know what 
			    Herod going to do!
		3.  Of course, Herod is powerless to get to the child
			a.  His birth was God's work
			b.  His birth in Bethlehem was prophesied by Micah
	C.  There have been those persecuted or marginalized
		1.  Stories abound about Christian persecution in the world
		2.  Even in our own country, Christians are increasingly 
		     marginalized, ridiculed, etc.
			a.  You may have experienced this yourself
			b.  You may find it a challenge to be a Christian
		3.  Someone asked - Why can't it be more easy!
	D.  (Matt 10:34-39) - Jesus said there would be conflict
		1.  Reason - His kingdom is not of this world
		2.  That's why Paul says "Through many tribulations we must enter 
		      the kingdom of God."Acts 14:22 
		3.  But greater is he who is with us, than he that is in the world
			a.  (1 Jn 5:4) -"Whatever is born of God overcomes the world
			     & this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith"
			b.  (Rev 17:14) - "These will wage war against the Lamb, and the
Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who
are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful."

II.  His kingship is for all who accept him
	A.  This point comes from the section about the magi from the east
	B.  Who were they?
		1.  This perhaps the most embellished part of the Bible
		2.  They were three oriental kings, each with a name and story
			a.  What gave rise to these legends?
			b.  Came after the time of Constantine when church acquired 
			     ruling power
			c.  Eventually the magi were interpreted as "kings"
			d.  Medieval interpretation saw this as legitimating for 
			     Christian monarchs
		3.  In renaissance & reformation, this interpretation was rejected
			a.  They believed the church should not have political power
			b.  Eventually became known as "wise men"    Why?
			c.  Is it possible that the acquisition of worldly wisdom had 
			     the same effect on the interpretation as the acquisition of 
		4.  Matthew does not define Magi, readers knew what they were
			a.  Identification as wise men is a 15th century tradition
			b.  This is where some good research is needed
			c.  Let's look at what how 1st century viewed Magi
	C.  Research on Magi
		1.  Magi - Used of Persian astrologers
			a.  Have you ever thought about that?
			b.  They would be like Madame fortune teller on T.V.
		2.  Magoi in Greco-Roman Literature
			a.  Some such as Nero thought Magi's knowledge valuable
			b.  Others, like Tacitus denounces their astrological arts as 
			c.  Keep in mind, this is a pagan, non-Jewish, non-Christian 
		3.  Magoi in Jewish literature
			a.  Never portrayed as wise, but always in a negative way
			b.  Midrash - Pharoah's sorcerers were magi
				- Exod 7:12 - Their staffs swallowed by Aarons
				- Exod 7:22 - Not get rid blood of Nile, but made more
				- Exod 8:7 - Didn't get rid of frogs, just made more!
				- Exod 8:18 - Failed at bringing forth gnats
				- Exod 9:11 - They become victim to the boils
				- They are seen as incompetent fools
			c.  Philo (Hellenistic Jew in Alexandria) - Balaam a Magus 
			     (Num 22-23)
				- Lord told him not to go to Balak, but he didn't get it
				- Incident with the Donkey, angel in the way
				- (22:34) "If it is displeasing, I will go back" - DUH!!
				- Unwittingly blesses Israel 4 times!   
				- Philo concludes magi are stupid and ignorant people
				- Magi were experts ... at nonsense, learned, but not 
			d.  Septuagint - Daniel 2
				- 2:2 - All the kings kooks, quacks and morons
				- 2:10 - They are ineffective
				- 2:28 - Only Daniel with God's revelation can reveal 
				   kings dream
			e.  "Mag" in Hebrew is "soothsayer"
		4.  New Testament
			a.  Acts 8:11 - Simon, who Magi'd  (verb form of Magoi)
			b.   Acts 13:6-8 - Elymas
	D.  So why did God reveal his word to incompetent, stupid fools?
		1.  Notice the contrast
			a.  Herod opposed Jesus
			b.  Chief priests and scribes unconcerned about Jesus
			c.  All Jerusalem merely "troubled"
		2.  Contrast - On other hand, stupid, ignorant, magoi seek out 
		     Jesus and worship
		3.  Matt 11:25 - Upside down Kingdom
			a.  The wise and intelligent became fools, fools become wise
			b.  Mt 15:14 - Leave them alone, they are blind guides of the 
		4.  Irony - God revealed the truth about Christ to pagan fools while 
		     those who were wise and smart enough to figure it out missed it.
	E.  Purpose of the magi narrative
		1.  Matthews readers were Jewish Christians - despised Gentiles
		2.  Yet it was gentiles who utter first confession and first worship
		3.  Anticipates last confession in Matthew (27:54) also a Gentile
		4.  Anticipates the great commission - extends to all the "nations"

Concl:  What does that mean for us?
1.  A preparation - When we follow the king, conflict is part of the territory
	a.  But Herod could not stop Jesus
	b.  Satan cannot stop us either
	c.  In him, there is nothing to truly fear (Invitation)
2.  A commission - God's word is not just for wise and intelligent
	a.  Jesus has an upside down kingdom
	b.  We are not selective when it comes to preaching the Gospel
	c.  Gospel is for all who have been made in God's image - ALL
3.  Sometimes, takes fine tuning our vision, turning things upside down.

Poem:  What do you see?
John Telgren

When your eyes violence,
do you see criminals,
or they who need repentance, 

When with foul mouth they open to you,
do you see an offense,
or one in need of purity so true?

A drunk, staggering to keep his feet
do you see one with a vile stench, 
Or a lost soul with Jesus to meet?

With handcuffed wrists he was led away today.
do you see good riddance,
or one who needs to find the way?

Which is it?
One to avoid, or one to teach?
One to detest, or one to love?
One to push away, or one to lead?

Will I clench my sight?
Will I turn away?
Will I see what is right?

Open eyes.
His sight.
True reality.

As I look out over my neighborhood,
As I look across from my desk,
As I look, have I understood?

Looking down the street,
looking down the hall,
Who do I meet?
Across from my desk,
In the line, 
Even at rest.

What do I see?
People, people, people.
Some good,
Some evil,
Some kind,
Some thoughtless.
Some violent,
Some benevolent.

What do I see?
Are they just people?
Or are they sheep without a shepherd?

His eyes,
Or my eyes?

Questions for Small Group Discussion