Peace on Earth | Peace Perseveres | Matthew 2

December 20, 2020 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Peace On Earth

Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 2

Christopher Rich – December 20, 2020


Week 4 | Peace Perseveres | Matthew 2


Introduction | We need to endure

Good Morning! Merry Christmas! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are continuing our Advent series PEACE ON EARTH Thank you for joining us! 


We have moments in life that are key markers. When they are difficult or painful, they can be traumatic and linger. When they are positive or even a win, they can be transformational, transitional, surges of zeal. But invariable after a time the impact of that transition, the intensity of the zeal and the memory of the experience can begin to fade and we can fall back to old patterns or lose sight of the path ahead. If Peace is “wholeness” then where we look for and find peace needs to actually fulfill and needs to last. Peace needs to carry and lead us to where the final victory is going to be experienced. This is the journey we are on, one where peace is both present and where peace is pursued. This journey is long, includes difficulty, even opposition, but it does lead to a destination of glory. We need a peace that perseveres. Peace - From the beginning there has been enemies of peace, of God (and Man’s flourishing) came into the garden sowing seeds of doubt about God’s goodness and the consequence of rejecting God leading to darkness. Humanity willingly exchanged the presence of peace for a war of independence rejecting God’s rule, but also the connection to the source of life and wholeness. This is sin. Sin separates. Sin takes peace and brings conflict. It takes out the right relationship between God and His People. Why is peace something so difficult? Sin, evil, brokenness, unnecessary division, lack of joy and wholeness all spring from this conflict. Sin is what robbed us of Shalom and introduced conflict. God comes and engages with this conflict bring both justice, holiness, as well as mercy and grace. He makes a promise. That a savior-king will come who will bring both victory over evil and establish a real and enduring peace. Generation waited for Peace. 


PART I |Herod’s Fear | Matthew 2:1-8  

Matt 2:1-8 | 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 saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”


Peace Perseveres in the Face of Real Opposition - A half Century before the birth of Jesus, Julius Caesar turned the Roman Republic (into a dictatorship by a series of political and military victories. Julius was famously murdered and was succeed by his adopted son Octavius who continuing in his predecessor’s work became the first Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus. Augustus though so highly of himself and his “kingdom” he officially named Julius as “one of the Gods” so he could be referred to as the “son of God”. Through military victories he ushered in a period of “Roman Peace” so he was also referred to as the “Prince of Peace”. It’s during this consolidation of Roman power and territory that the wealthy Herod (half Jew/Half Edomite) made “accommodations” (bribes) to Augustus to be officially named “King of the Jews” by Caesar and the Roman Senate. Since Rome didn’t control Judea/Jerusalem, they spent 2-3 years of war to conquer it, placed many of people into slavery, and ordained Herod as a “client king” making him an enthusiastic puppet of Rome. Vicious ruler he regularly killed/exiled rivals, rabbis, and even family members for political gain. He put his face and mark on all the money. He was a builder. He built dozens of fortresses, palaces and walled cities, major ports and even three temples dedicated to the worship of “king/god” Caesar Augustus. Herod, and his crew the Herodians, where notoriously decadent, embarrassingly amoral, pleasure seekers.  Being a brutal, Roman worshiping, half-breed, with loose morals, who sold out his people to be part of the cool kids table, didn’t make him too popular with religious Jews. To help maintain his Jewish credibility he rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. To erase any doubt what kingdom he served, it’s believed he had his name stamped on many of the building stones and it’s known he placed a golden Roman Eagle over temples main entrance. This was a dark time for God’s people, they had an ungodly “king” who claimed to serve both “the son of god” and the God of the Bible, and they lived under “the prince of peace” in a state of slavery and poverty. Augustus orders a census to further increase their tax burden.  Outside Jerusalem, in a barn in a backwater town, a single teenage girl gives birth to a baby boy who would turn the world upside down. YET…Jesus birth was a non-event to Herod, and the ruling class in Jerusalem, until the Magi/Wise men arrive to investigate some astrological event. Magi – Like court advisor (Daniel) likely astrologer which was popular at the time in engaging with the rise and fall of political figures. Pagan, yet God revealed something to them that drew them to leave what they were doing and be captivated by Jesus. They were on a long journey (a year or two). They didn’t know what it would yield but they trusted the pursuit would be worth it. They ask everyone they could, where is the one who is “born” King of the Jews - Knowingly or not, by asking for the king “by birth” and revering to a divine event from the heavens, the magi were directly challenging both the legitimacy of Herod and His legacy as he had no recent sons born.  


Peace Perseveres through Chaos - Verse three says he, and all of Jerusalem was “troubled”. This is a pretty tame translation because the greek word tarasso individually means terrified/disturbed, and in the context of a group means to cause a riot. Even after over 30 years of rule, Herod was insecure and paranoid and feared anything that would undermine the kingdom he had bought and built. He now he had repressed, desperate people rioting in the streets against him, hoping for a new king. If Herod wasn’t so calculating, he likely would have had the wise men killed. Instead, ignorant of the Jewish scriptures, he asks the religious leaders where prophets said. There is interest in Promises of God to His People, but it is not a pursuit of peace, but it is preservation of his small set up kingdom. Micah 5:2 is quoted but later it says in verse 5 “and He shall be their Peace” back to peace being found in the person of Jesus. Christ/Savior king would be born and they answer him from Micah and Ezekiel that the King would be from Bethlehem and would “Shepherd” God’s people. Shepherd is a term of loving benevolence and care. This had to frighten him even more. Herod, had political, financial, and military power over the Jews, and they despised him for it. This new king would be followed not out of fear, even necessity, but because he would have the one thing Herod lacked, their willing hearts. He has to know his days as “King of the Jew”s are numbered, but in fear sent the wise men to investigate this claim under false pretense. He may fear God, but he doesn’t desire to worship him. His religious experts, the priest and scribes aren’t much better. The religious people “all of the chief priest, scribes, etc” all of them did their homework and none “can I go with the Magi?” It’s 6 miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem there was even a fortress 2 miles away. They knew a lot about God’s promises, and His word, but they display no interest in having it actually move them to worship God or even investigate the potential of God’s presence. They are unmoved by the promise of Peace. 

PART II |Magi’s Joy | Matthew 2:9-12  

Matt 2:9-12 |After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.


Peace Perseveres when the journey leads to Jesus - They followed the sign God had given them and after years of studying, months of traveling this grand procession of wealthy, connected, foreign leaders, arrives, not to the stable of an inn, but to the modest house of a carpenter in humble, sleepy town of Bethlehem.  They had been expectedly seeking a new king and found an 18-month-old being raised buy a young poor family. Honestly, you or I would likely been really disappointed, and I am surprised the magi were not. They had to have had some expectations for what they would encounter at the end of their and this couldn’t have been it.  Yet they had such great confidence in what God had revealed to them that despite all appearances to the contrary they fell down and worshipped, unpotty trained, toddler Jesus with “great joy”. 


Peace Perseveres when Jesus is enough for Joy - Their response to Jesus is convicting to me, because their pursuit, their joy, their worship, and there giving, puts mine to shame.  Most of us, myself included, who profess faith in God/Jesus praise Him for what He’s done for us/to us. We give to Him, serve Him, and worship Him for what we expect or hope He’ll do for us in this life and/or the next. For some of us those are material things health, wealth, protection and for the more “spiritual” of us it’s for his forgiveness of our sin, His sustenance and presence in our times of trials, or the promise of a New Heaven and Earth where there is no more tears. From the perspective of the Magi, Jesus hadn’t freed him from addiction, he hadn’t helped them achieve their goals of wealth/career/self-fulfillment, he hadn’t cured them of disease, given them a spouse/kids, he hadn’t even died on the cross for their sins or promised them eternal life. Up to this point he hadn’t “given” them anything; in fact they came with gifts for him. They were joyful, and they worshipped him, because of who he was, because he is the King, because He is God. Simply put, for them, Jesus was enough; enough to leave their comfortable courts of the Kings they served to pursue him, enough for them to fall to their knees in willing, joyfully submit to worship; enough to generously give of their personal wealth and possessions without expectations of anything in return. Humility is needed to worship and humility is needed to for peace to preserve. You can give generously when you know where peace comes from and how it satisfies. Is Jesus enough for you? Is Jesus where you find Peace?


PART III | Herod’s Response | Matthew 2:13-18 

Matt 2:13118 | 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Peace Perseveres when it relies on God’s Provision - Joseph is led by God. Equipped for the journey at the time the need. The moment Joseph is told to pack up His family and flee is the same day they have received significant portable wealth that would be necessary for them to sustain their journey and establish their new home. Peace sometimes gives us just enough. Egypt was a place of slavery but is in this case a place of safety. One God had used before when His people were facing famine.  Jewish community in Egypt because of the former diaspora. Leave at night like the people of Passover. The path of peace can be inconvenient and more difficult that remaining stuck. The Magi have difficult journey ahead. By God’s choreography, toddler Jesus is taken by his adopted father to safety in Egypt, but the heart of Herod’s actions remains.


Peace to Persevere we recognize and respond to real evil opposed to peace - Evil strikes. As convicting as the wise men’s joyful response to Jesus should be, it’s Herod’s response we should find particularly chilling and challenging. Herod doesn’t surrender to peace he savagely defends his kingdom. When Herod is betrayed and mocked by the Jesus loving wise guys, he orders the violent slaughter of all the male babies (maybe 20 or 30 under 2 years old in and around Bethlehem in a desperate attempt to protect his man-made kingdom. Merry Christmas!  When his authority is challenged, when his position is disrespected, and when he believes his kingdom is threatened, Herod becomes irrational, hostel, and even violent towards God’s rule and plan for redemption. This was on brand for Herod. He had a competitor suffer a “drowning accident” in a kiddy pool. Had a his favorite wife strangled, allowed two of his son’s to be executed on false charges. “Better to be one of Herod’s pigs than his son.” This is how oppressive governments control their people, not how gracious kings lead their people. Murder was a big part of the culture of his kingdom so ordering the killing of dozens of likely unnamed babies in a nowhere town merited the same new coverage any. Sure there they may have been some protests and tears shed by those who knew and cared about the families, but it was the order of the king and the law of the land. Evil that robs us of peace needs not be accepted but rather mourned. This is a tragedy, this is worth mourning, and then turning to God who turns mourning into joy. 


When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer. - Corrie Ten Boom


Peace Perseveres when it remembers who is on the throne – We all have some Herod in us. What drives Herod’s rage is the same thing that fuels our resistance. We want to be on the throne. While not always as extreme as Herod how we, define, seek, build and protect our kingdoms is often no less tragic:  


Flawed and Fake- Herod believed the lie that he could reject God’s kingdom and be his own king apart from God. Herod bought and borrowed his kingdom from Rome so he could have the false image of being greater than he actually was. He spent and built but none of it was real as it wasn’t his to begin with. We borrow for our homes, our cars, our businesses, for our wardrobe, our hobbies, our Christmas presents to what end? 

Fractured- Behind the appearance of a unified kingdom, there was tremendous turmoil and conflict in Jewish society and dissatisfaction with the king because he saw his subjects as a means to an end.  


Fear – Our kingdoms are ruled from fear and insecurity lashing out or retreating when threatened. 

We put ourselves in a false season of Advent were we’re preparing and anticipating the next phase of our kingdom expecting that will bring us an extended period of fullness but instead we end up empty and the conflict with ourselves, others, and God resumes as we continue to seek our own kingdom.  In the end our kingdoms create no peace on earth and no good will towards men, only greater conflict. And yet there is hope, there is Good News:

For Peace to Persevere we need to remember the good news of Jesus in our place.  We need all of Jesus for all of life! We need Jesus sacrifice for us, but we also need more than Jesus sacrifice for our sin. We need His perfect obedience too. If the ONLY good news of the Gospel was Jesus died for your sins, then here is a perfect opportunity for Jesus to die right here as a toddler. It would even be sacrificial because if he was offered up it MIGHT spare the other young boys Herod’s wrath. Jesus is not seeking to appease Herod’s unjust wrath so he can keep his wicked son killing kingdom Jesus. Jesus is on a mission to secure salvation for sinners from God’s just wrath and welcome them as sons and daughters into God’s righteous forever kingdom. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for sin, but He is also the perfect example, teacher and he has a perfect life of obedience that He gives un in exchange for our sin so we can life for him now and forever. 


PART IV | Path of Peace | Matthew 2:19-23 

Matt 2:19-23 |19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.


Peace Perseveres when it outlasts evil - Despite his desperate attempt to protect his kingship, Herod died a painful death, likely from chronic kidney disease and gangrene infection, just a few short years after Jesus birth. Herod’s King, Caesar Augustus was dead before Jesus was 20 years old. Herod’s temple was destroyed 50 years later, as Jesus said it would, when Rome decided it didn’t like or need the Herodians any longer. Even the Roman Empire eventually decayed it to nothing more than pretty piles of stone tourists and students visit. So it was with them, so it will be with us.  Everything we work to build or serve will come to an end. We need a peace the Perseveres with the everlasting power of the Resurrection of Jesus. 


Peace Perseveres down God’s path not our own- Joseph is so faithful to follow God. He is continually lead by the Lord to where he needs to go. Jesus has entered history and now he’s entering into and identifying with the story of His people. Of safety, slavery, deliverance and redemption. Where has Jesus entered your story? The path of peace doesn’t always take you where you might want to go, but God will lead you to where you need to go. Nazareth wasn’t great, but it was a refuge and it was where God had them. In this case victory, perseverance looks like survival. Good days, bad days, good government, bad government, team winning, team losing, we can always rejoice in God who offers peace to a world and individuals in conflict. Where will you find peace that perseveres? Your kingdom, or His?  Choosing Jesus means both relaying on him as your savior and serving him as our king. 


We take our broken, dirty, dying, pathetic crowns we use to play king and queen cast it at the feet of the King who wore a crown of thorns for you on the cross suffering and dying in your place. 


The kings of this world, Herod, Caesar, are all dead and buried in royal tombs so we joyfully worship and serve the King who’s tomb is empty because he has conquered death and is alive on the throne.


We know the long journey will be difficult and even disturbing at times (Herod’s actions) but the destination God is leading us to is one of Great Joy when we Trust Jesus.