A Thrill of Hope: A Weary World Rejoices Hope for the World | Matthew 2

December 12, 2021 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: A Thrill of Hope: A Weary World Rejoices | Advent 2021

Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 2

Christopher Rich – December 12, 2021

A Thrill of Hope: A Weary World Rejoices

Hope for the World | Matthew 2


Introduction | Why is Hope needed in the World? 

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 begin a series during Advent (Arrival) A Thrill of Hope: A Weary World Rejoices. Besides being a lyric to “O Holy Night”, this is a relevant topic today.

When past pain and present realties have us weak and weary, we need a real and living hope to endure in the present and persevere to a better future in and with Christ. Hope helps us understand part of what was/is/is being accomplished by the Arrival of Jesus into human history.

We need Hope for the World and Hope in the World because of the brokenness of the world. The world is not as it should be leading us to fear and despair. But the world also not how it will be which gives us hope, peace, endurance and assurance. God made the world and made it good. From the beginning there has been enemies of life with God and 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. 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. God give Hope to the world quickly. He makes a promise. A Savior-King (Christ) will come who will bring both victory over evil and establish a real and enduring peace. A Savior King is needed because our souls and weary world needs to be made new. Generations come and go and each are born with the Hope salvation and peace will come. Later the promise is ratified and refined to a man name Abram that blessing and life will come from him. 

Genesis 3:17-18 | 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

There is hope for the world that evil will be defeated and all the nations (and there are many have hope of blessing and life with God through the promised Christ. Universal promise of an exclusive salvation from the one true King. We all want this hope, yet something in us really wants our kingdoms to grow or endure rather than submit to God’s kingdom.  When we have navigated the world “well” we become really comfortable with our separation from God if it means we can maintain our illusion autonomy. Hope is for the weary world. 


PART I |Herod’s Hope for His Kingdom | 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.”

Hope shows up in the Face of Real Opposition – The World finds hope in political power, personal prosperity, and pleasure perverted. Some History. 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 Caesar was the “Prince of Peace”. During the consolidation of territory the wealthy Herod (half Jew/Half Edomite) made “accommodations” to Augustus to be officially named “King of the Jews” by Caesar and the Senate. Since Rome didn’t control Judea/Jerusalem, they spent 2-3 years of war to conquer it, placed 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, were 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. 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 the temple’s main entrance. This was a dark and hopeless 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 – Court advisors (think Daniel) likely astrologers 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 and hoped the pursuit would be worth it. They arrive and ask 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. 


Hope Shows up in the midst Chaos - Verse three says Herod, and all of Jerusalem was “troubled”. 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 has repressed, desperate people rioting in the streets against him, hoping for a new king. Herod, ignorant of the Jewish scriptures, asks the religious leaders where prophets said the Christ would be born. 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”. 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 was not Herod. He had political, financial, and military power over the Jews, and they despised him for it. The new king would be followed not out of fear, or even necessity, but because he would have the one thing Herod lacked, their willing hearts. He knows his days as “King of the Jews” are numbered, so in fear sends the wise men to investigate this claim under false pretense. He may fear God, but he doesn’t desire to worship him. Same for the religious. “All of the chief priest, scribes, etc” did their homework and none said “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, 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 Hope of Jesus.


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.


Our journeys have Hope when our journeys lead to Jesus - They followed the sign God had given them and after years of studying, months of traveling this grand procession of wealthy 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. If they had 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”. 


Hope makes Jesus is enough for Joy - Their response to Jesus is amazing. Their pursuit, their joy, their worship, and their giving is because of who Jesus is. Most of us praise Jesus for what He’s done for us/to us. We give, serve, and worship Him for what we expect or hope He’ll do for us in this life and the next. Material blessing health, wealth, protection and “spiritual” blessing forgiveness of our sin, His sustenance in our times of trials, or the promise of a New Heaven and Earth. For the Magi, Jesus hadn’t freed him from addiction, he hadn’t helped them achieve their goals of 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 IS, because He IS the King, because He IS God. Simply put, for them, Jesus is 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 leads to worship, and humility leads to hope. No Journey is too difficult or distance too great to keep us from being with Jesus. Is Jesus enough for you? 


PART III | Herod Responses – Hope Leads | 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.”

Hope endures 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. Sometimes we are given just enough to have hope. 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. Our detour might be how God is preserving us so we can have the Hope of a better future.  The Magi have difficult journey ahead. By God’s choreography, toddler Jesus is taken by his adopted father to safety in Egypt, but Herod’s actions remains.


Hope for the world means recognizing and responded to real evil - Evil strikes. Herod doesn’t surrender to peace he savagely defends his kingdom. When Herod is betrayed 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 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 Hope 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. We build our kingdoms out of 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: In Christ We have a legitimate Hope for a lasting Legacy 


For Hope to endure and lead us 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 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, hope of the world, is the perfect sacrifice for sin, but He is also the perfect example, teacher and lives a perfect life of obedience He gives un in exchange for our sin so we can life for him now and forever. 

PART IV | Path of Hope | 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.


In Christ the world has a hope that 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 hope that endures and leads with the everlasting power of the Resurrection of Jesus. 


Hope leads us 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. He follows for survival in Egypt and faithfulness in Galilee. Jesus has entered history and now he’s entering into and identifying with the story of His people. Of safety, slavery, deliverance and redemption. Hope 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. Survival is ok if it’s a short term goal Faithfulness is our long term goal where ever God has us and Flourishing is our promise because eternity is our forever destination. Good days, bad days, good government, bad government, team winning, team losing, we can always rejoice in God who offers Hope to a world and individuals in despair. Where is your hope? Your kingdom, or His? 


Kings of the world resist Christ the King Yet Nations are drawn to Him for Hope. Christ is the HOPE of the nations! 


Where has Jesus entered your story?  Choosing Jesus means both relying on him as your savior and serving him as our king. The kings of this world, Herod, Caesar, are all dead and buried in royal tombs so we joyfully worship and serve the King whose 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.