January - May 2016

Luke 24v13-31 & John 20v26-28

 

The time between resurrection Sunday and Pentecost must have been a very strange for the disciples.  limbo time. Should they huddle together and hide from the authorities? Should they go back to their normal work and earn a living for themselves and their families? Should they try to continue the kind of lives they had lived when Jesus was with them? hat did they feel? Guilty because they were still alive and Jesus had died that dreadful death? Unutterably sad because Jesus was no longer with them? Afraid for the future without him? How they must have valued those times when he suddenly appeared to them and how they must have wanted to hold on to him. Did each time he disappeared leave them feeling bereft all over again? We cannot begin to imagine their state of mind or the ways their minds were working.

 

Road to Emmaus

It was the day of the resurrection. Two people were trudging along the road that led from Jerusalem to Emmaus, about 7 miles. One was Cleopas the other, if you look at John's account of the crucifixion, was possibly his wife though she is not named in the story here. Whoever they were they knew all about the events in Jerusalem that weekend.  They were sad. Their minds were in turmoil. They just walked hardly noticing where they were going. Suddenly someone came alongside them and started to walk with them. He entered into conversation with them wanting to know what it was that was so engrossing them. To Cleopas it seemed strange that this stranger did not know all the events of the past few days. Where had he been that he did not know what had happened? All their confusion came tumbling out as they explained, finishing with the ultimate dilemma; some of the women had found an empty tomb and seen angels who said he was alive. Some of the men had gone to investigate, but they hadn't seen Jesus, so what was going on?The stranger at this point took over the conversation and in a wonderful way using the Old Testament Scriptures, with which they were familiar, reminded them that Christ had to suffer before he entered his glory. If we look forward to verse 32, it seems that it was at this point that something stirred deep inside them. Those hearts that had been so heavy began to be warmed and stirred into life. When they reached home they invited Jesus to come in and share a meal with them. It was as he gave thanks for the bread and broke it that recognition dawned and then Jesus disappeared. That didn't matter, the transformation had happened. Their tiredness vanished, sad hearts rejoiced and they rushed the seven miles back to Jerusalem to share all that had happened with the disciples.What had happened? What had produced this wonderful change?First of all, the Scriptures were opened to them, then their eyes were opened to recognise Jesus, then their understanding was opened to appreciate just what all this meant.They had experienced a new awakening.

 

Jesus's appearance to Thomas. John 20:24-28

Poor Thomas! For ever known as doubting Thomas. He had not been there when Jesus appeared to the other disciples and he expressed his doubts about the authenticity of their account somewhat forcefully. Thomas's nature was to question.  In John 14:5 we see how he was the one who was straightforward and brave enough to say that he did not understand what Jesus was teaching them. He would not just let things pass, he wanted to be sure. Now he wanted to see with his own eyes that Jesus was truly alive. In Thomas's situation, would the other disciples have reacted any differently? Would we?

Jesus was prepared to deal with those doubts. There may have been a little rebuke but there was also a loving and understanding response. Thomas probably felt chastened, but even so he was able to worship Jesus as 'my Lord and my God'. This statement marks the highest point of faith recorded in the gospels and it was uttered by Thomas, the man who doubted but was lifted from doubt by his meeting with Jesus.

Thomas experienced a new assurance.

 

Jesus and Peter. John 21:1-19

The disciples had gone fishing. Was this purely because they had to earn a living or were they still at that betwixt and between stage where they were not quite sure what they should be doing?

While they were still in the boat having had a frustrating and fruitless night fishing Jesus appeared on the shore, but the disciples didn't recognise him. It wasn't until he guided them to a huge catch of fish that they realised who he was. After they had landed the fish they all had breakfast together and then Jesus instigated a very personal conversation with Peter. Three times he asked Peter the same question. "Do you love me". Peter got somewhat agitated at the repetition. Was this because it reminded him too clearly of his triple denial? He must have spent many hours regretting those few words spoken in panic in the courtyard that fateful night. He must have gone over the scene many times wishing it had been different and here he was confronted with it again.

I believe that in that short conversation Jesus allowed Peter to put the past behind him and reinstated him in his service.

Jesus gave Peter a new start.

 

The Great commission Matthew 28:16-20 

The 11 disciples went to a mountain in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. This seems to be different from other appearances in that it was pre-arranged.

Jesus had not just arranged to meet them for a farewell party. He had a task for them to do. A huge, daunting task. To go to all nations making disciples, no less. There may have been fewer nations but transport links were not too rapid and there were only eleven of them. But Jesus finished with a promise "Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."

The disciples were given a new task.

 

 

John 8v12-20

 

Joseph was his father's favourite son.  He told his brothers that in a dream they had bowed down to him, which did not endear him to them.  After being sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph ended up in Potiphar's household, and because of his honesty and the fact that God was with him, he rose up to managing the household.  He resisted the temptation put in his way by Potiphar's wife to sleep with her, and was therefore imprisoned with the baker and the king's cup-bearer, whose dreams he interpreted honestly - one would go back to his job, and the other would die.  Joseph was honest and therefore his word could be trusted.  He was put in charge of overseeing storing grain during the plentiful years and then distributing it during the famine.  When Joseph's brothers came to him for food during the famine, he forgave them, because God knew why he had been put in that position - to do good for a great number of people.  We need to be honest about our feelings, clear the air, forgive people who may have wronged us, and move on.

 

David was the youngest son of Jesse; he looked after the sheep, and in this had proved himself to be brave in fighting off lions with a sling.  When he volunteered to fight Goliath, Saul put his own armour on David, but David could not fight in it.  He simply took five stones from the brook.  The first stone that he threw hit Goliath and knocked him down.  He used the talent that God had given him to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines.  When we have been given a talent by God (and we are all able to do something for God, however small), we need to use it in His service.

 

Paul had been persecuting Christians.  Because he was a Roman citizen, he was privileged and would be respected wherever he went, but the disciples knew his reputation and were afraid of him.  Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and was given a fresh start, because he was God's chosen person to carry the gospel to the Gentiles.  He was therefore the right person, at the right time for the job.  God knows what He is doing and he puts us in the right place at the right time to be used for His glory.  Let us be strong and steadfast and ready to be used by Him.

 

 

Matthew 5v1-12

 

The ten commandments set out in Exodus 20 are commands that are negative in form - starting with "Thou shalt not..."  The Beatitudes that Jesus taught in Matthew 5 at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, are much more positive, each beginning "Blessed are..."  They all demonstrate the way of the Kingdom of God.  All the people that Jesus mentions in the beatitudes are the last people we would normally think of as happy or blessed.

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit" - we tend to think of the poor in terms of financial well-being, but Jesus is talking about those who do not have God in their lives.  Jesus fulfilled the promise to meet their greatest need, for salvation.  We none of us have much that we can give to God; we come as helpless sinners, but Jesus came to save us.  Blessed are those who mourn - Jesus comes alongside the broken-hearted and comforts them.  Blessed are the meek - Jesus does not mean weak and wishy-washy people, but those who are humble and gentle and will receive Him.  They will inherit the eath, Jesus promises.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness - Jesus promises that they will be filled.  God gives us positivity, so that we want to do the will of God.  Blessed are the merciful - Jesus says that they will be shown mercy; we need to forgive one another to receive God's mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart - we need to come before God with clean hands and heart, and God promises that we will see Him.  Blessed are the peacemakers - how desperately our world now needs peacemakers.  Jesus says that the peacemakers will be called the sons of God.

 

The Beatitudes turn the normal way of life upside down and bring in God's way of doing things - in a positive way.  They help us to transform the inner person and promise us salvation through Christ.

 

 

Philippians 2v1-13

 

As we celebrated our 114th anniversary, we looked what had helped our church to survive that long and what "church" is.  The underlying reason is that (v2) our members have been "like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."  Our mission has never changed; it has always been to take the Good News of salvation to the people around us and to be the representatvies of that good news where we are.

 

Acts 2v42 set the pattern for the early church - that they "devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."  This sums up what "church" should be all about.  The ingredients that make up the life of a church are firstly instruction in God's Word, weekly as it is expounded from the pulpit, and also as we read the Bible daily for ourselves and apply it to our lives.

 

Secondly, we need to be mobilised for ministry, as people use their God-given gifts to proclaim the gospel.  As Baptists, we believe in the "priesthood of all believers", and that means that we should portray the love of Christ through the way we live our lives.  St Francis of Assisi said "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words."  Thirdly we need to pray together in faith.  It is said that a church that prays together stays together.  When we pray, we must pray believing.  James 1v6 says "but when he asks, he must believe and not doubt."  Those who doubt, James calls "double-minded".

 

We need to come before God in worship and adoration.  Because God is the creator of the world, the God who is all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-present, we should come before Him reverently, with the right attitude of heart and mind.  Last, but by no means least, we need to care for each other.  We were not created to be alone, but to have fellowship with one another, to have relationships with one another and to serve one another, in the same way that Jesus shared His ministry with the twelve disciples and gave us many examples of how we are to serve one another.  We should "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (v2)

 

Like the early believers, we come from many different backgrounds, but we have our faith in common, and the Holy Spirit works through us to achieve God's purpose for His church.  Life and worship styles may have changed over the years, but our message stays the same.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever.  Praise His holy name.

 

Job 23v8-17 & 1Peter 4v12-19

 

Surveys say that people don't believe in God a) because they can't see Him and b) because of all the suffering and injustice in the world.  They ask why God doesn't stop it happening.  Job was an example of someone who was righteous; he was wealthy and had a large family.  When all of this was taken from him, and he was afflicted with illness, his wife told him to "curse God and die", but he refused to do this, although he did want to question why God was allowing all his suffering to happen.

 

Suffering happens a) as a result of poor choices made in the past "you brought it on yourself"; b) because of man's inhumanity to man - wars, crime, human greed; this is the consequence of sin on man's part because God gave us free will, and people choose to do evil things; c) some things that happen are no one's fault - natural disasters, birth defects and diseases.

 

In the Old Testament, suffering was always seen as the result of sin - as God punishing people for doing wrong.  In the New Testament, Jesus refuted this eg John 9 - the disciples asked who sinned that the man was born blind, but Jesus replied that it was no one's sin, but that the power of God could be displayed in the man's life - by his healing in receiving his sight and his salvation - he said "I believe".  

 

Jesus broke the link between sin and suffering by His death on the cross to bear the suffering for our sins.  In this way and through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, when we seek God we will find Him and we can ask for His help and He will give us the strength to go on.  In the midst of all his suffering, Job was given a glimpse of what was to come in Jesus, and he said "I know that my Redeemer lives".  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians will be exempt from troubles and suffering, but it does tell us that we will be given the strength to bear it and go onwards to eternal life.

Hallelujah!  He is risen!

John 20v1-18

All of Jesus' 3 year ministry had built up to Easter Sunday.  The entry into Jerusalem proclaimed Him as King, but His kingdom was not an earthly one.  The kingdom of God is within each believer through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us.  The Church is part of that kingdom, and as such we should be devoted to one another, and accepting of each other.  Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  Do people see Jesus in us?

 

In order that we might believe that Jesus truly did rise from the dead, God provided many human witnesses who gave eye witness accounts of having met and spoken and eaten with the resurrected Jesus.  The resurrection is widely documented outside of the Bible too.

 

Jesus' resurrection was different from when He raised Lazarus from the dead.  When Lazarus came out of the tomb, he was still wrapped in the grave clothes, but Jesus' grave clothes were folded up and left in the tomb, and He had a new resurrection body, which could nevertheless eat and drink.  When Jesus appeared to Thomas with the other disciples and told Thomas to touch the nail marks in His hands, Thomas' response was "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus told him and by extension all believers ever since, "Because you have seen me, you have believed;blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  (John 20 v29) Come to the living Lord Jesus this Easter and put your faith in Him.  HIs love is free for all who will believe in Him, love Him and trust Him.

Isaiah 53 & Matthew 20v17-28

 

We all make false assumptions about people.  Jesus was a Galilean and therefore was not like the cultured people of Jerusalem.  The civic and religious leaders there were automatically suspicious of Galileans, particularly a Galilean saying that they had spiritual authority as Jesus did.

 

Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 20v17-19 that there was trouble ahead for Him; that He would be tried and killed and that by extension, they could be too.  However, the disciples did not have the same view of Jesus' ministry and kingdom as He did.  They thought He was a different kind of Messiah who would have an earthly kingdom.  Jesus however tried to tell them that in order for God's plan for humanity to be completed, He had to die, and only then would His mission on earth be completed.  However Jesus tells them that after all His pain and suffering, He would be raised to life again.

 

James and John's mother came to Jesus, obviously also thinking of an earthly kingdom, as seats on the right and left hand of an earthly ruler meant that they would have power because they had the ear of the ruler and could influence Him.  Jesus' response was to ask if they could drink the same cup that He would drink - meaning follow Him in His death.  Jesus drank the cup of the wrath of God for the sins of all humanity on behalf of all mankind who would accept Him.  Jesus does not see His rule as a powerful earthly ruler, but as the "suffering servant" of Isaiah 53.

 

 

Exodus 2v1-10

On Mothering Sunday, we considered 4 mothers in the Bible.  Firstly a Providing mother - namely Hannah.  She had been childless for a long time and went every year to worship God in the Temple at Passover.  She was in great anguish and praying fervently when Eli thought her drunk and admonished her.  She told him that she was in earnest prayer for a son and if God answered her prayer she would dedicate the child to God.  Within a year she had conceived and given birth to Samuel.  When he was weaned, she took him to the Temple and gave him to God to minister in the Temple.  She provided him with a special tunic every year.  Hannah reminds us that as parents we have a responsibility to provide for our children, both materially and in direction and guidance.

 

Secondly we considered a protecting mother - Jochabed, the mother of Moses.  The Pharoah had decreed that all male Israelite children were to be killed, so to protect her son she hid him in a basket in the reeds and arranged that when he was found by Pharoah's daughter, his sister was nearby to suggest that she find someone (Jochabed) to take care of him.  She was therefore able to protect and care for Moses as he grew up.  We have a responsibility to protect our children and encourage them to follow the Lord.

 

In 1Kings 3 we are told of two mothers who both had babies.  The baby of one of them died and she took the other mother's baby.  The dispute that ensued was taken to King Solomon for judgement.  He decreed that the baby be cut in half.  The baby's real mother was willing to sacrifice him by giving him to the other mother in order to save his life.  Sometimes we will have to sacrifice our children, maybe in God's service.

 

Lastly we considered Mary the mother of Jesus.  She showed her strength of character and commitment to God from the first moment she was told that she would conceive Jesus by the Holy Spirit.  She was willing to endure the disgrace that went with being an unmarried mother in those days.  She showed that she was willing to do God's will in her reply "I am God's servant."  Later, at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, she told the servants at the wedding in Cana to "do what He says."  When we do whatever God says, He will bless us and give us joy.  The best advice we can give our children is to do whatever God says.

Ephesians 5v7-14

 

Jesus is the Light of the World.  The power of the light changes some people.  Light is essential to daily life.  When we have the Lord Jesus within us, we can become light to the world around us.  Jesus tells us not to hide our light.  We need to shine our light where God tells us to shine.  In many ways our world is a very dark place today, because the world's values run contrary to those of God.  Isaiah 5v20 says "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness."  We think that evil deeds cannot be seen in the darkness, but they have consequences that will be brought to light.  We need to let God's light shine through us and challenge the world's values.

 

BMS (World Mission) is bringing God's light to those who are in darkness.  Many people have gone to distant lands at God's calling to do just that.  We held our annual BMS Sunday this week, and heard about the work they do.  For more information about the work of BMS (World Mission) click here.

 

We not only need to let God's light shine through us, but we also need to reflect Christ's light to those we meet.  We do not always find it easy to talk about our faith to those we come into contact with, or sometimes, even to our own family, but if we make a small start, it all adds up.  William Carey, the founder of the Baptist Missionary Society [BMS - now called BMS (World Mission)] wrote "Expect great things from God.  Attempt great things for God."  After all, Jesus took 12 ordinary men and used them as His disciples to bring His message of salvation to light up the world.  

 

 

Genesis 15v1-6 & 16v1-4 & Acts 1v1-5 & 12-14

 

None of us really likes waiting.  We live in a world where people expect things instantly.  Technology helps us communicate quickly and easily, and maybe we expect God to do the same.  If we don't get an instant answer to our prayers, we think God hasn't heard or won't answer.  We forget the answer is either 'yes', 'no' or 'wait'.  Maybe we sometimes decide to give God a helping hand to answer the way we want.  The trouble is that like Abraham and Sarah, we sometimes cause a lot more trouble for ourselves by so doing.  Sarah gave her maidservant Hagar to Abraham to help along the process of him getting a son as God had promised.  Ishmael, the son born to Hagar caused endless trouble throughout his life.  Abraham and Sarah both thought that they were too old to have a son, despite God's promise.  God's response to this was something we forget at our peril - "Is anything too hard for the Lord?"  We need to remember that God sees the bigger picture of our lives and the lives of others, and He does answer our prayers in His own perfect timing.  When we look back with the benefit of hindsight we can see this.  God will never do anything to harm us.  Romans 8v28 says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him."  If we "wait on the Lord", that means we come before Him in worship and praise; we need to take time to be still before Him so that we can hear His answer.  

 

After the resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Of course Jerusalem was no necessarily the safest place for them to wait, as they were known followers of Jesus.  However they obeyed Jesus and while they were waiting they "joined together constantly in prayer".  This is what we need to do.  There are frequent exhortations in the New Testament to spend time in prayer.  Philippians 4v6 tells us "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  Maybe we forget the important part of that sentence - with thanksgiving.  We need to remember to thank God for past blessings before we ask for current or future help and blessing.  Above all we need to be still so that we can listen to what God is saying to us.  Remember, prayer is a two-way process, so we need to listen to, as well as speak to God.  This applies to our personal prayers and our corporate prayers.  So we need to "Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." as our text for the year from Psalm 37v7 says. 

 

 

Luke 2v41-52 & 1John 4v16-18

 

We do not know very much about Jesus' childhood, but the passage in Luke 2 tells us about Jesus going up to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph to celebrate the Passover.  It was only when they were well away from Jerusalem on the way home that Mary and Joseph realised that Jesus was not with them or their friends or family.  They were obviously concerned about Jesus after spending 3 days journeying back to Jerusalem and looking around there for him, and they were astonished to find Him in the Temple talking with the teachers there and asking and answering many questions.  Jesus seemed surprised that they were anxious about Him, and His response - "Didn't you know that I had to be in my father's house?" indicates that from an early age He was aware that He had a special relationship with God.  In Jewish culture, at the age of 12 boys have a bar mitzvah, which indicates their coming of age.  At this time, they take responsibility for their own religious life, and that was what Jesus was doing.

 

Both the Gospel of John and John's letters have a strong emphasis on God's love and our love for one another.  We know that "God is love".  John tells us that if we do not love one another, we do not know God's love.  The early Christians were known for their love of one another.  God's love is a sure foundation, and it is shown in His ultimate sacrifice of His Son for us on the cross.  However hard it is sometimes to love people, we must try to do so.  In John 13 v 34-35 Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  If we give all in love, we will gain all. 

 

 

Psalm 122 & Hebrews 12v1-3

 

Psalm 122 says "Let us go to the House of the Lord".  There are guiding principles for our worship.  There should be rejoicing.  Worship should be a delight for us not a duty, because through worship we meet with God.  As Psalm 84v10 says, "better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere."  Acts 2 tells us that the disciples met together every day in the Temple courts.  Psalm 122 also tells us that we have a relationship through worship.  It is better done together, and as a corporate activity should be a priority.  Hebrews 10v5 exhorts us not to give up meeting together to encourage one another.  There is a reality in worship, as we meet God together.  The walls of Jerusalem were closely compacted together, and we should be united closely together in the Spirit, but there will also be diversity among us.  However the unity must take priority over the diversity.  In our worship, we should praise the name of the Lord and give thanks to Him.  We should worship according to the Scriptures, as we live our lives in obedience to God's word.  Psalm 122 v6-9 tells people to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  We should pray for our own locality, for peace, prosperity and security.

 

Hebrews 12v1-3 tells us about faith.  Hebrews 11 gives many illustrations of people of faith from the Old Testament, the "clouds of witnesses" who have gone before us.  Although they are all Old Testament characters, they neverthless help us to learn that God saw them all through the many difficulties they experienced.  He will similarly help us through our difficulties.  Our faith is in a great God.  We need to throw off all those things that slow us down and confess the sin that encumbers us.  Are we running the race as God wants us to?  We need to look to God as the "author and perfecter of our faith".  Are we reflecting God's glory in our everyday lives?  (Romans 15v5-6) May we not lose heart in our Christian lives, but look to God for encouragement and help day by day.

 

 

Jeremiah 31v15-20 & Matthew 2v13-23

 

So when Christmas is over for another year, what do we do with the baby in the manger?  Put him away in a box until next year?  Think how Mary and Joseph must have felt after the visit of the magi - the first thing they did was to escape to Egypt because Herod was trying to kill Jesus by the slaughter of all baby boys of 2 and under.  What can we learn from this part of the nativity story?  Firstly - Joseph was obedient to God, even to travelling in the middle of the night to Egypt, leaving family, friends and business behind to keep Jesus safe.   Secondly - God provides for our needs - He is Jehovah Jireh - God the Provider.  We can trust that when God tells us to do something He will provide the means to do it.  Thirdly - Herod was very angry - he would do anything it took to protect his position.  Fourthly - God has a plan.  It had been foretold by Hosea that God's son would come out of Egypt, and when Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Nazareth, this had also been foretold - "He will be called a Nazarene."

 

How do we apply these lessons to ourselves?  The safest place to be is where God leads you.  The wise men followed the star; Joseph did what he was told in dreams.  We need to live our lives within God's will and follow where He leads us, because He sees the bigger picture.  As Christians, we are not exempt from troubles.  There are many troubles included in the Nativity story.  If we ensure that we are always following in God's way, we know that evil will be defeated, and in the meantime God will give us His strength.  God is in charge.  Sometimes the news we hear and read might tempt us to think that God is not in control, but the Psalmist tells us to "Commit your way to the Lord and trust in him". (Psalm 37v5).  If we walk closely with the Lord, hopefully our desires will match up with God's will for us.  This applies to us as individuals, and also as a fellowship.  As our 2015 text said, God has plans for us and they are for a future and not to harm us, but we need to do what our 2016 text says "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him."  Let us start the new year with confidence that our God has everything in hand for us all.

 

 

Philippians 2 v5-11 & Luke 2 v8-20

 

The central theme of Christmas is the birth of a Saviour for mankind.  It was God becoming involved with mankind in human form, so that we could find peace with God and be saved from the results of our sin.  The birth of Jesus fulfilled ancient prophecies.  Bearing in mind that it took place in a relatively obscure town at a time when communication was fairly primitive, it was not necessarily the best or easiest way of making the birth of a Saviour known.

 

In order to make the good news of Jesus' birth known, God chose to tell the lowest people in society.  Shepherds were looked down on by most people, and lived outside towns away from most people, because they were considered smelly and dirty.  However, God chose to use them to proclaim the birth of His Son.  He sent his angels to tell them the news.  At first the shepherds were terrified of the angels, but when they had visited the stable and seen the baby, they went away and told everyone they met what had happened, and spread the news in this way.  There was nothing special about these particular shepherds, apart from the fact that God used them to tell people about the birth of His Son.  They became ambassadors for God.

 

In the same way today, God doesn't necessarily use famous or celebrated people to spread the Gospel, but asks each one of us who has accepted Jesus to talk to our friends and families about Jesus.  Each of us who has accepted Jesus as our Saviour and Lord and found forgiveness for our sins has a responsibility to tell others about the salvation that is available to them through Jesus.

 

 

Matthew 2v1-12 & 1Corinthians 1v1-25

 

Wise men or magi played an important role in court life in Biblical times.  For example Daniel in the court of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar.  These kings' wise men could not interpret their dreams, but with God's help, Daniel was able to do so.  The magi were the academics of the time in a pagan world.  There was a big Jewish community in Persia at this time, so the magi would have been familiar with the Hebrew scriptures, especially their expectation of a Messiah.

 

It seems likely that the magi came from around Babylon, as it was a centre of learning at the time.  In this case, the magi would have travelled around 900 miles to visit Jesus.  The Bible does not actually say how many wise men there were; Eastern tradition says 12, and our tradition says 3.  

 

We might ask why, if they were following the star, the wise men went to Jerusalem.  Did the star stop in Jerusalem, or did they take their eyes off the star for a time?  Ultimately the star stopped over the house in Bethlehem where Jesus was.  The reason that Herod was so upset when the magi asked where was he that had been born King of the Jews, was that he was not the rightful heir to the Jewish throne; he had been put there by the Romans, and feared anyone he thought could take his throne from him.  Herod asked the magi where the Christ was to be born, making the link between the 'King of the Jews' and the Messiah.  It seems possible that it was up to two years after Jesus' birth that the magi came, since Herod had all the boys of two and under in Bethlehem killed to try to kill Jesus.

 

The magi are important for us because they were Gentiles.  The Jews were looking for a king who would end Roman oppression, but the magi showed that, as Jesus said in John 3 v16, God's plan of salvation was for everyone.  The gifts that they brought were gifts fit for royalty - gold for a king; frankincense for a priest and myrrh used to anoint the dead.

 

The magi were said to be "wise" men, but their wisdom was worldly wisdom.  In 1Corinthians 1v18, Paul says that "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing".  The Jewish scriptures taught that anyone hanged on a tree was cursed by God, so they had much difficulty accepting Jesus' death on the cross as a way of salvation and part of God's plan, and therefore regarded it as foolishness.