Verse by verse, together we explore Matthew 2:1-12…The Epiphany of Our Lord.
Hear the full audio of Bible Study from January 6th…
Our Gospel reading for The Epiphany of Our Lord is found in Matthew 2:1-12. It records the account of the magi or “wise men.” They have journeyed as they followed a star, bearing gifts and seeking to find this newborn King.
Matthew alone records the magi and these events. Luke’s account of our Lord’s birth is familiar to us from Christmas day, with the angelic visitors, swaddling clothes, and Shepherds in the field. Mark doesn’t offer us a record of the Nativity/Christmas events. John does briefly, though much more from a ‘heaven’s eye’ view of our Lord’s incarnation, “the Word became flesh…”
PART ONE: THE STAR
1 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, 2 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.”
A.) One of the items repeated throughout the passage is mention of the star. Scholars speculate about just what it was the wise men saw. Some astronomers have retraced the course of the stars we know today. Presuming their steady course and winding back the calendar to Biblical times, some educated guesses have been offered. Dr. Paul Maier offers some interesting examples in his book “In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church.”
B. What things are we told about this unique star in verses 2, 7, 9 and 10?
C. This star alone was not enough to help them find Jesus. It led them to Jerusalem. There in Jerusalem, they heard God’s Word. Apart from the Word they could not come to Christ. None can come to Christ apart from the Word. Natural knowledge of God is not saving knowledge. A “First Article” kind of faith is common to nearly every religion: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”
PART TWO: WORSHIP IN THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
D.) Another prominent feature in this account is the repeated use of the word “worship.” There are several Greek words which English readers sometimes translate ‘worship,’ all worthy of study. Matthew uses this one more often than any other Evangelist. Mark uses this word twice. Luke uses it three times, while John uses it 11 times. Matthew uses this word 13 times, three of which are found in our Gospel reading (verses 2, 8 and 11).
E.) Let’s look at the other places Matthew uses this ‘worship’ word:
GRK: ἐὰν πεσὼν προσκυνήσῃς μοι
NAS: You, if You fall down and worship me.
GRK: θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ
NAS: For it is written, YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD
GRK: λεπρὸς προσελθὼν προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγων
NAS: came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said,
GRK: εἷς ἐλθὼν προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγων
NAS: came and bowed down before Him, and said,
GRK: τῷ πλοίῳ προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ λέγοντες
NAS: who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying,
GRK: δὲ ἐλθοῦσα προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγουσα
NAS: But she came and [began] to bow down before Him, saying,
GRK: ὁ δοῦλος προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγων
NAS: fell [to the ground] and prostrated himself before him, saying,
GRK: υἱῶν αὐτῆς προσκυνοῦσα καὶ αἰτοῦσά
NAS: to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request
GRK: πόδας καὶ προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ
NAS: of His feet and worshiped Him.
GRK: ἰδόντες αὐτὸν προσεκύνησαν οἱ δὲ
NAS: When they saw Him, they worshiped [Him]; but some
F.) A contrast is drawn in the Gospel of Matthew between true worship of the Lord and false worship. True worship is Christ centered, marked by a confession of our Lord’s incarnate majesty in the humility of our need for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. We are laid low before Him, who “humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
True worship of the person of Christ must come forth from faith in the Word of God.
From the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article V, par. 32-37 (or in Kolb-Wengert see Article IV, par 153-158)
32] But faith is that which freely apprehends God’s mercy on account of God’s Word [which relies upon God’s mercy and Word, and not upon one’s own work]. If any one denies that this is faith [if any one imagines that he can rely at the same time upon God and his own works], he does not understand at all 33] what faith is. [For the terrified conscience is not satisfied with its own works, but must cry after mercy, and is comforted and encouraged alone by God’s Word.] And the narrative itself shows in this passage what that is which He calls love. The woman came with the opinion concerning Christ that with Him the remission of sins should be sought. This worship is the highest worship of Christ. Nothing greater could she ascribe to Christ. To seek from Him the remission of sins was truly to acknowledge the Messiah. Now, thus to think of Christ, thus to worship Him, thus to embrace Him, is truly to believe. Christ, moreover, employed the word “love” not towards the woman, but against the Pharisee, because He contrasted the entire worship of the Pharisee with the entire worship of the woman. He reproved the Pharisee because he did not acknowledge that He was the Messiah, although he rendered Him the outward offices due to a guest and a great and holy man. He points to the woman and praises her worship, ointment, tears, etc., all of which were signs of faith and a confession, namely, that with Christ she sought the remission of sins. It is indeed a great example, which, not without reason, moved Christ to reprove the Pharisee, who was a wise and honorable man, but not a believer. He charges him with impiety, and admonishes him by the example of the woman, showing thereby that it is disgraceful to him, that, while an unlearned woman believes God, he, a doctor of the Law, does not believe, does not acknowledge the Messiah, and does not seek from Him remission of sins and salvation. 34] Thus, therefore, He praises the entire worship [faith with its fruits, but towards the Pharisee He names only the fruits which prove to men that there is faith in the heart], as it often occurs in the Scriptures that by one word we embrace many things; as below we shall speak at greater length in regard to similar passages, such as Luke 11:41: Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. He requires not only alms, but also the righteousness of faith. Thus He here says: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much, i.e., because she has truly worshiped Me with faith and the exercises and signs of faith. He comprehends the entire worship. Meanwhile He teaches this, that the remission of sins is properly received by faith, although love, confession, and other good fruits ought to follow. Wherefore He does not mean this, that these fruits are the price, or are the propitiation, because of which the remission of sins, which reconciles us to God, is given. 35] We are disputing concerning a great subject, concerning the honor of Christ, and whence good minds may seek for sure and firm consolation, whether confidence is to be placed 36] in Christ or in our works. Now, if it is to be placed in our works, the honor of Mediator and Propitiator will be withdrawn from Christ. And yet we shall find, in God’s judgment, that this confidence is vain, and that consciences rush thence into despair. But if the remission of sins and reconciliation do not occur freely for Christ’s sake, but for the sake of our love, no one will have remission of sins, unless when he has fulfilled the entire Law, because the Law does not justify as long as it can accuse us. 37] Therefore it is manifest that, since justification is reconciliation for Christ’s sake, we are justified by faith, because it is very certain that by faith alone the remission of sins is received.
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