The Christmas Story: The Story of Jealousy

Bible Book: Matthew  2 : 1-18
Subject: Christmas; Jealousy

As we have been thinking about the Christmas Story, I've tried to magnify the fact (1) that the Christmas Story is The Story Of Joy, (2) that the Christmas Story is The Story Of Joseph, (3) that the Christmas Story is The Story Of Jesus, and (4) that the Christmas Story is The Story Of Jerusalem. This morning, I want to go a step further and remind you that the Christmas Story is The Story Of Jealousy.

In this chapter of the Christmas story, we are introduced to some new characters, all of which are mentioned in Matthew 2:1. Because we are told in verse 22 that Herod's son was Archelaus, we know from a historical standpoint that the king Herod we are introduced to in verse 1 is Herod the Great.

Herod was the family name of several Roman rulers who served as provincial governors of Palestine and surrounding regions during New Testament times. The first Herod, known as Herod the Great, was the Roman ruler of Palestine during the days of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus when Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1; Luke 3:1). All the other different Herods mentioned in the New Testament were the sons or grandsons of this Herod. Herod the Great (ruled 37-4 b. c.) was known as a master builder, organizer, and developer, although his policies were considered cruel and ruthless by the Jewish people. His most notable achievement was the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem - a project that required almost fifty years. (Nelson's Complete Book Of Bible Maps And Charts) 

According to Jona Lendering, "He continued his building policy to win the hearts of his subjects. ... With building projects, the expansion of his territories, the establishment of a sound bureaucracy, and the development of economic resources, he did much for his country, at least on a material level. The standing of his country -foreign and at home- was certainly enhanced. However, many of his projects won him the bitter hatred of the orthodox Jews, who disliked Herod's Greek taste - a taste he showed not only in his building projects, but also in several transgressions of the Mosaic Law. The orthodox were not the only ones who came to hate the new king. The Sadducees hated  him because he had terminated the rule of the old royal house to which many of them were related; their own influence in the Sanhedrin was curtailed. The Pharisees despised any ruler who despised the Law. And probably all his subjects resented his excessive taxation. According to Flavius Josephus, there were two taxes in (place) at annual rates equivalent to 10.7% and 8.6%, which is extremely high in any preindustrial society (Jewish Antiquities 14.202-206). It comes as no surprise that Herod sometimes had to revert to violence, employing mercenaries and a secret police to enforce order. (

We are also introduced to these wise men. The word "wise" in verse 1 is the Greek term magos, meaning an Oriental scientist or magician. The plural "Magi" is often used to refer to these men who came seeking Jesus.

Christian tradition has elaborated the biblical account; it has set their number as three, perhaps from their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; it has called them kings, perhaps from Psalms 72:10,11 and Isaiah 49:7,23 considered as prophecies; and it has given them names, Caspar or Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. (

(Psalms 72:10-11) The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. {11} Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.

(Isaiah 49:7) Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.

(Isaiah 49:23) And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

Although the wise men didn't find Jesus until some time after his birth, we generally associate them with the Christmas story. And the leading light of the star, the love of the wise men for the child Jesus, and the lavish gifts they gave blend together in Matthew's record to show the poignancy of this marvelous event.

I. The Earnest Request Of Wisdom

There Is In This Story The Earnest Request Of Wisdom (vs. 1-2)

A. Notice The Origin Of Their Expedition

1. The Time When Their Journey Began

Announcement of Birth of John Luke 1:5-25

Announcement of Birth of Jesus to the Virgin Luke 1:26-38

Song of Elisabeth to Mary Luke 1:39-45

Mary's Song of Praise Luke 1:46-56

Birth, Infancy, and Purpose for Future of John the Baptist Luke 1:57-80

Announcement of Jesus' Birth to Joseph Matthew 1:18-25

Birth of Jesus Christ Matthew 1:24, 25 Luke 2:1-7

Proclamation by the Angels Luke 2:8-14

The Visit of Homage by Shepherds Luke 2:15-20

Jesus' Circumcision Luke 2:21

First Temple Visit with Acknowledgments by Simeon and Anna Luke 2:22-38

Visit of the Wise Men Matthew 2:1-12

(Nelson's Complete Book Of Bible Maps And Charts)

(Luke 2:39) And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

(Matthew 2:1) Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

(Matthew 2:16) Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

According to these statements, their journey may have begun prior to the birth of Jesus, and they may not have arrived until Jesus was as old as two.

(Matthew 2:11) And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

It was definitely some time after the birth because when they came, the wise men came "into the house." The phrase "young child" in verse 11 is the Greek word (3813) paidion, which some have suggested means a small toddler.

2.The Territory Where Their Journey Began

The designation "wise men" is used more frequently to refer to the Babylonian or Persian magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers in the book of Daniel, than to refer to any other group. Further, Matthew 2 reveals that the wise men that sought the Christ came from the east to Jerusalem (Matthew 2:1).

Babylon would have been one of the closest pockets of civilization east of Jerusalem in that day. Given these facts, there would seem to be little doubt that these "wise men" were natives of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar once asked the predecessors of these men to reveal to him his own troubling yet hidden dreams. Notice their answer: (Daniel 2:11) And it is a rare thing that the king requireth,   and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. How fascinating that their offspring would personally see the one of whom it was said: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:1,14a). These men had possibly heard how Daniel had referred to the Lord as "the Ancient of days" (Daniel 7:9,13,22). Amazingly though, they stood before a young child who was "the Ancient of days!"

B. Notice The Objective Of Their Expedition

1. They Sought A Human Potentate

Where is he that is born King?

2.They Sought A Hebrew Promise Of The Jews?

Could it be that these eastern philosophers had incorporated into their scope of learning the prophets of Israel such as Isaiah (Isaiah 9:6-7), and Zechariah

(Zechariah 9:9) who had written of a coming King?

(Isaiah 9:6-7) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. {7} Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

(Zechariah 9:9) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

(Psalms 24:6-10) This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.

{7} Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. {8} Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. {9} Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. {10} Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

C. Notice The Occasion Of Their Expedition

1.It Was Occasioned By A Revelation

"we have seen his star in the east"

2. It Was Occasioned By A Resolution

"and are come to worship Him"

(Luke 2:15) And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

Perhaps there was a similar scene that unfolded in Babylon as these wise men decided to come.

II. The Evident Reality Of Worship

There Is In This Story The Evident Reality Of Worship (vs. 9-12)

A. The Guidance Of Their Worship Experience vs. 9, 12

1. There Is The Direction Of Devotion

For Those Interested In True Worship There Is Direction In Devotion

(Matthew 2:9) When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

went before - [Greek 4254. proago] to lead forward (magisterially); to precede (in place or time): -- bring (forth, out).

(John 4:23) But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

2. There is the Difference in Departure

For Those Interested In True Worship There Is A Difference In Departure

(Matthew 2:12) And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

another - Greek 243. allos, meaning different.

B. The Gladness Of Their Worship Experience vs. 10

In his December 16th, 2001 sermon from Matthew 2:1-12, Pastor Robert Warren of Fellowship Advent Christian Church said, "Overjoyed to know exactly what town the king was supposed to have been born in, the Magi headed off for Bethlehem. Now, just try to imagine their faces when they came to the house where Jesus lay, went in, and instead of finding a royal household or a conquering army they found a peasant household. They must have been dumbfounded! The king was this young child? The King of the Jews was going to be descended from a poor, teenaged woman and her carpenter husband?" (Sermon Central) But they were undeterred in their worship, for we...

1. Notice The Heights Of Their Worship

The magi rejoiced as the star revealed the object of their quest. Such was the degree of their rejoicing that the Bible specifies that it was done "with exceeding great joy." ("Exceeding" - in high degree.)

exceeding - Greek 4970. sphodra, meaning vehemently, i.e. in a high degree, much.

great - Greek 3173. megas, meaning big. Rendered elsewhere in the New Testament as "exceedingly, high, large, loud, mighty."

2. Notice The Harmony Of Their Worship

(Matthew 2:11) And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

C. The Giving Of Their Worship Experience vs. 11

1. The Substantial Gifts

It was also to Him that they presented their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. Their giving was not so much an addition to their worship as an element of it. The gifts were an expression of worship, given out of the overflow of adoring and grateful hearts. (John F. MacArthur, Jr.)

"Frankincense" was an aromatic used in sacrificial offerings; "myrrh" was used in perfuming ointments. These, with the gold, which they presented, seem to show that the offerers were persons in affluent circumstances. ... The feelings of these devout givers are to be seen in the richness of their gifts, and that the gold, at least, would be highly serviceable to the parents of the blessed Babe in their unexpected journey to Egypt and stay there - this much at least admits of no dispute. (From Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

2. The Suggestive Gifts

Some think there was a significancy in their gifts; they offered him gold, as a king, paying him tribute ... frankincense, as God, for they honoured God with the smoke of incense; and myrrh, as a Man that should die, for myrrh was used in embalming dead bodies. (Matthew Henry)

(John 19:39-40) And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. {40} Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

Behold the magi as they reverenced or "worshipped" the child. Recall that sacrifice and giving is consistently associated with worship. The reverence and worship by the wise men for Jesus involved:

A Giving Of Their Wealth To Him

Gold has always been indicative of wealth.

A Giving Of Their Worship To Him

Frankincense is a dry resinous substance used as a perfume. It is frequently seen as an element used in the Levitical Tabernacle worship sacrifices. One writer states that frankincense was the highest offering that could be made before the temple of any god. Thus, it serves to embody the very disposition of worship. Amazingly, this suggestive substance was their gift to the Christ child.

A Giving Of Their Will To Him

From an unknown tree or shrub in Egypt and Arabia comes myrrh. The bruising of the leaves produces a gum-resin presented in the form of drops or globules of various colors and sizes. Presumably, when the droplets are crushed the substance is used as a medicine. The bruising and the crushing processes is expressive of the yielded and broken will. It becomes almost prophetically symbolical of He who was bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5), who said to the Heavenly Father, "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).

Two of these elements also remind us of our Beloved ...

1. Spoken about the bride's beloved

(Song of Songs 3:6) Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?

2. Spoken by the bride's beloved

(Song of Songs 4:6) Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.

III. The Envious Rejection Of Wickedness

There Is In This Story The Envious Rejection Of Wickedness (vs. 3-8,13,16-18)

A. Notice The Pretending In Herod's Life

1. The Trickery And Ruse vs. 7-8

2. The Truth And Reality vs. 12-13

B. Notice The Prophecies In Herod's Life

1. The Prophecy Of A Governor's Mention vs. 4-6

(Micah 5:2) But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

2. The Prophecy Of A Great Mourning vs. 17-18

(Jeremiah 31:15) Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

C. Notice The Passion In Herod's Life

(Matthew 2:16) Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

wroth - [Greek 2373. thumoo] to put in a passion, i.e. enrage.

1. The Beginning Point Of This Rage vs. 3

The Magi must have known that Herod was the current King of the Jews but obviously believed the message of the star that a new king was born. Notice that the Magi do not say, 'Where is the one born, who will be King of the Jews', but 'Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews'. They might have gone into Jerusalem believing that Herod was dead or at least not now the king. It was Herod who heard of the Magi's enquiring; they did not go to him. We are told that he was 'troubled'; the Greek word here, tarach', means 'stirred up.' As someone who has been fighting off rivals both real and imaginary ever since he had been made king, he would not have taken kindly to this rumor of a rival. (Rev. Phil Greetham. (c) Copyright 1996. This Version, 2002)

2. The Boiling Point Of This Rage vs. 16

(Proverbs 6:34) For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.


"In the Middle Ages many tales were written about King Arthur and his knights." There are "many themes within these so-called Arthurian romances," but one of the recurring realities in these stories is that "Arthur is Britain's one true king." (From The Official Graham Phillips Website)

You'll either fall down to bow before this King named Jesus or you'll rise up to battle against this King named Jesus.