Sermons by Pastor Walter Snyder plus announcements, articles, videos, and anything else that doesn’t fit Ask the Pastor or the Luther Library.

06 January 2016

Epiphany Sermon: Wise Men, Did You Know?

Preached on Matthew 2:1-12
The Feast of the Epiphany
6 January AD 2016

Title: Wise Men, Did You Know? (MP3 Audio)

Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh Summary: A Christmas song that’s only about twenty-five years old poses a series of questions to the mother of the Christ Child. It asks, “Mary, did you know” about what this Baby will grow to become and to do?

Our text could lead us to ask the same of the Magi who visited the Holy Family sometime after Jesus’ birth: “Wise Men, did you know?” Matthew tells us that a sign in the heavens announced to them that “the King of the Jews” had been born but there was much of the story they didn’t know.

Yet they brought not only treasures fit for a king but also gifts that pointed to who this King was. Gold is truly a gift for a king while many cultures use incense in connection with their prayers. This was true of Israel, which had an incense altar in the temple.

Meanwhile, myrrh, a spice which holds great intrinsic value, was also used in preparing bodies for burial. It could be rubbed on a corpse or on the cloth with which a body was wrapped. Thus, while the Wise Men probably didn’t know many details about the Child, nor have any real idea what He would accomplish through His life and death, their treasures can illustrate Jesus’ kingship and His divinity, while pointing toward His atoning death on the cross.

I wrote of this in a hymn titled The Wise Men Traveled from Afar:

   Their incense honored Deity
   And gold was gift to royalty;
   While myrrh foreshadowed death and grave
   As sinful men He came to save.

The story of the Wise Men also shows that it is only through God’s Word that we know the King. It took the words of the prophet to lead them away from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. So it is for us. Signs in nature and feelings within are poor guides while Holy Scripture tells us in great detail who He is, what He did, and how much He loves us. We receive the treasures of heaven not because we seek and find the Christ but because He came to earth “to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)”

Epiphany Star Text: 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.”

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. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 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.

And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Matthew 2:1-12

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Wise Men, Did You Know?.

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 72:1-11 (12-15); Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12

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