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The Anointed

December 24, 2018, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (Matthew 2:1-18) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Matthew
Preached at a Combined Service service

Tags: Matthew 马太福音

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Title: The Anointed
Date: 24th Dec 2018
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee

In Jubilee Church, we rotate the 4 Gospels yearly to preserve the unique flavours of each gospel. I know that in food, sometimes we like to create fusion flavours, by mixing the east and the west. And when you go to the Singaporean zi-char, you can sometimes have a Cantonese soup, with Teochew fish, and Szechuan toufu etc. But we have to be very careful when we do that with the 4 gospels or we may end up creating our own dish, instead of presenting what the bible intends to say. So every four years, we approach the Christmas story from the Matthew perspective. And Matthew’s Christmas is not about the manger and shepherds. Matthew’s Christmas is a horror story about King Herod.

King Herod was known in history as Herod the Great, and not without good reasons. The top reason for me would be that Herod was a self-made man. He singlehandedly created a Herodian kingdom out of nothing. It was Herod himself who overcame all odds to become king. The Palestine land at that time was a conflict zone not unlike the situation today. There were old Greek empire forces and the new supreme Roman empire forces. The rebellious and troublesome local Jewish people were living under the Hasmonean dynasty, the Maccabees, for the past 100 years. When Julius Caesar was murdered, Herod went to Rome to appeal to Mark Antony to declare him the King of the Jews. In fact, he had to do this again later, when Mark Antony lost to Octavian, and he had to grovel to the new Caesar. But the land still belonged to the Maccabees, so what Rome conferred on him was just an empty title. It was Herod himself who had to wage war to gain his own kingdom, territory by territory, land by land. But getting the land was one thing, gaining the support of the people was another. You cannot depend on military strength all the time, especially with the rebellious Jews. Herod was an Idumean, not a Jew. So he banished his first wife and 3 year old child to marry a Jewish princess, Mariamne. But the most critical act he did to consolidate his throne was to restore the Jerusalem Temple. To comply with religious law, Herod employed 1,000 priests as masons and carpenters in the rebuilding. It was so grand and monumental, the Jewish elite and the people all used it as the centre of their faith. He had to win the land and the people all by himself. That’s how he got the kingdom. That’s how he became king.

Whenever I look at the Christmas story according to Matthew, the more I read about Herod the Great, the more I pity the man. He did everything he could to get to where he was. If you think killing toddlers and babies is horrible, you should see what he did to his own family. He eliminated anyone who could be a threat to himself. He killed his grandfather-in-law, then his mother-in-law, then his brother-in-law. He killed his own uncle. He then killed his wife Mariamne, the love of his life. And eventually he killed his favourite sons as well, just in case they might take revenge. "When he [Emperor Augustus] heard that Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered to kill, his own son, he said: it is better to be Herod's pig, than his son." [1] He really did everything he could to become king. But in our passage today, he came to realize, there was a child born King of the Jews, the Messiah. Messiah is a Hebrew word meaning anointed, and Christ is the Greek translation of the same word. The Magis told him, there was a child born King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed. It was written in the stars. Herod did everything to be anointed by Rome and anointed by the Jewish people. Yet, this child was anointed by God.

So I pity Herod. This child Jesus was the exact opposite of everything he believed in. Herod lived in a cut-throat world full of lies and backstabbing. It was always the survival of the fittest, and he not only survived, he thrived. He played the game of thrones and won the fight, and yet at this moment, the Magis from afar told him that the honor of kingship would belong to this child Jesus. The Magis came to worship the child, who was the Messiah, the anointed king of the Jews.

Was it unfair for Herod? Yes! But it is only unfair if you think of kingship and kingdom as a prize to be won. Herod was fully deserving of his kingship and his kingdom, but only if kingship and kingdom are about power and dominance and personal glory. He was Herod the Great. But pay attention to this: in God’s perspective, kingship and kingdom are a calling. This is why Jesus is the Anointed one. He is a different king who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. In Herod’s world, the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. But in Jesus’ kingdom, whoever wants to become great must be a servant to others. (Matthew 20:25-28) There is no Jesus the Great, only Jesus the servant king. Herod was king for his self-serving purposes. But Jesus is king to sacrifice for others. So he is anointed by God.

In doing so, God is building a different world, the kingdom of heaven, where kingship and kingdom is a calling to serve and sacrifice. Brothers and sisters, the kingdom of Jesus is not just about Jesus the king, but also about his people, we who are his followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Anointed one. But the anointing reaches us as well. 1 John 2: 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. The truth is that there are earthly kingdoms and earthly kings like Herod, but we belong to the kingdom of heaven. If you want to evangelize, your evangelism should be about the kingdom of heaven and not just heaven. You might mistake heaven as a nice place for you to be served, but the kingdom of heaven is about serving others.

Let us reflect on the words from the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

When we look at the passage today, we can see that the persecution of those belonging to the kingdom of heaven was very real. It was as if Herod was fighting a battle against God himself. It was a battle between those who were self-serving, and those who were ready to sacrifice for others for the sake of righteousness. It was a battle to determine if this world belonged to all the earthly rulers, or this world truly belongs to God. This is why I believe the kingship and the kingdom are a calling. In the same passage where Jesus talked about persecution, he reminded us: 13 “You are the salt of the earth. 14 “You are the light of the world. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. To be the salt of the earth and light of the world is to live as the people of the kingdom of heaven. We yearn not for power nor honor, but only for the opportunity to do good deeds to glorify God. The world may see the rulers of the world, but we see the heavenly king, Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed.

On Christmas night, the Magis came to worship the one Anointed by God. It was the same scene at the end of the Gospel, Matthew 28: 17 When (the apostles) saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Jesus declared himself to be the ultimate authority in heaven and on earth. But why is the world still so imperfect? Indeed, the Jews believed that the coming of the Messiah should bring world peace. I believe Jesus Christ has given us the answer. The kingdom of heaven is a calling to all of us who are disciples of the one true king. It is a continual process of disciple-making, baptizing, and teaching. Yes, the world today is imperfect. But it has been transformed from the very first Christmas. In comparison with the massacre of the innocents [2], the world today values the lives of children. We educate them, boys and girls, from preschool to adulthood. In Jubilee Church, we can be proud that we started the first kindergarten in Singapore. The world has transformed from the days of Herod, and Christians all over the world must continue the work of manifesting the will of God, on earth as it is in heaven. The world today is still imperfect, but we have the anointing that comes from the Anointed. We have the truth that will always challenge and transform the imperfect world.

On this special night, I want to remember the calling of certain groups amongst us. First we want to remember the parents of young children in our community. Just as how Joseph and Mary were obedient to God and protected baby Jesus, in the same way, our obedience to God will protect our children from evil. If we want to talk about making disciples of all nations, then we should first start with our children. They should be our closest disciples because they can learn directly from the way we live out our Christian lives. Partner with the Church. Take an interest in our Sunday School curriculum and discuss the lessons with your children.

Second, we need to remember those who are directly involved in the mission fields of the world. They face the harshest persecution in this day and age. As Jesus says in Matthew 10: 16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Let’s continue to pray for them and support their work. If you want to be more involved, you can approach any of the mission committee members.

Lastly, we need to remember the leaders of this world. No matter how they have risen to their current position of status, they undeniably have a responsibility to shepherd the people. In this Christmas, especially after comparing the kingship of Herod and Jesus, we pray for the leaders of the nations to be sacrificial instead of self-serving. We pray for them to be the salt and light of the world. We pray for them to be judged by God if they sin against God and men.

And to all of you who are here on this Christmas night, we remember the one who is born king of the Jews, the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed. But more importantly, is Jesus your king? From Christmas to Easter, let it be a time for us to reflect on this question. I can show you the sign. I can find him and show him to you. But you have to choose to bow down and worship. Let Jesus be your king. And let his kingdom be your calling.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_the_Innocents#cite_note-19
[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_the_Innocents

Matthew 2:1–18 (Listen)

2:1 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, 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. 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.

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.”

(ESV)