Have you ever lived in a city where it was difficult to become an insider? No matter how hard you tried, you always felt excluded and on the fringe. Our experience in church can oftentimes be the same. Have you ever attended a church where you felt like you didn’t measure up and no matter what you did you could never break into the inner circle?
One of the results of sin is that we all tend to exclude others and to feel excluded ourselves because we all struggle with an inflated sense of self-importance and a sense of personal inadequacy. At times, we actually begin to believe that God is blessed to have good people like us on his team. Furthermore, we tend to view outsiders with suspicion. A question: How would you respond if a spiritually seeking Muslim with a turban on his head walked into our church facility this morning?
How do we ensure that we do not succumb to this insider mentality of the holy huddle syndrome? This morning we observe from Matthew’s Christmas story, from the very beginning, the gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to make us a people for others. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that: “The church is the church only when it exists for others.” As we move through the text, watchfor the interplay between outsiders and insiders.
I. The Irony – Outsiders inform insiders of astonishing and breathtaking news: Your King is born (Matthew 2:1-2). Spiritual-seeking pagans tell religious people who Jesus is. If insiders will not welcome, honor, and worship Jesus, outsiders will. How ironic that outsiders are the ones most galvanized and determined to find and worship the Messiah.
“We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.” It’s a popular carol sung during the holiday season depicting the scene we so often see on Christmas cards, ornaments and manger scenes. It’s a wonderful carol apart from the fact that they were not kings, there were not three, and they didn’t go to the manger. They were astrologers, they brought three gifts, but there is no mention that there was three of them, and Scripture seems to indicate that they arrived months after Jesus was born at the house where Mary and Joseph and now baby Jesus lived. The Magi were astrologers, the epitome of non-Jewish believers. We could designate them the “outsiders” or “people on the margins of society”. Herod, the chief priests and scribes were what we might call “insiders” or “people at the center of society — the establishment”.
Insiders refuse to search for and receive Him gladly. Thus, the almighty God of creation leads outsiders to find and worship His appointed King.
What do you think these wealthy strangers expected to find in Jerusalem? I think they probably expected the entire city to be beaming with anticipation and excitement over the birth of its newborn King. They probably expected everyone to be talking about the time, place, and circumstances of His birth.
They would have been shocked to realize that they would be the first ones to announce His birth. They would have been startled by the stir that they created with their announcement.
What are the practical implications of this?
1. There’s hope for you if you didn’t grow up in church… if you don’t consider yourself an insider. It does not matter where you come from or what your spiritual heritage is. If you accept Jesus as the Messiah, you become a member of His heavenly kingdom.
2. Another practical implication here: Matthew challenges insiders’ prejudice against outsiders. To whom is Matthew writing? In his gospel written primarily to Jewish believers, Matthew highlights that Gentiles are the first ones to worship Jesus. The gospel makes us a people for others. The gospel must be taken to the nations.
3. Those who seem to us to be outsiders may be more spiritually attuned than we are. All throughout Jesus’ ministry, prostitutes and tax collectors enter the kingdom ahead of the religious insiders. Here, God is guiding outsiders to the Messiah to worship him. And he is doing it by exerting cosmic influence and power to get it done. This irony of outsiders getting the real identity of Jesus is repeated often in the life of our Lord (Compare Matthew 27:41-43, 54)