“The celebration of the heathen”

Summary of sermon by Erlo Stegen, 03 Jan 2016

Matthew 2:1-12
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”

This is a marvellous matter that we should all rejoice over. At that time all other nations except the Jews were considered heathen. Remember the heathen woman coming to Jesus for her child that was ill. Jesus told her that it wasn’t good to give the children’s bread to the dogs. She answered that the dogs also east of the bread that falls from their master’s table. Some blacks say that Christianity is the white man’s religion, but they say it out of ignorance. Every nation who were not of Israel were heathen, the Germans, Afrikaners, English etc.

How is it then that these nations became Christian? This text is key in understanding it. It starts by speaking of wise men from the east, meaning the nations east of Israel, Korea, China etc. The gospel is therefore not a racial issue. Different heathen nations each worshipped their own pagan gods. Even the Germans served their pagan gods. Only the Jews served God Almighty. One of the German gods was the god of thunder and rain, and they had other idols too.

The Zulus again have their ancestral spirits which they serve, as well as other gods they sacrifice to before they plant. Some huts have the skull of a cow as a symbol to the ancestors, and they would throw bones to foretell the future. Similarly the Germans had horse skulls and their fortune tellers. So too with the magi from the east, they had their gods that they served.

The Western nations turned to God through the preaching of the Word of God. God’s word changed them.

How did the wise men find the Messiah, for they were heathen? It’s possible that they had heard from ancient prophets like Daniel of the coming Messiah, and they took it to heart. They remembered this information, and when the star appeared they linked it to that prophecy that the Messiah had come.

Just think how amazing that God’s people were troubled by the news, while those from the east were glad. Jesus said that they will come from the east and west and sit at the tables of heaven while the children of the kingdom will be cast out (Matt 8:11).

We need to examine ourselves lest we become like the scribes and Pharisees who became worried when God works, instead of rejoicing.

These wise men were like kings, but they weren’t concerned for their positions and afraid that they will lose their positions like the Jewish leaders, neither were they concerned that He wasn’t from their nation. They’ve come to worship Him. They wanted the truth.

Who brought the gospel to the Germans? The English. They received the gospel first and had compassion on the Germans and sent missionaries to bring them the Gospel.

So the wise men from the east broke the taboo that the Gospel is for the Jews only.

German translation