Rejoicing Exceedingly With Great Joy
How is it possible that one event could produce such polarizing reactions? When we look at Matthew 2, the star that appeared marking the birth of Jesus drove some to the heights of joy and drove others to total madness.
Not much has changed in 2000 years. Still the name of Jesus is seen as the sweetest of all names or an total intrusion into a conversation depending on where your allegiances lie.
That's the beauty of Jesus. He exposes our allegiances. We see it right from the birth narrative, throughout His earthly ministry, through His passion and in the 2000 years of history that have unfolded ever since.
The people in the birth narrative of Jesus are real historical figures and this was a true historical account but in some ways the people in this story are physical manifestations of a spiritual reality that every one of us faces.
When our treasure is Jesus, we hold the things of this world loosely and we see all that we have (our treasure) as an opportunity to honor the King. But when we hold the treasures of this life tightly we can even find ourselves fighting against God (the greatest of all treasure) to try to hang onto treasure that was never ours to begin with.
The Holy Spirit does something in Matthew 2 that is quite fascinating and interesting to think about how we would respond if the Spirit used our lives in the same way- the true treasure of each of the person's hearts are actually put on display for all to see. They wore their heart on their sleeve as we might say. But one thing is clear, we are not left wondering what (or Who) they treasured.
Jesus told us in multiple different ways that the true treasure of our hearts would find a way to make themselves to the surface.
- He told us that our words are a reflection of the abundance of our heart (Matthew 12:34-35)
- Jesus told us that what we look at is a reflection of the abundance of our hearts (Matthew 5:27-30)
- Jesus told us that our outbursts of anger are not "slips" but a reflection on what fills our hearts (Matthew 5:21-26)
- Jesus told us that what we do with our money is a reflection of what we truly treasure in our hearts (Matthew 5:24)
In short, fruit is a treasure map that leads us the ultimate treasure of our hearts.
If you want to know what your hearts truly treasure- and to see if what we say that our hearts treasure and what our hearts actually treasure are one and the same, there are a couple of main ways to do a little "fruit inspection"
1. What are our hearts are TRULY fixated on? What do we spend our day thinking about? Worrying about? What makes our hearts beat faster? What brings calm to a heart that is in the midst of a stormy sea?
2. What is the outward fruit when that thing that our hearts are fixated on either achieved or the opposite, when that thing is unable to be achieved or seems out of reach?
As we consider this advent, let's look at the fruit that exposes the treasure of the wise men vs. the fruit that exposes the treasures of Herod:
The Wise men:
1. First off, they don’t come in secreting like Herod did- they enter into Jerusalem like a boldly- because people who aren’t shady don’t have to do stuff in secret
2. They don’t secretly try to find out where the King was born like Herod the coward- they walk right in and ask the King and his court where to find the King- again, because people who don’t have shady hearts don’t have shady fruit
3. They don’t send someone else to go find the Messiah- they go because they wanted to see the Messiah themselves (You can't expect someone else to be in the presence of Jesus for you. We don't worship through other people's intimacy with Christ) (Matthew 5:8)
4. When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy! (Matthew 5:10)
5. They gave out of the abundance of their heart- because treasure was not their treasure- so therefore, they gave generously and they gave joyfully
6. They had this Lucious fruit because Jesus was their treasure!
Let's compare this with Herod's "fruit":
1. He’s troubled (verse 3)- He's troubled because power was his treasure. You want to see what someone truly treasures, block their access to that treasure and watch them freak out.
2. He gathers the leaders and the wise men in secret because he knows his heart is funky
3. He lies about wanting to go and worship (verse 8)
4. Where the wise men had joy as their fruit, Herod had “fury” (verse 17)
5. And he ultimately does one of the wickedest things every recorded in history in order to guard his slipping grip on his treasure (Matthew 2:16-18)
6. Herod may have said in verse 8 that he wanted to go and treasure the Christ child, but he played his hand- he showed what his true treasure was
Before wrapping up- I want to go back to one of the fruits of this passage because Matthew 2:10 is SO emphatic of the joy that the wise-men felt. When they beheld the child, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy!
I know that people have differing feelings about the holidays. For some it brings up hard memories of an empty chair at the table. Some have trouble seeing past the pressures of this time of year or the commercialism and a million other things- many of them valid.
But recognizing the fallenness of this world and rejoicing were never meant to be mutually exclusive. In this world we will have trouble, but there is always joy to be found in Jesus when He has His rightful place as the center of our treasures of our hearts.
So, in closing, I want to ask you a few questions to reflect on that I used to close out my sermon on Sunday:
1. What do we truly treasure?
2. What lengths are we willing to go to in order to obtain that treasure?
3. Does the fruit demonstrate that the things that we call our treasure and is actually our treasure are the same thing?
4. Does our treasure look radically different to a watching world?
Have a Very Merry Christmas,
More in Pastor's Blog
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