The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He Who is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him" (Matt. 2:1, 2).
The story of the visit of the wise men to worship the Lord is told only in Matthew. It is deeply significant of the whole teaching of this book which presents the Lord Jesus as King. The record of chapter two is symbolic of the Kingdom of the heavens offered to Israel: the King is unknown in Jerusalem, His own city where His throne is; the rulers and even the ecclesiastical authorities do not recognize His presence; worship and honour are accorded Him not by His own people but by representatives from among the Gentiles; His life is sought by those who should have been looking for Him with rejoicing at His coming.
It is frequently taught that the wise men (and nowhere in the Word of God is it stated that there were three of them) came into the stable, and before the manger, worshipped and presented gifts. In view of the fact that these men came from afar at the sign in the heavens, and inasmuch as verse eleven tells us that "When they were come into the house, they saw the young Child," in all probability it was some considerable time after His birth that the Magi arrived. No doubt they entered Jerusalem believing in their hearts that this King Whose star they had seen would everywhere be known and worshipped. But in this great city, the seat of religious activity and interest, where the Messiah's coming should have been welcomed with rejoicing and praise, He was unknown. Finally Herod, hearing of these things, gathered the chief priests and scribes to make inquiry as to where the Child should have been born. When he learned that the Scriptures said that Bethlehem in the land of Judah was the chosen city, he advised the men of the East and commanded them to return unto him when they had found the Child. Then Herod waited, not that he might worship, but that he might destroy the true King.
How many people there are today who know not the King, the Lord Jesus Christ! In Christian lands and even in many of the churches which bear His Name, He is not recognized. The Jews had the Old Testament Scriptures, full of predictions concerning the coming of the Messiah; the scribes and chief priests especially should have been on the watch for His appearing. But, occupied with ceremony, with ritual, with the world, His coming was an offence to them. We are even more at fault today. God has given us His Word which tells of the Lord Jesus; but still many know Him not, and the teaching of how He may be found is often an offence to the world. Yet, praise the Lord, there are those who grasp at the light that they see, as did the Magi, to find that in Him is life and joy and peace, without end.
Matt. 2:11, 12
"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh" (Matt. 2:11).
It is significant that the Holy Spirit wrote through Matthew, "When they saw the young Child with Mary His mother," not Mary with the young Child. He it is to Whom must go the worship and honour, not to the mother.
The Magi worshipped Him before they presented gifts. It is not by service that we are saved, nor by worship. Worship in Spirit and in Truth can only be offered after one has received the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2-8 9). God wants the personal passion of a yielded heart rather than cold gifts of service. When the wise men had seen the Lord, they worshipped Him and presented gifts. When any man or woman really sees the Lord, as did Paul on the Damascus Road, he must worship Him. Then it is our "reasonable service" to present our bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Rom. 12:1).
Finally, the gifts were holy and acceptable: gold, indicative of the kingship of the Lord, and of His power and glory; frankincense, speaking of the altogether lovely One and of the fragrance of His life; myrrh, a burial spice, telling of the Saviour Who should lay down His life a ransom for many, for you and for me. When He comes again He shall again receive gifts; gold and frankincense (Isa. 60:6); gold, a symbol of His Power and Might and Glory, as the King; frankincense, because He is altogether lovely and because His very Being is fragrant with Love and Grace. There will be no need of the myrrh then, for Christ "being raised from the dead dieth no more," but He shall reign forever upon the throne of His father David.
"And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way" (Matt. 2:12).
The balance of Matthew two is concerned with the flight of Joseph into Egypt with the young Child and Mary, the slaughter of the male children of Bethlehem under Herod's wrath, and the return of Joseph's family into the land of Israel and thence to Nazareth. That which particularly draws our attention is the keeping power of God, and the repeated affirmations of the fulfillments of prophecy in the events surrounding the early years of the Lord Jesus.
Five times in the first two chapters of Matthew we find such statements: "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet" (Matt. 1:22); "For thus it is written by the prophet" (Matt. 2:5); "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet" (Matt. 2:15); "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet" (Matt. 2:17); "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets" (Matt. 2:23).
The Word of God is full of the record of Satan's attempts to destroy the line leading to the birth of the Messiah. Foiled in his hopes, beginning at the infancy of the Lord Jesus, Satan continually tried to destroy Him that He might not accomplish His work on Calvary. But God has all power and is faithful, and will ever fulfill all that He has purposed and promised. God's Word is true. He has said, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23); but He has also declared that "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).