Category Archives: Sermon Notes

These are sermon notes of Pastor Hemen and you are welcome to read, use, and copy and paste them, however, please give credit where credit is due. Remember, these articles are copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.

Happiness is… – Matthew 5:1-12

Happiness is… – Matthew 5:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 17, 2019

Folks look for happiness in many ways in our day and age. Some use exercise, sports, food, money, recreation or other activities in order to find happiness while others may look to spirituality, religion, or philosophy to try to find personal happiness. The Bible teaches us that happiness in life is not truly found until one first finds God and develops a relationship with him.

People in Jesus’ day were not much different from us except they lived more of a day to day existence. Daily food and water, safety and personal health were of the foremost concerns of their lives. Most individuals did not live past their late 40s and just about any illness could be disastrous. Purchasing or growing food and getting clean water were also daily concerns; much of their happiness in life centered on these simple things. And all of it revolved around their relationship with God. So in the following teachings of Jesus we discover what happiness is; let’s find out what Jesus taught and what he meant.


READ: Matthew 5:1-12

Jesus begins his ministry by teaching people what it meant for God to be in their midst. Never forget that up until Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection no one could be saved by faith alone. God had always desired it to be that way but people proved to be a frustrating lot and God gave them laws and sacrifices to follow. Jesus begins by teaching…

I. We are kingdom material! (Vv. 1-4)

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

  1. Wanting those he had chosen to develop their full understanding of who he was and what he was about Jesus begins by teaching them some eternal truths. We discover that “when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.” When my father wanted us to pay attention to what he was trying to teach us he would call us to his side so we would focus on what he had to share. Jesus was like this as well. He gets away from the crowds, goes up on a mountainside (hill for us here in the Northwest) and sat down so his followers could hear him better. We discover that in fact “His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them”. This was a common means rabbis used for teaching their students or disciples. We understand that the crowd gathered around the edges of the disciples and listened in as well to what Jesus was teaching. Jesus began by telling them, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus begins here because I believe he was building a foundation. Folks wanted to know if God cared about them. “Am I good enough for God to love me?” (Hasn’t changed much has it?) The Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees taught them strict religious rules and regulations instead. Jesus was not teaching them a set of guidelines to follow but rather how God saw them and how he could change them. If they realized their impoverished spirituality, they would be good candidates for the kingdom of heaven! In fact Jesus continued by telling them “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Everyone has experienced some kind of personal loss but it was more evident in the lives of the poor; especially those who understood their circumstance. If one was willing to “mourn” for their spiritual loss or poverty, they would be “comforted” by God! If they understood how much God loved them they would be more willing to follow him. God loved them for who they were not their position in life. If we are willing to see our spiritual poverty and grieve over over our condition we are kingdom material!   

  EXAMPLE: I learned from my mother-in-law that you had to have patience and use only the best ingredients in order for whatever you were cooking to turn out consistently good. Too often people think that God could never forgive them or love them because of who they are or what they have done. God loves us and willingly came to walk with us and to show us the way back to him. In fact we learn from his words that we are kingdom material!

When my mother wanted us to truly understand what she was telling us she would ask, “What did I just tell you?” Our answers would reflect if we had been listening or not! Jesus continued with his disciples and the crowd by developing what he meant by their spiritual poverty. Jesus teaches that when we realize our spiritual condition…

II. We can become the children of God! (Vv. 5-8)

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

  1. Jesus understood that those who realized their spiritual position in life would be more able to receive his gospel message! So he continued by telling them that “Blessed (or happy) are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”. Meekness here is not weakness as some would have you believe. Rather it is a positional. Like a powerful horse controlled by tiny reins we are to control ourselves. It is like when one entered the throne room of a king he would willingly bow down low to the ground to display his position of humility before his king. If we want to inherit the kingdom of heaven we have to be willing to be meek in our attitude and not think of ourselves as more than we are then we “will inherit the earth”! Earth here is a familiar term every farmer in the crowd would understand because they worked it daily. In Genesis because of Adam’s sin the earth would yield its fruit at a very high cost; but because of Jesus our inheritance in heaven would be an existence without hard labor! In fact, Jesus continued by relating, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Instead of spiritual hunger the sons of God would experience fullness! Little did Jesus’ listeners realize that this would be through the power and presence of the Spirit of God! He would become our living water and our daily bread! Jesus continued, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” And since God’s “mercy” is given to us as his children we should therefore show his mercy to others as well! Jesus goes on to relate that “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” If we are pure we would know and see God! The heart here means who we totally are as a person. How could we be pure or holy in all we are; isn’t that impossible? And yes it is without Jesus yet he is the one who would make peace between us and God! Therefore happy or “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” As God’s sons and daughters we are to bring his peace to others. We can become the children of God!

  EXAMPLE: I know my folks did not always want to claim us as their kids all the time, especially when we got into trouble. I remember having to walk home after school realizing that my father already knew about how I had been sent to the principal’s office. There are times in the lives of parents when they wished their kids belonged to someone else. It’s normal. How good to know then that God has provided a way for us to be called his children. It should humble us, give us strength, help us to display kindness toward others, because we know God and bring his message of peace to the world! How good to know we can become the children of God!

We all like to be thanked once in a while when we do something for someone else. It’s a nice surprise when someone thanks you for opening a door or giving up your place in line for them; you know what I mean. However not everything we do justifies a thank you and not everything we do as believers will beings us a prize, however, we discover that…

III. We will inherit a great reward! (Vv. 9-12)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  1. When we become part of God’s family it changes us. And when we are changed we become different than the rest of the world around us. Because of Jesus we will be persecuted for what we believe. Jesus taught his disciples not to be surprised by this fact. He tells them, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” If we are mistreated or disdained because of what we believe it means we have been made righteous because of our faith! We are different from the world around us and our kingdom is not of this world! There are only two kinds of folks: Those who know God and those who don’t. In fact Jesus goes on to tell them, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” It has become popular to ridicule Christians in movies, on TV, and in the media. They depict us as ignorant and kind of antisocial. Evil does this when confronted with whatever it dislikes. It cannot use reason because their worldly atheistic philosophy makes no sense. And evil hates anyone that desires to live a holy life. Jesus knew his disciples would face severe persecution for their faith in him. Their world put their faith in manmade idols fashioned from wood, stone, or metal. Jesus came as a man to show the world God does indeed exist and to prove his love for mankind. After Jesus’ death on the cross, his resurrection and ascension, they would be the ones to share his gospel message with the world. All that was ungodly would be against them. It is just as true today as it was then. Yet he encouraged them and us by reminding us to “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The ungodly have always disdained and persecuted those who live for God and bring his message; but when that occurs we can smile and realize that the end justifies the means. We suffer now for a greater reward that awaits us. We will inherit a great reward!

  EXAMPLE: If we know the outcome and we know why it will happen, why in the world are we so worried when folks treat us with contempt for what we believe? In fact I’ve often wondered why folks get all concerned about things getting worse when they believe that things will get worse before the Lord comes back! Shouldn’t we do like John and say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”? (Revelation 22:20 NIV)” Why are we surprised to see the world getting worse or folks treating believers harsher when we know Jesus could come back at any time? Shouldn’t we therefore be about sharing the good news instead of worrying so much, like Jesus shared with his disciples? After all, we will inherit a great reward!

Conclusion:

We are kingdom material! We can become the children of God! We will inherit a great reward!


This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The message, the men, and the masses – Matthew 4:12-25

The message, the men, and the masses – Matthew 4:12-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 10, 2019

In the gospels we discover not only the mystical but the mundane as well. Life is made up of both and if you do not discover this fact you will miss out on some of the shear wonderment of life itself. This is why it is so distressing for me to see the ungodliness of socialism in our nation. When individuals do away with the sacred and try to replace it with feelings it leads to society based on emotionalism instead of the holy. Mankind is reduced to animal stature and God becomes nonexistent. This is one reason why Jesus came – to display for us the sacred. God became man and walked among us.

We know much about the everyday life of Jesus because the gospels are full of narratives concerning it. In Matthew’s gospel we discover some of the details of Jesus’ early ministry. He begins to relate the message he has for Israel and mankind, he begins to put together those who would continue the ministry after his death, burial, and resurrection, and he begins to actively reach out to people around him. Let see how Jesus began his message, picks his men, and goes to the masses…

READ: Matthew 4:12-25

Rather than moan about the spiritual erosion of America believers need to get involved in sharing their faith. Just as the Israelites failed to share Christians have as well. Here we discover…

I. Jesus and the message he shared! (Vv. 12-17)

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali–to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

  1. Interestingly we learn in John’s gospel that Jesus in fact began his ministry in the Jerusalem area but the other three gospels have Jesus beginning it in the northern part of the country. Yes Jesus did turn the water into wine in Cana but we see him beginning his ministry in John in cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem the first time in John 2 and his interaction with Nicodemus in John 3. We learn that the possible reason is that it probably did not last very long because shortly after Jesus’ own baptism John the Baptist is imprisoned. And so “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.” It was too soon to bring to much focus on his self and if Jesus had begun immediately in Jerusalem what he did in Capernaum it might cause undue attention, especially after chasing the money changers out of the temple with a whip! However, it also fulfilled what Isaiah had foretold. So, “Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali–to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’” Though Isaiah was probably using these two tribal names to represent the Northern Kingdom, it is remarkable that Jesus’ upbringing and early ministry was mostly in that very area near the Sea of Galilee. The area was known as Galilee of the Gentiles and it is here Jesus begins to share the message of God. After John is arrested he leaves Jerusalem and goes to those who are open to hear what God has to share. This is a good example for believers to follow even in our day and age. If those who you begin to share Jesus with do not want to hear what you have to share you have to move on to those who are ready to listen! “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Here we discover Jesus and the message he shared!

  EXAMPLE: The time was ripe. God had come as Jesus and folks needed to turn their lives around because his kingdom was “near” meaning right now! While we can lament over the condition of the world it should inspire believers to be even more about the ministry of sharing the gospel message of the good news of Jesus! Never before in the history of our nation do people need to turn away from their sin and turn to the Lord! And how good to know that Jesus paved the way for us and we learn in Jesus’ life about how he immediately began his ministry. It is here we discover Jesus and the message he shared!

When sharing your faith it is good to have fellow believers around you because they can pray with and encourage you. A band of friends can help keep you focused and here we discover…

II. Jesus and the men he chose! (Vv. 18-22)

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

  1. We learn in John’s gospel that after John the Baptist had baptized Jesus he told his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God!” when Jesus passed by. They followed Jesus and asked him where he was staying for the night and Jesus invites them to join him. The Apostle John and Andrew were these two men. John writes that later Andrew excitedly goes to get his brother Peter and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” Yet here Matthew infers that evidently both had returned to their profession as fishermen and so now “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.” So here we discover from Matthew they “were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen”. While they had gone back to their regular lives they were destined for greater things and Jesus knew it. He tells them “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus would take them from looking for the best places to capture fish to sell and make them into men who captured men for the kingdom of God! However their willingness to follow Jesus would come at a cost. They would have to decide if they were willing or not to follow him. Matthew tells us that “At once they left their nets and followed him.” However Jesus wasn’t done. “Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John.” We find the Apostle John had also gone back to being a fisherman with his brother James. Mark writes that Jesus “gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17 NIV) and the connotation is that their personalities were contentious or fiery. Some families are like that. “They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets.” These men also had a life decision to make. The calling carried with it a cost, for it involved leaving not only one’s profession but also one’s family responsibilities. I find it interesting that Jesus decided to ask hard working blue-collar types to be his disciples. Jesus did not call any Pharisees, Sadducees, or Teachers of the Law instead he called hardworking men who understood not only the common man but were willing to devote themselves to their calling. Matthew writes that “Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Here we discover Jesus and the men he chose!

  EXAMPLE: I have often wondered about how Jesus chose those who would follow him and become his disciples. Sure God knew but I believe that Jesus having set aside his divine nature to walk among us had willingly laid aside his divine capacity to fully know certain things. These men would become those who would spread his message, his teachings, and who he is. They would also in the process become his friends, confidants, and one who would betray him. They would display selfishness, spiritual ignorance, compassion, fear, courage, trustworthiness and devotion. Yet in each of these men Jesus called he evidently saw something I believe we would not have seen – a willingness to put their lives on hold and to seriously consider the message of and the man who was the Messiah. Matthew introduces us to Jesus and the men he chose!

It can be difficult to share the good news of Jesus because not everyone will want to hear it. But that should never deter us because it has hope, healing, and the answer for our lives. Here we discover…

III. Jesus going to the masses! (Vv. 23-25)

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

  1. Often as the writers of the gospel narratives do Matthew condenses for his readers, weeks if not months. We learn that after calling his disciples to follow him “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” Early on Jesus is welcome among the people because he is meeting their basic needs. He is helping them to understand more about God by teaching them in their local places of worship, sharing with them the gospel, and meeting their physical needs. Jesus’ message was that God was moving to fulfill his covenant promise with Israel and to establish his kingdom on the earth. And that his words were backed up by the display of his ability to dramatically heal the people of their diseases. Jesus was who he proclaimed himself to be and because of this “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.” The populace realized that something special was occurring. It could only be the hand of God. There have always been those who claimed to be able to heal the sick or to drive out demonic influences, but Jesus did not just claim to be able to do so; he actually did it! We discover in the gospel narrative that Jesus made himself available to the masses not for any form of selfish gain. He did not need the accolades of man nor the riches that he could have gained. In fact we find him often seeking to be secondary to giving God the glory for what was occurring. The people were in darkness physically and spiritually and they needed God more than anything. Jesus came to show them the way. He would tell them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (John 14:1 NIV)” and “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (John 10:37-38 NIV)” Matthew tells us that because of these miracles “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Many did not yet believe in him as the Messiah but at least they were willing to come to him for answers and it is here we discover Jesus going to the masses!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus going to the masses!

Conclusion:

Jesus and the message he shared! Jesus and the men he chose! Jesus going to the masses!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Jesus and the Temptations – Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus and the Temptations – Matthew 4:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 3, 2019

Sin is nothing to sing about and yet the world today takes a pretty casual view of it. I believe this is because many folks have swallowed the lies and deception of Satan. They either think that they were wrongly held accountable for the ungodly choices they made and they want the freedom to do whatever they want whenever they want or there are those who think that evil, sin, and the Devil do not exist. And they incorrectly think that if they simply ignore it or relegate it to “myth” status then it isn’t true. They’ve become too sophisticated and scientific to believe in “fairy tales”. Sadly, evil, sin, and the Devil do indeed exist and are very real and is nothing to sing about.

Mankind does not have the capability to be good on its own. We are sinners by nature and choice. From the first disobedient behavior and decision by Adam and Eve to the present day predicament the world finds itself today we find the war between good and evil, Satan’s handiwork, and mankind’s sin condition. In today’s verses we find Jesus and the temptations he faced; let’s learn what it means for us today and why…

READ: Matthew 4:1-11

How you live is dictated by what you believe. If you have a low opinion of yourself your life will reflect that attitude. Therefore if you think that God or the Devil doesn’t exist, your life will reflect that as well. Here we discover that…

I. Jesus’ character is tested! (Vv. 1-4)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

  1. Matthew tells us that immediately after his baptism by John “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” In this verse we discover some important facts. Matthew was told that Jesus the Messiah was “led by the Spirit” of God “into the desert” or wilderness where he would not find food or water “to be tempted by the devil”. The entire Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were involved in the spiritual maturation of Jesus! And here it involved the physical as well! God needed the Messiah to focus on the days and years ahead and not on the moment. Jesus would face other trials and tests in his ministry and he needed to realize that God was involved in every aspect. As a man Jesus would be tempted and here he is “tempted by the devil”. It shows us that God knows there is in fact a devil, a “diabolos” (slanderer, accuser) who does indeed try to tempt mankind. We discover this all the way back in Genesis with Eve, later in Job where he had to ask the permission of God to tempt Job, and also in the life of Peter. Evidently God had given the devil permission to tempt the Son, the Messiah. If Jesus was going to understand those he came to save he had to experience what we do every day. Jesus went into the wilderness to focus spiritually on the task ahead of him and “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Satan always tempts us where we are weakest and for Jesus it was his hunger. We are told that “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’” These tests demonstrate for us the character of Jesus. Yes he was divine and would not sin but he could choose to and this fact heightened the tests themselves. Jesus had to endure to the end of the test to show and display for us his character and willingness to suffer just as we do. Notice his response: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” He does not rebuke the devil but rather uses God’s truth instead. Jesus’ character was tested!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus could very well have produced the sustenance he needed to feed himself but he had deliberately gone into the wilderness for a purpose. He was following God’s direction. In life we often lose our focus and concentrate on what we need right now instead of the bigger picture. Spiritual patience is not mankind’s strong suit. God knows what we need; he knows the number of the hairs on our heads and he knows when one of his creatures falls to the ground. We do not always need bread but we do need to endure and realize that life is more than simple sustenance. And here in Matthew’s gospel we discover that Jesus’ character is tempted!

Mankind focuses on the moment thinking that whatever is occurring to them in the here and now is all that matters forgetting that future generations could suffer from their ungodly choices. God not only meets our human needs of food…

II. Jesus’ reputation is tested! (Vv. 5-7)

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

  1. Satan was unable to get Jesus to dishonor his character so he goes for what most humans will fall for, how others see them! Self-worth or self-esteem is a powerful thing. Way too many people think their value comes from how others see them. And so Satan being who he is attacks Jesus in another vulnerable spot. This mistake teaches us that the devil is not all powerful as some would have you believe and he does not know everything. Here he misjudges Jesus. “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple” which was the highest point of the most holy building in all of Israel. It is here he tries to tempt the Son of God by questioning who he really is: “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.” Satan knew that Jesus could not be hurt if he did so. What he was trying to do was to get Jesus, in his humanity, to question who he truly was — God. The Israelites thought that the Messiah would suddenly come down from heaven and appear. Basically he was challenging Jesus by saying “If you are the Messiah show the people by a great big display!” Satan continues, “For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” However, Jesus is quite comfortable in knowing exactly who he is and what he is supposed to do. Although tempted and tried several times during his ministry we never see him falter from knowing his self-worth. This is also important for our lives in Christ. He views us as his children and know that “all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13 NIV)” Paul reminds us that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” and that we are “clothed” in him (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV)! Our confidence, our self-worth, is in Jesus and his self-worth is in who he is! This is why “Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”” If Jesus is comfortable in who he is we can be quite secure in who we are in him! We discover that Jesus’ reputation is tested!

  EXAMPLE: Andy Grammer sang “It’s Good to be Alive” a few years back. The song focuses totally on the moment of how he “feels good to be alive right about now”. Don’t get me wrong I like the beat, the song, but not a few of the words. It expresses the fact that people live in the here and now. Whatever is occurring to them in the moment means either God loves them or not or that their lives matter or not. Our lives are so much more than momentary pleasures or hurt. If we know Jesus we know the Creator of the Universe! It is he that loved us so much he died for us and rose again! Jesus’ temptation teaches us that God keeps us secure in him. We discover that Jesus’ reputation is tested!

Jesus is exactly who he said he is. He is the Son of God. He is God. And Satan knew this because Jesus had created all things and including him from the very beginning (John 1:1-3)! In the very last temptation we see that…

III. Jesus’ authority is tested! (Vv. 8-11)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

  1. Satan is a deceiver and accuser but he also delusional because his own character is flawed and disobedient. And unlike us he can never have a personal relationship with God; he wasn’t created to. Having been created powerful he thought he could be like God but he can never be. And so he thinks he can give to Jesus what already Jesus has! “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” The kingdoms of the world are not Satan’s to “give”. While he may influence potentates and people to sin he is not the owner of the earth nor is he its ruler. A delusional person lives in their delusion unless they are cured and the devil lives in his delusion. He actually thought he could influence Jesus with personal power. While humans are often dazzled by wealth, power, or personality, God is not. “All this I will give you,” the devil whispers, “if you will bow down and worship me.” That would never happen but Satan actually thinks that because Jesus has willingly become a human being he can tempt him just like he does other humans! Paul teaches us that Satan is “The god of this age (who) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV) – meaning Jesus is God! And we learn that those who do not know Jesus are “under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19 NIV)” However, Jesus taught that “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31 NIV)” In fact Jesus taught that Satan and demons are subject to believers because “Satan (has fallen) like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18 NIV) because of who Jesus is and what he has done! Satan has no authority to give away that which he does not own and he has no authority in the life of those who follow Jesus! Jesus therefore rebukes him by bluntly telling him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” The inference here is not only should God be worshiped only but Satan should be worshiping the One he is trying to tempt! It is then that “the devil left him, and angels came and attended” Jesus! Jesus’ authority is tested!

  EXAMPLE: The sacred has been completely violated in our society today. From how we view sexuality, ungodly behavior, adultery, fornication, life itself has influenced how we view God! Recently both Virginia and New York have passed laws that allow babies to be murdered and disposed of even after birth! You have morally corrupt and spiritually ignorant people cheering these laws! Sadly, they are not the only states that permit this but they are the latest to allow this abhorrent evil. When you debase morality and humanity it is easy to think that God does not exist or that he does not care! It cheapens and debases the very nature of who God is and life itself. This is exactly what the devil was trying to do here in tempting Jesus. Jesus’ authority is tested!

Conclusion:

Jesus’ character is tested! Jesus’ reputation is tested! Jesus’ authority is tested!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.


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Jesus the baptized – Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus the baptized – Matthew 3:13-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 27, 2019

Just because you feel empathy for someone doesn’t mean you have actually done anything for them and yet there are those today who actually think that feeling something for someone is just as valid as actually doing something. Nothing could be further from the truth. James would remind us by asking, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16 NIV)” He would say that such faith is “dead” if it is not accompanied by some kind of action. James was not arguing about good deeds saving someone but rather what demonstrated faith in a person’s life. Baptism did not “save” Jesus but demonstrated his faith to the world.

Here in these verses we find the Messiah coming to the Jordan River to be baptized by John his cousin. There have been all kinds of speculation as to why God would do such a thing; everything from those who heretically claim that John is the actual Messiah to Jesus was only a man who needed reassurance. None of these are correct. Let’s therefore take a look today at Jesus the baptized…

READ: Matthew 3:13-17

After decades of silence we discover Jesus going down to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. Here we discover…

I. The obedience of Jesus the baptized! (Vv. 13-14)

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

  1. From the time Jesus is about eleven years old in Luke’s gospel where he leaves the caravan returning home from Jerusalem and is found by his parents in the temple arguing with the leadership until he goes down to the Jordan River 19 years have gone by! We know nothing of Jesus’ early years except what we are told by the gospel narratives. There exist heretical gospels written hundreds of years later that claim to depict Jesus’ early years and some from thousands of years later from medieval times as well. These are called the Gnostic Gospels. Gnosticism consists of a whole group of heresies, all with the central ideas that knowledge (gnosis) is the means to salvation, and that spirit is good and flesh is evil. In practice, it soon devolved into the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as peculiar ideas about the nature of God and Christ. One such notion is that we can become totally holy and never sin. These later tales are at best fantasy and simple myths that people made up in order to fill in the missing years of Jesus. One is called “The Lost Gospel” which is supposed to depict Jesus and Mary Magdalene being married and having two sons. However, when you take a closer look at the manuscript it does not name Jesus or Mary and is from the sixth century! Over the years there have also been false teachers who claimed to have been given visions that depict Jesus’ early years. All of them are false and ungodly. Here Matthew tells us simply, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John”; the idea being that the time was right for Jesus to do this. He was old enough for people to listen to him because most rabbis had to be at least 30 years old and John had begun his ministry of calling the Israelite nation to repentance. However, we discover that “John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’” John recognized Jesus for who he truly was; the Anointed One of God! Standing in the Jordan baptizing folks for their repentance of their sins he comes face-to-face with the One who is sinless! John wonders out loud at Jesus’ willingness to come to him to be baptized. It is here we discover the obedience of Jesus the baptized!

  EXAMPLE: John’s baptism was done after the recipient had confessed their sin however Jesus was sinless. In fact Jesus is described as our “high priest (who) meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:26 NIV)” The Apostle John wrote that we “know that (Jesus) appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5 NIV)” Jesus was therefore baptized to announce his coming, to show he was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and to identify with us! Jesus came to be with us, suffer as we do, and to be tempted in every way we are! It is here we discover the obedience of Jesus the baptized!

Being baptized does not save the recipient nor does it impart any form of grace; we see this iin Jesus’ baptism. He did it to show us who he was and it teaches us that…

II. Jesus the baptized followed through on God’s eternal plan! (V. 15)

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

  1. Remember I just shared with you that Jesus’ baptism also showed that he identified with sinners. I say this because we understand that Jesus’ baptism symbolized the sinners’ spiritual baptism into the righteousness of Christ, dying with him and rising free from sin and able to walk in the newness of life with him! Jesus’ perfect righteousness would fulfill all the requirements of the Law of Moses for sinners who could never hope to do so by themselves! Hebrews reminds us that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” and “because by one sacrifice he (Jesus) has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”! (Hebrews 10:4, 14 NIV) We can never earn our salvation! When John hesitated to baptize the sinless Son of God, “Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’” By this Jesus alluded to the righteousness that he alone provides to all who come to him to exchange their sin for his righteousness! Paul reminds us that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)” I also told you that Jesus being God and being human can “sympathize with our weaknesses” because “we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)! Jesus had entered the world as a baby born of human mother and grew to be a man that he would experience everything we do but make the conscious decision not to be tempted by the same things we are so he could be our strength! But also that he would “fulfill all righteousness”! He would be our sacrifice! Our past sacrifice, our daily sacrifice, and our ultimate future sacrifice! This is the plan of God that he would come as a man and die as our sacrifice! Matthew tells us that “Then John consented.” Jesus the baptized followed through on God’s eternal plan!

  EXAMPLE: I remember my father asking me one time after the wheel of my go-cart fell off, “Did you plan that?” We often forget that God’s plan will happen. God’s sovereign will is also called his “hidden” will. It is “sovereign” in that it shows God to be ruler of the universe who ordains all that happens. It is also “declared” because it involves God’s decree. It is “hidden” because we are usually unaware of it until what he has decreed takes place. God can but does not cause everything to happen; often the choice is ours to make and God permits it. However we can suffer or be blessed by the consequences of our choices. Like my go-cart wheel. There is nothing that happens that is outside of God’s will. We discover that Jesus the baptized followed through on God’s eternal plan!

If you forget that God is the Father, God is the Son, and God is the Holy Spirit you can fall into a faulty notion about whom Jesus is and why he did what he did. And it is here we discover just how important this is by…

III. God’s recognition of Jesus the baptized! (Vv. 16-17)

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

  1. God was involved intimately throughout Jesus’ life because he is God. When his detractors wanted to kill him they asked him to plainly tell them that he was the Messiah. If had he would be guilty of saying he was God so Jesus responds by telling them, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:27-30 NIV)” He told one of his doubting disciples, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” meaning he has seen God (John 14:9 NIV). John the Baptist was baptizing the Creator of the Universe and “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.” He came up out of the water and “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.” Interestingly we see the three personalities of the Trinity present in Jesus’ baptism because immediately afterwards “a voice from heaven saying ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” Later, This verified for John that Jesus is the Son of God. “Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God. (John 1:32-34 NIV)’” It was also in keeping with Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the coming Messiah: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD–and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:2-3 NIV)” The descent of the Holy Spirit displayed for those present that God had empowered the Son, the Messiah, for his ministry among people. And finally we learn that “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” What a wonderful depiction of God’s recognition of Jesus the baptized!

  EXAMPLE: I like it when others recognize me and are glad to see me, especially when I am outside of where they would normally see me. Sure it can be embarrassing if I haven’t shaved or I am filthy from doing some sort of hard work. Therefore isn’t great to know that God recognizes those he loves and that one day they will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”? This is what is occurring here when Jesus is baptized by John. We discover this wonderful truth in God’s recognition of Jesus the baptized!

Conclusion:

The obedience of Jesus the baptized! Jesus the baptized followed through on God’s eternal plan! God’s recognition of Jesus the baptized!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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John the baptizer – Matthew 3:1-12

John the baptizer – Matthew 3:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 20, 2019

Everyone is known for something. Notice I did not say that everyone is famous, well-known, or publicly recognizable. But each of usually is known for something. When I was in elementary school I was known for organizing all of the younger grades into a force to be reckoned with on the playground. You pick on one of us, we all attacked you. It stopped bullying in its tracks. I was surprised years later when this guy at Portland State University asked me if I was the same Lee Hemen who organized that group because he was one of the younger kids we “rescued”!

Here we discover John, and no, he was not the first Baptist, rather he is known for his baptisms. He should be known correctly as John the Baptizer. We will discover that not everyone follows the normal dictates of social decorum or dress and John was one of these folks. He was not homeless as I have heard some liberal preachers try to emphasize; he was a man with a mission. Therefore, let’s discover this morning John and what his ministry was all about…

READ: Matthew 3:1-12

The Government wants warning labels placed on everything thinking that we cannot understand the dangers we face or that we might be deceived. Often God uses those he calls for a particular purpose to warn the unsuspecting or those who deliberately ignore him. Here we discover that…

I. John came with a spiritual warning! (Vv. 1-6)

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

  1. “In those days”, meaning during the time of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, “John the Baptist came,” Matthew writes. John was Jesus’ cousin. In Luke’s gospel we learn his mother was Elizabeth and his father was Zechariah who was a priest and had served in the temple in Jerusalem. God fulfilled a promise he had made to Zechariah to give him a son by his barren wife Elizabeth. They were to name their child “John” (Yochanan) meaning God is gracious. John became Jesus’ herald announcing his coming. God had told Malachi “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. (Malachi 3:1 NIV)” John was seen as like the prophet Elijah, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6 NIV)” Matthew writes that John came “preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Literally “turn away” from sin because the promised kingdom of God was “now”! John saw the coming Messiah and was given a message by God to prepare the way for him. Matthew sees John’s ministry as that foretold “through the prophet Isaiah”. John was “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s message was different just as his attire and diet: “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” John was a different kind of guy; he was God’s messenger and not the people’s. He lived off the land and was only concerned for his message. In spite of his eating habits, dress, or message “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” John came with a spiritual warning!

  EXAMPLE: We have warning labels on just about anything nowadays. It seems as if people are simply too ignorant not to follow directions, take their medications properly, or keep children safe anymore. I suppose some warnings are good to have. Isn’t it interesting that God saw the need to have a warning as well. In fact he had in mind all along to use a specific person, John, to give his warning to the people of Israel. John came with a spiritual warning!

Calling people to turn from their ungodly lifestyles in never popular and recently a Presbyterian pastor was asked to step down after he put on his church’s outside reader board: “Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still a sin. The culture may change. The Bible does not.” The church would rather change the biblical message to fit society’s acceptance of perversion. We discover here that… 

II. John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy! (Vv. 7-10)

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

  1. Matthew tells us that John did not filter his message to sooth the ears of either the poor or the potentate. And he knew a hypocrite when he saw one. Matthew writes “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.’” Can you imagine our politicians, Hollywood elites, or the general public listening to John’s message? John calls these men snakes, a viperous gang, who had evidently come to have their ears tickled. And you have to understand that these were the religious hierarchy and leaders of the day who came to hear his words. John asks them an interesting question that demanded an answer, who had warned them to flee the coming wrath that was about to happen? We forget that the message of Jesus is one that demands a personal challenge; it demands the individual decide and it demands that the listener understand the consequences of their response! If they chose not to heed his warning, which came from God, they would not be ready for the kingdom and they would reap the consequences of their decision! Ergo the wrath of God! John instructs them to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” This fruit would be apparent both spiritually and psychologically. Paul would teach that this “fruit of the Spirit is” manifested in a person’s “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)” Only real spiritual repentance, turning from one’s sin and turning to God, produces a changed life! Religion or believing there is a God does not hack it. John knew what these men would immediately think: “We have Abraham as our father.” Not good enough! James, Jesus’ brother would write, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. (James 2:19 NIV)” John tells them bluntly, “I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” True spiritual fruit comes from God and if they could not repent, they would be cut down and condemned! John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy!

  EXAMPLE: Acting religious, kind, or even holy does not mean a person knows God personally. One can be close and miss the reality of the gospel. The confusion exists in today’s world because we have begun to think that what we feel is as important as Godly truth. The Apostle John would write that one does not become a Christian by birth; one has to be born again. Born into the world first and then by making the conscious decision to be born of God. Being good, doing good things, or even living a good life does not make one a Christian. John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy!

So many things can get in the way of a person coming to faith in Jesus. Thinking they are “good enough”, that a “good God would not cause anyone to suffer”, or that “as long as I feel good about myself I’m okay” are not spiritual reality. In fact it is so much spiritual fog. And here we discover that…

III. John came to clear the way! (Vv. 11-12)

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

  1. John’s message was radical. A lot of others had called the Hebrews to repentance over the centuries but none had told them that they had to repent and be baptized in their faith through the power of God in order to receive the one that was coming! John knew who he was and for whom he cleared the way: the Messiah! John declared, “I baptize you with water for repentance.” Having water poured over you by a teacher, rabbi, or proclaimed prophet signified one’s willingness to confess their sins. It only cleansed the individual for the moment because as soon as they sinned again, and they would, they had to be baptized again to show their repentance. This is why John related, “But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.” John could only pour water over a person to signify their repentance; what God required would take much more effort on the part of the recipient. It would take someone with a lot more spiritual pull than John had! And so he warned his listeners that he did not have the means to totally cleanse them, only God does. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Contrary to the heretical teaching that John meant speaking in tongues, what he actually is teaching here is a reference to the burning of the sacrifice in the Temple. One would receive the Holy Spirit, often seen as a flame or fire, just as Jesus promised when a person’s places their faith in him! They would go through the fire of having their sins burned away, so-to-speak, by the presence and power of Holy God! Jesus would later teach that he would send his followers the Holy Spirit who would be with them forever. (John 14:26) and Paul would write that God “set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:22 NIV)” John knew the message the Messiah would bring would change things forever. Either folks would repent and live or refuse and die: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” John came to clear the way!

  EXAMPLE: In olden times there would be heralds who would walk in front of the king to announce that he was coming and that the people should clear the way. We have seen where new products have used clever commercials in order to get people’s attention ahead of their release. Here we discover that God used a man named John to clear the way for the Messiah Jesus that was coming soon. People needed to realize that John wasn’t the one they needed to follow or watch for but rather the one who was coming after him. John came to clear the way!

Conclusion:

John came with a spiritual warning! John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy! John came to clear the way!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The flight, the slaughter, and the return – Matthew 2:13-23

The flight, the slaughter, and the return – Matthew 2:13-23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 13, 2019

There are some things in life we have to do even if we do not like doing them: paying taxes, going to school, working, or going to the doctor. When I was a child my family moved often, so much so that I began to hate going to the supermarket to get cardboard boxes. One year we moved four times when I was in 3rd grade in the same area! Most military kids understand what I mean.

Here in these verses we discover Jesus’ family being directed by God to move for their protection. Sadly innocent folks suffered because of the ungodly choices of a madman. And yet the Lord brings this family back safely when it’s time to where Jesus can grown and be nurtured emotionally, physically, and spiritually among his own people. Let’s learn more about how God worked in the flight of a family, the slaughter of innocents, and the return of Jesus…


READ: Matthew 2:13-23

There are those in our day who have become so dependent upon the Government that they think it is the Government’s job to ensure their happiness and protect their entire life! So many have fallen into the trap of waiting for others to take care of them that they no longer depend on God for direction! Here we find God caring for Jesus’ family in…

I. The flight of Jesus! (Vv. 13-15)

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

  1. After the Wisemen had left things began to return to normal again or as normal as a family rearing the future Messiah could be! We learn that “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.” It makes one wonder if Joseph ever enjoyed a safe night’s sleep without a vision from God! God was watching over this special family for the sake of Jesus. “Get up,” the Lord tells Joseph, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Now there are those who see this as proof that the Trinity of God can’t exist because God was speaking to Joseph while God was in human flesh as Jesus. However, they forget that God is God and can do whatever he wants when he wants to. Case in point Jesus being the Son of God also prayed to God the Father. He did so to teach his band of disciples not only was prayer important but it also showed how he as God willingly laid his divine nature aside to be a human being. So don’t you think God can do two things at the same time or even more? How in the world do you think he listens to your prayers and those of the entire world; some of which are not worth listening to? And Joseph having experienced this before and being the righteous guy he is, “got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.” Interestingly, I believe that Matthew may have heard these personal stories and details from either Mary or Jesus himself as they traveled together before Jesus’ crucifixion. And as Matthew often does in his gospel, he uses this incident to use the prophecy of Hosea 11:1 which does not seem to be a prophecy in the sense of a prediction. Hosea was writing of God’s calling Israel out of Egypt into the Exodus. Matthew, however, gave new understanding to these words. Matthew viewed this experience as Messiah being identified with the nation Israel as a whole. And saw it as an identifier pointing to Jesus being the Messiah. God was working in the flight of Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: We often do not see God working because we do not spend time with his in order to know when he is or isn’t. It is like a parent who does not read, play with, or listen to their preschool or elementary children as they grow thinking that when they are older then they can then have a relationship. You cannot have a relationship with someone you have not invested your time with. Joseph was a righteous man and listened to God because he had invested spending time with the Lord and knew who was speaking to him in his dreams. God was working in the flight of Jesus!

We often see in movies or TV shows how folks lose their faith when bad things happen to them. However as a pastor I have seen that those who truly walk with the Lord understand that we live in a sin-fallen world and bad things happen to good and even innocent people. We discover this here in…

II. The slaughter of innocents! (Vv. 16-18)

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

  1. The Bible does not sugarcoat people’s bad behavior or their ungodliness. We find that “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” Foxes do not like to be outfoxed and evil people do not like it when their ungodly plans are thwarted in any way. They often strike out at those around them that are least able to defend themselves. Abusive spouses use violence or verbal attacks against children, husbands or wives. That’s how a truly weak individual responds! Herod was no different but just like all tyrants he was corrupt to the core of his being. Again, there are those who claim that this is why they could never believe in God because “a good God would never allow this to happen to innocent children”! It has nothing to do with God and everything to do with an evil and corrupt person who made ungodly choices his entire life. Sin always affects those around it! Herod wanted power and he was willing to do whatever it took to keep it; kind of like some politicians today! Yet again Matthew points his readers to how God was at work in the details. Even the ungodly acts of a mad king pointed to the Messiah being Jesus! “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’” Herod had no right to be furious, if God was bringing the Messiah into the world during his reign he should have rejoiced and been glad. But Herod was not Israel’s true king and merely a stand in propped up by the military regime of Rome. While Herod was one of the richest people in the world at the time, he knew how he remained in power and it wasn’t because the Israelites loved him. We find the hand of God even in the slaughter of innocents!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus teaches his followers that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 NIV)” Paul would later teach that “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 NIV)” People want to blame God for the ungodly actions of others when the innocent or those they care about suffer; yet in doing so they miss the hand of God even in such circumstances. Even here we find the hand of God in the slaughter of innocents!

Our way of thinking is a bit different than the way the Hebrews of Jesus’ day thought. History did not have to be related in chronological order and God working in the history of his people was often related in word and in theological and philosophical games. This is how the Rabbis, Chief Priests, and Teachers of the Law spent hours of each day – arguing over nuances! And here we discover it in…

III. The return of the Nazarene! (Vv. 19-23)

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

  1. We learn from Matthew that “After Herod died” and by the way he died a truly awful painful death, “an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt”. You ask, “Again?” Yep, it seems as if this was the only way God could get Joseph’s attention. My wife can relate. Not that she uses dreams while I sleep to get my attention but rather it often takes me focusing totally on what she has to say to me in order for it to finally get through to me! Anyway God tells Joseph, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” Herod died in Jericho, after an excruciatingly painful and horrendous illness later known as “Herod’s Evil”. What a way to get a disease named after you! The historian Josephus states that the pain of his illness led Herod to attempt suicide by stabbing himself which was thwarted by his cousin. Makes one wonder why bad things happen to bad people, right? Nope. Anyway, Joseph “got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.” He has learned to obediently follow the Lord’s instructions. Joseph was also a good protector and “when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.” Archelaus was named as ruler of the largest part of the Judean kingdom after Herod died. Rome confirmed him but did not recognize him as king, giving him instead the lesser title of ethnarch to emphasize his dependence on Rome. Archelaus was half Idumaean and half Samaritan and, like his father, was hated by the Israelites. Later he was deposed and exiled to Gaul because Rome could not put up with him either! Joseph was again “warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” Not a Nazarene who didn’t cut his hair or beard but it is a play on word usage by Matthew. Isaiah said the Messiah would be “from [Jesse’s] roots” like “a Branch” (Isaiah 11:1). “Branch” used here is the Hebrew word neṣer, which has consonants, since there are no vowels in Hebrew, like those in the word “Nazarene” which carry the idea of an insignificant beginning. Jesus would be just as a plain child growing up in Nazareth. We find God’s protection in the return of the Nazarene!

  EXAMPLE: I like reading fiction that is known as alternative history. I read a series where aliens attack during WWII and everyone on earth involved in the War must come together in order to defeat them. I’ve read others where the question “what if” is asked and how would have history progressed afterwards. There is a whole series on Amazon Prime called The Man in the High Castle. It is based on a novel that is an alternate history by Philip K. Dick. It’s set in 1962, 15 years after an alternative ending to World War II. The novel concerns intrigues between the victorious Axis Powers—primarily, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany—as they rule over the former United States, as well as daily life under the resulting totalitarian rule. We could speculate and ask, “What if God had not protected Jesus’ family the way he did?” Better yet “what if” Jesus never died on the cross or was resurrected? I for one am glad it never happened. Here we find God’s protection in the return of the Nazarene!

Conclusion:

Today we have seen how God worked to keep the Messiah safe in his flight, in the death of innocents, and in the return of the Nazarene! How is God working in your life right now?

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The visitors of Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12

The visitors of Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 6, 2019

A lot of folks were on the road, in the air, or taking trains and buses to go and be with family or friends during the holidays. Wherever they went they became visitors. Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Poor Richard’s Almanac that “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Franklin was usually only enamored with his self and found the company of others, unless they were female, dreary.

However, here we discover several wise visitors, a mad king, and a small child. It is interesting how all of these folks came together several thousand years ago and how we are talking about them in our day and age. These visitors of Jesus made an impact on his family; Mary probably pondered their visitation like she did over the other events that occurred around the birth of her baby boy Jesus. Let’s take a look at what the visitors of Jesus meant and how they affect our lives today…

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

Some visitors are more welcome than others. We like it when folks bring gifts when they visit but we hate the late night visitation of raccoons going through our trash or mice running across our kitchen! Here we discover that…

I. These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! (Vv. 1-2)

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

  1. Not everyone agrees with the timing of the visit of the Wisemen from the east in visiting Jesus. However “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem”. There are a lot of misconceptions and legends about these “Magi”. They were not kings, but simply wise men which suggest they were astronomers. There were not only three, but more than likely a great company and some suggest there were several dozen men! They seem to have not come on the birth night but many days (or even months) later. Some have named them but in fact it was only in the sixth century that their names (Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar) started to be specified as some now accept them. Before that they had other and varied names. Why did the later names Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar stick? Because in the sixth century the Emperor Justinian created the famous mosaics in various churches and in the church of Saint Apollinaire the mosaics of the wise men have their names beneath them in the form we now accept. These men came with a specific task in mind and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Perhaps the signs, writings, and legends of the time had led these men to this town in Israel. All of the things they studied pointed to a king being born: “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” They followed a star. Some suggest that since it moved that perhaps God used angelic beings or even his own Shekinah glory to direct these men to Jesus. When we look at God closely he always leads us to himself! These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them!

  EXAMPLE: When I first became a Christian I was told by my mentor to “read the Bible”. When I first became a seminary student I was told by my professors over and over to “read the Bible”. We often learn in Sunday school and Worship to “read the Bible”. There is a reason for this; while Christian books, commentaries, and study helps are good for some insight the best and most important thing a believer can do is to read the Bible! It is there when we follow the words and instructions of God we discover who he truly is! These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! Are you willing to follow the Lord wherever he leads you?

Some visitors can be disturbing. When we are sitting down to eat, watching a favorite TV show, or just enjoying a good nap, a knock on the door can be disruptive. Here in the following verses of Matthew we discover that…

II. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! (Vv. 3-8)

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘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 be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

  1. Like I said before, not all visitors are welcome by those they are visiting. We learn that “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod was not a Jew at all, but an Edomite and Rome recognized him as a vassal king over Judea. The Jews tempered their great hatred of him with admiration for his building projects, such as the magnificent improvements made to the second temple. He also built Masada and the Roman port of Caesarea. Motivated by his great paranoia and cruelty, he murdered the members of the Sanhedrin, his wife, his mother in-law, and his three sons. Herod was “disturbed and all Jerusalem” besides! Herod was known for his rages and so when these esteem men show up looking for a king, they are concerned as to what Herod would do. Herod therefore gets his own wise guys (chief priests and teachers of the law) together and “he asked them where the (Messiah) Christ was to be born”. Having studied the Scriptures themselves and having debated this topic often they knew full well what the answer was: “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘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 be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” The prophecy was the answer of God to King David long ago. Herod was as crafty as he was insane and we read: “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’”  Not wanting any of his detractors to learn of the real reason the Magi had come and not wanting to give anyone a platform to usurp his power Herod had a secret meeting with them. I believe Herod had already determined to murder any child who would be seen as Israel’s true and rightful king. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others!

  EXAMPLE: There are folks and groups today that do not like it when others begin to consider who Jesus is. Groups like Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Islam all fear the truth of who Jesus is and what he came to do. Socialism and communistic regimes try to suppress the truth of Jesus as well. Atheists try to dispel Jesus as just a myth or fantasy. It shakes these groups to the core because if Jesus is truly who he said he was and what history testifies to then they are false and lost. Herod misunderstood who Jesus was and he was disturbed by the coming Wisemen. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! Is your faith disturbing to others?

Sometimes we have visitors that are unexpected but their coming and going do not affect us that much at the time while the news they carry or the particular job they do could. The mailman, package delivery person, or the water meter readers are some of these kinds of visitors. Lastly we learn that…

III. These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought! (Vv. 9-12)

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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 and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

  1. These Wisemen were far smarter than king Herod could ever have imagined. The king they sought did not have an earthly kingdom or a throne built by human hands. After being wined and dined by Israel’s ruler and “After they had heard the king, they went on their way”. However their journey is not finished “and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” This is good evidence that the star was far more than just an astronomical phenomenon. It moved and “stopped over the place where the child was”. Some think the star could have been a comet, a planetary convergence, or super nova but whatever the “star’ was it is certain it was a means by God to lead these visitors on their journey! Better than Google Earth or Maps! “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” because it lead them right to the final place they needed to go and to the person they sought! We also learn that the individual they journeyed to find was someone special because “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” You do not humble yourself to worship just any ordinary kid, believe me, even though some parents do! This child was truly special. This child was important. This child was the Messiah, God in human flesh! Add to this the fact that after worshipping him “they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Over field and fountain, moor and mountain, they had carried their offerings. Treasures to place at the feet of the one they worshiped, the one they had sought for so long! Some think God gave these men the gifts ideas to being Jesus: gold to signify his kingship, incense to recognize him as the high priest, and myrrh to show his death for mankind’s sin. We find that God watches over those he sends because “having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever done something extremely nice for someone only to have them not say “thank you”? Perhaps you gave a gift to someone but got little in return? I have learned that it is our choice on whether or not we give a gift or do something nice for another and we should never expect anything in response. Little did these Wisemen know but their travel, their interaction with Herod, and their worship of a young boy would be remembered for thousands of years! Why? The reason is not just found in what they did but rather it is found in the focus of who they sought – the Messiah Jesus! These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought! What treasure do you seek in life?

Conclusion:

These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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