Gospel interferes with people’s sinning
One of the most appealing elements of the Christmas season and celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, is that the circumstances of His birth were beautifully plain and simple. A star, a manger, a Virgin, and some shepherds watching over their flocks at night. These simple icons tell the whole Christmas story …. Or do they?
We read some verses in St. Matthew that introduces the surprising element of trouble to the joyful Christmas narrative. Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matt. 2:1-4)
The first surprise is the amazing impact Jesus made in the world before he could utter a single thing but the cry of a baby. Wise men from eastern nations several hundred miles away were made aware of birth of the king of the Jews by divine revelation. Guided by the light of an unknown heavenly object they made their way over harsh desert terrain to a humble manger where a baby lay wrapped in swaddling clothes. They made the journey explicitly to welcome and worship the newborn king and present him with precious and priceless gifts.
More surprising was the fact was King Herod and the whole city of Jerusalem, (which lay only six miles south of Bethlehem) was troubled. Trouble means serious distress. It is difficult to imagine a king distressed by a baby lying in a manger unless he fears the security of his own position. Even so, why was the rest of the city also troubled?
The great Christian evangelist Charles Spurgeon once said, “The real reason that many are troubled by the religion of Jesus Christ is because the gospel interferes with their sin. If I become a Christian,” they reason, “I cannot live as I have been accustomed to live, so I will not believe the gospel. The great argument against the Bible is an ungodly life.”
The saddest part of the story is that not a single person in the troubled city of Jerusalem, so very close to Bethlehem, bothered to investigate the birth of their own newborn king. Not Herod with his hypocrisy, nor Jerusalem, the center of learned scribes and chief priests with intimate knowledge of ancient prophecies concerning the coming of the Jewish Messiah king.
This is an unfortunate confirmation of the adage, “familiarity breeds contempt.” May the mercy of God help us to avoid the same sad error. The words of Jesus spoke in the Matt. 8;11-12 is a reminder. “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom (that is, people who have heard the gospel ever since they were children) shall be, cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Pastor Gene Holman of Living Word Fellowship in Gardnerville is a member of Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.