The Response to Jesus – Worship ~ 20091220 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/20/09 - the appropriate response to Jesus - worship
We've been looking for the past few weeks at Jesus; at who Jesus is. Jesus claimed to be the eternal all glorious pre-existent self existent one, sent from the Father, equal to and one with his Father and worthy of the same honor as the Father, in and of himself truly and fully God. But Jesus humbled himself and became a man, truly and fully man. In addition to being God, he took on the nature of genuine humanity, so that he was indistinguishable from any other Jewish man his age. He ate and drank and got tired and slept, he learned and laughed and wept and bled and died. God himself, the eternal self-existent uncreated creator of all things, the second person of the Trinity, entered history and became flesh – he was born into this world as a man in order to be our substitute and rescue us from sin and death and hell. He came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for rebellious sinners like you and me. In this he showed us what God is like, not by the way he looked, but by his actions and attitudes, by his joys and sorrows. He is the image of the invisible God. He makes God known to us.
Last time, we touched on the response of people to Jesus. We looked at John 1, where John introduces us to Jesus as the Word who was with God and who was God, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory. And he says:
The creatures didn't know their creator. More than that, God had chosen a people – a people he wanted to bless and to reveal himself to and to rescue and to pour out his favor on. Those chosen people did not receive him when he came to visit them. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
But that is not the end of the story. There were some who did receive him. It describes those as the ones:
God birthed people who would receive him, people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. These are a people not based on ethnic descent or moral effort or human will, but on God's supernatural creation of life.
That's what I want to look at today. We've seen who Jesus claimed to be and he met with different responses. Some were hostile and wanted him dead. Some were apathetic and took no notice. Some had no room in their inns for the one to be born king of the Jews. Some allowed him to stay, but out back in the stable where he wouldn't be seen, where he wouldn't be an embarrassment to friends and family. But others received him. I want to look today at some of those who received him, those who believed in his name.
Let's start in Matthew 2, probably a year or two after the birth of Christ, after the family had moved into a house in Bethlehem.
If we pay attention, we can learn several things about these men who welcomed Jesus. They had some expectation of the Jewish Messiah. They must have had access to some of the Jewish scriptures that foretold the coming of the promised One. They took those scriptures seriously and watched expectantly for the fulfillment. This expectation and hope had been preserved and passed down from generation to generation. When they saw the indication they had been waiting for, they traveled hundreds of miles on a lengthy journey to pay homage to this king. But why would foreigners pay homage to a Jewish king? They were certainly out of his jurisdiction. They must have had some indication that this One to be born king of the Jews would be more than just a local king. The significance of this birth was not limited to one region or even one generation. It is interesting that this apparently was not a journey of ambassadors seeking peace with another nation. They went to the one currently in command – Herod, who was not Jewish, who had been appointed by the Romans to rule over Judea, and asked him about the one who had been born king of the Jews. That would not be a good political move. They didn't come to bow down and present gifts and pay homage to Herod or to the Roman Emperor; they came to find one who was greater than Herod and greater than the Roman Empire. They had come to seek the King of kings. They had come to worship him. Let's skip down and look at their act of worship.
Notice first that their pursuit of this Child was emotionally charged. They were not on a scholarly pursuit of information searching for answers to riddles. They were not grudging and complaining about the long journey. They did not come out of duty or obligation. They took personal pleasure in this privilege. They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
And imagine the scene: Mary in her humble home, cooking dinner or doing the dishes, the young Jesus underfoot, crawling, maybe using Mary's apron to pull himself up to stand on wobbly legs. She may have had to dry her hands quickly and scoop Jesus up to see who was at the door.
And when these foreign dignitaries saw the child, they got on their faces before this toddler and worshiped him. Grown men bowing before a child. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts. They may not have fully understood the deep significance of the gifts they brought. Gold was a gift for royalty – this child was the King – he was God incarnate. Frankincense was a priestly gift. Frankincense was offered by the priests in the temple. Jesus is our great high priest. And Myrrh pointed to suffering and death. Myrrh was used to prepare a body for burial. Jesus was to be the suffering servant who would bear in his body the sins of the world.
These wise men from the East studied and discerned and hoped and expected and planned and went out of their way at great personal expense and humbled themselves before this Jesus. They received him. They worshiped him. They were not the only ones to worship Jesus.
When Jesus walked on water during the night in the storm,
When a Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter came to Jesus for healing,
The demon possessed man from the region of the Gerasenses,
When Jesus revealed his identity to the man he healed who had been born blind,
When Jesus appeared to the women who came to the empty tomb after his resurrection,
Then he appeared to his disciples,
Then he appeared again and invited Thomas to stop doubting and believe,
As he ascended into heaven,
The word that we have been looking at, translated 'worshiped' or 'knelt down' or 'fell before' is a word that means to acknowledge the deity of someone by falling prostrate before them and kissing their feet the hem of their garment, or the ground. Early Christians refused to bow to the Roman Emperor not because they were unwilling to show proper respect for authority, but because bowing in this way indicated an acknowledgement that the person was in fact divine. Satan attempted to usurp the honor due only to God when he requested that Jesus bow to him,
We are to worship no-one but God. When Cornelius fell down to worship Peter, Peter refused to allow that kind of reverence,
Twice in Revelation, John was overwhelmed by the presence of an angelic being and fell at his feet to worship. And twice the angel exclaimed 'You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you – Worship God.' (Rev.19:10; 22:8-9). Yet Jesus repeatedly and unhesitatingly accepts worship from many individuals. In fact, God says of Jesus,
Jesus is to be worshiped not only by men, but by all God's angels. Then in Revelation, we see the scene in heaven,
The Lamb, Jesus, is worshiped equal to the Father. This is exactly what Jesus demanded when he said,
Jesus here tells us how we must respond to him. He is not looking for respect, admiration, honor as a great teacher or healer or guru. He is not asking for us to be impressed by his wisdom and compassion and grace. He is not inviting us to strive to imitate him. He is demanding that we honor him, that we worship him, that we bow to him in the exact same way as we worship the Father. And he ties this demand to eternal life. A few verses later, he makes this even more explicit,
The Jewish leaders claimed to worship God and to love their bibles, but Jesus said that by refusing to worship Jesus they rejected eternal life. As we celebrate the birth of Christ we must ask ourselves how we receive him. He told the religious leaders,
Jesus asked his disciples the most pivotal question “Who do you say that I am?” And when Peter answered correctly, Jesus said that he was blessed by God, because he didn't come up with that on his own. John wrote his gospel with this purpose,
How do we receive him? Do we have room for him in our busy lives? Do we put him out back as if we were embarrassed of him? Are we hostile or apathetic? Or do we fall at his feet and worship Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, the I Am, equal to and one with the Father, God in the flesh come to rescue his rebellious creation? Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!