Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1-2)
In this daily reflection from The High Calling, Mark Roberts writes about how, in contrast to Herod in Matthew 2, we can submit our daily life and work to the lordship of the King of Kings.
The opening chapters of Matthew’s Gospel narrate in rapid-fire succession stories demonstrating that Jesus is the Lord whose coming inaugurates the kingdom of heaven on earth. They explain who Jesus is in terms of Scripture fulfilled (the Messiah) and show that his entrance into the world is the epicenter of all of God’s dealings with humanity. The Gospel of Matthew begins with a description of Jesus’ ancestry and birth: the baby in a Bethlehem manger is in the line of Israel’s great king, David, and is a true Hebrew, going back to Abraham (Matt. 1:1-2:23). With each story, Matthew’s references to the Old Testament Scriptures show how Jesus’ coming reflects a particular ancient text. We listen to Jesus because he is God's anointed, the promised Messiah, God entering the world in human flesh (John 1:14).
The story of the magi (or as the NRSV, translates it, “wise men”) is especially relevant to work. According to Daniel 1:20, 2:27, and 5:15 and Acts 8:9, and 13:6-8, magi were astrologers who observed the stars in order to interpret dreams and practice other magic. Both Daniel and Luke (in the book of Acts) take a dim view of their profession, seeing them as charlatans or false prophets. Nonetheless, going about their work of observing the stars, they glimpse the reality of God’s power in the world. Their work, flawed as it is, guides them to recognize Jesus as the son of God. Their response is to worship as best they are able. Note their generosity, a virtue God prizes highly throughout the Bible. Contrast them to Herod, who although being from the community of faith, reacts to the wise men’s discovery with hostility. It’s hard to imagine a more un-generous response than his. This contrast points out how God’s grace extends to all people and the entire cosmos, not only to believers. Conversely, the people of God continue to fall into sin, while non-believers morality may be exemplary.
Could it be that God is still drawing non-believers to himself through their work, including workers in science, nature, or the material world? As Paul puts it, “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” (Romans 1:20). This has applications when we talk about Christ in the workplace. Although we may think we are talking about Christ to people who don’t know him, it may actually be that God is already making himself known to them through their work, as he did with the magi. We might be more effective if we recognize that what we are actually doing is helping co-workers name and appreciate the presence of God that their work is already revealing to them. And we ourselves might do well to recognize God’s presence in our work. Christians often treat secular work with suspicion, as if the knowledge and skill employed there somehow undermines faith. Instead, what if we could recognize how all kinds of work reveal God’s handiwork and presence. Could recognizing God’s presence in ordinary work actually strengthen our faith?
For ideas on how churches can incorporate science in worship, see “Science and Faith in Harmony: Positive ways to include science in worship” from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.
For example, Matthew 1:18-25 refers to Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 2:1-6 to Micah 5:1-3, 2 Samuel 5:3, and 1 Chronicles 11:2; and Matthew 2:13-15 to Hosea 11:1.