2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘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 shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 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, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The wise men discussed in the Bible were scholars from distant countries who learned of the Messiah's coming through a star they saw in the sky. For the scholars to recognize that out of the millions of suns, which we call stars, that this particular one was unusual and that it revealed the birth of the Savior of the world, they must have been expert astronomers. Their expertise must have also included history and religion to know that the movement of celestial bodies in a certain way was tied to the messianic prophecies of the Hebrew people, shared four thousand years prior to their existence. The information that drove them to Bethlehem had to have been passed down to them from other scholars or it must have been a part of a curriculum in some of their institutions of learning.
The revelation given to the wise men was not given through divine announcement or a personal spiritual walk but through a study of history, religion, and astronomy. This reality suggests that God is not revealed in just one religion or culture. The God we serve reveals who He is and what He plans to do through a variety of means. The Jewish professors, priests, and political leaders of the day were not ready for the coming of the Messiah but a foreign delegation was, revealing that God's messages are not exclusive to any one religion or culture but to anyone searching for Him.
I've Got 3 Questions
1. Where do you think the wise men got their information?
2. In what ways do you think God reveals who He is and what He plans to do?
3. In what ways could we search for God's purpose differently than we are trained to do so now?
Mark 1: 1-8
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah,[a] the Son of God,[b] 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”[c]—
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”[d]
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with[e] water, but he will baptize you with[f] the Holy Spirit.”
The Old Testament of the Bible has seventeen prophetic books written by men who received revelations from God to communicate to the Jews. These books along with certain revelations in the Biblical books of Moses and history provided prophecies about the time, location, and circumstances around the Messiah's life and birth. They were so woven into Jewish culture that everyone expected the coming of the Messiah. Through triumph and tragedy, Jews believed that a king of kings was coming to rule over the world and elevate them to global prominence.
I've Got 3 Questions
1. If Jewish culture and religion were centered around these biblical prophecies, why weren't the Jews ready for Christ to come?
2. Why was John the Baptist needed?
3. What is the difference between being baptized with water and being baptized with the Holy Spirit?
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Simeon and Anna had been prepared for these moments through their personal relationships with God. What was coming was revealed through their personal moments of study and their deep spiritual reflections. When the Messiah entered their presence, they just knew. Each of them responded quickly with praise and thanks. Simeon had a historical reflection, prophecy, and warning ready to issue as if he had been commissioned to give it his entire life.
I've Got 3 Questions
1. Are there those who have a strong connection with your God without knowing anything about your religion?
2. Why would God reveal His promise or plan to them without requiring them to be a part of your religion?
3. How do we find those connected to our God but not connected to our religion?
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John opens his gospel with a philosophical approach to introducing the Messiah. He refers to him as the Word and as the Light. These are abstract ideas that take a lot to unpack. A religious approach would be more specific seeking to name the exact God and the exact mission of that God. However, John talks about the actions of the Word throughout eternity without naming Him. We know that John is talking about Jesus but it seems that Jesus' name is not important in this passage but the idea of Him is.
I've Got 3 Questions
1. Why do you think a philosophical or abstract approach to introducing the Messiah was used?
2. Why do you think the titles, "the Word" and "the Light" were used?
3. For those who witness how Christians engage the world today, what abstract ideas do you think they would assign to us?
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”For My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
The shepherds working in the field were members of the labor class. Those who performed a basic task in the economy of Israel to ensure people had food, clothing, and sacrifices. They were a version of the modern blue collar worker. God chose to inform them of the arrival of the Messiah through what was a shocking encounter, a host of angelic beings appearing in the night sky.
Their work was focused, calling for them to pay strict attention to all of the sheep under their supervision who were prey to other animals that could strike quickly. Their work was monotonous, keeping them in the same routine daily without learning new skills or engaging in new experiences. Their work was homogenous, keeping them with the same group of people throughout their lives. God's way of announcing the Messiah was divine "shock and awe". The shepherds were jolted out of their routine and made aware of an event that had been foretold by all their nation's prophets and rehearsed by all their nation's priests.
I've Got 3 Questions
1. Where is Shock-and-Awe needed today?
2. What routines keep us locked in and unaware of the Messiah's presence?
3. How could we, as Christians, cause momentary breaks in the routine's of others to reveal Christ?
We live in a world of diverse belief systems. Each of these systems is supported by rich cultural traditions and educational institutions that have invested time proving the validity of the system. Each seems focused on defining the universe in which we live and understanding mankind's role in that universe. The belief system at the center of our study is Christianity, which is the result of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Bible tells us that Jesus' existence was foretold millennia before He walked the earth touching, changing, and saving lives. This week, we are going to discuss how He was revealed to the world through different means and to different people. We will also discuss how He reveals Himself today to people who have different backgrounds and how we can play a role in that revelation.
The Search for the Messiah