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Matthew 2:1-23

Revealer of Hearts

  • Matthew Dodd
  • Weekend Messages
  • April 8, 2018

The heart is extremely powerful. With the heart, one loves, and one hates. With the heart, one is courageous, and one cowers in fear! Jesus reveals the condition of each heart because His presence requires that each heart answer a question, “Who do you say Jesus is?”

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Revealer of Hearts

Matthew 2:1-23 


1. The heart is extremely powerful. With the heart, one loves, and one hates. With the heart, one is courageous, and one cowers in fear!

ILLUS – The devil visits a small, country church

2. But when it comes to the heart, there’s a problem and the Lord revealed the nature of the problem in His Word.

Jeremiah 17:9-10, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.

3. We may not know what’s in our own hearts, what drives us, but the Lord knows each heart intimately well.

4. In fact, not only does God know our hearts, He actually reveals what’s in our hearts. How? Through His Son, Jesus Christ!

Luke 2:34-35, And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

5. Jesus reveals the condition of each heart because His presence requires that each heart answer a question, “Who do you say Jesus is?”

6. Even as a child, Jesus was the “Revealer of Hearts.”

7. In Matthew 2:1-23, three groups of people are represented, each with their own response to Jesus.

8. From them, we learn the proper response to Jesus.

Read Matthew 2:1-23


1. According to Luke 2:1-7, Caesar Augustus sent out a decree for a census to be taken of the Roman Empire.

2. At the time, Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth but were required to travel approximately 80 miles south to a little town called Bethlehem, the city of David, because they were “of the house and family of David.” (4)

3. While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus and placed Him in His first crib, a feeding trough for animals. (7)

4. Some time had passed, at least six to nine months, when we come to the events in    Matthew 2.

a. Jesus is no longer referred to as an infant but a child.

b. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are living in a house. (11)

5. NOTE: Matthew is providing proof that Jesus is Messiah! His genealogy and how He was conceived is proof. Where He was born and later lived is further proof. Only Messiah could fulfill such prophecies!

Transition The first group that we will look is the Magi. What did Jesus’ presence reveal about their hearts? 

I. The Wise Heart Seeks Jesus (1-15)

A. The wise pay homage to Jesus (1-2)

1. Who were the magi?

a. The word “magi” means “possessor of special (secret) wisdom.”

b. Magi were astrologers but not like what we think of today. They were educated men who were employed by a king to help him make decisions for his kingdom. They would look at the placement of the stars to find connections with world events.

c. Likely, they came from Babylon or Persia, which means they would have been exposed to the Jewish Scriptures when Judah was exiled in Babylon in 586 B.C.

2. While looking at the stars, they witnessed a sight they had never seen before!

a. A star in the east. They called it “His star”! They linked this star to Messiah, the King of the Jews. Why?

b.  Perhaps it was one of the many Messianic prophecies they had studied, including one from Balaam.

Numbers 24:17, I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel…

3. The magi’s response was the correct one. “We… have come to worship him.” (2)

a. It wasn’t enough for the magi to simply discern that the King of the Jews had been born. Once they knew the truth, they had to meet Him. So, they travelled over 900 miles with a large caravan.

b.But they wanted to do more, they wanted to pay Him homage. This means that they wanted to recognize who He was and the great value of His person, even though He was only a child and had not done anything of significance; to swear their allegiance to Him.

ILLUS -Neil Armstrong’s visit to the Huldah Gate (Images)

c. The Lord was working through these Gentile magi to declare to Israel and the world, that the Son of Man, the Messiah, had been born in Israel!

B. The wise give their best to Jesus (3-11)

1. Herod and all of Jerusalem was troubled by the magi and their entourage. (3)

2. Herod was an Edomite and ignorant of the Scriptures, so he called the chief priests and scribes to determine where the Christ would be born. (4)

3. The religious leaders quoted the prophesy of Micah, which was given around 700 B.C. (5-6)

Micah 5:2, But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. 

4. After receiving instructions from Herod to report back to him once they found the Child, they went to Bethlehem, and the star appeared again and led them to where Jesus was living. (7-9)

a. Attempts to determine which star this was, or if it was a comet are futile.

b. Stars do not behave in the manner described here, disappearing then appearing, traveling from north to south, and finally stopping over a location.

c. I believe this is a supernatural event similar to the glory of God leading Israel through the wilderness with a cloud by day and a fire by night.

Exodus 13:21, And the LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

5. Their actions and gifts were a fitting response for those in Messiah’s presence! (10-11)

a. Gold: a gift worthy of a King.

b. Frankincense: a gift fit for a Priest because it is an expensive element of the priest’s incense and anointing oil. It is obtained by slashing the Boswellia tree and allowing the resin to bleed out into tears. The tree has the unusual ability to grow on solid stone.

c. Myrrh: gathered from the cuts of a Myrrh tree, used in embalming, mixed with wine it was offered to Jesus on the cross. It was also used in anointing His body after death. This gift recognized His death, the very reason for His coming.

APPL – Their gifts fulfilled a prophecy from Isaiah over 700 years earlier…

Isaiah 60:6, A multitude of camels will come to you, they will bring gold and frankincense, and will bear good news of the praises of the LORD

APPL – But in coming so far and then falling down to worship Jesus, they gave Him the greatest honor of all. They were giving their best to Him, their very hearts!

When coming to God many people do not understand what it means to truly recognize who He is and His authority over their lives. They want God on their terms, but God doesn’t do terms!

Their actions declare, “This is the way I want God to be! I want Him to make my life easier, blessed with prosperity, free from sickness and disease, filled with honor or recognition!”

When they should say, “Lord, I recognize that Your ways are higher than my ways. I humbly bow myself before You. Teach me to walk as Your Word instructs me to walk.”

C. The wise obey God’s commands (12-15)

1. After the magi worshiped Jesus, God warned them in a dream to not see Herod but to go home a different route. They obeyed God. (12)

2. Like the magi, God warned Joseph in a dream to go to Egypt because Herod was going to try to kill Jesus. (13-15)

3. This fulfilled a prophecy found in Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I calledMy Son”.

a. This prophecy identified Jesus with Israel, the people He came to save.

b. Israel’s departure from Egypt marked the start of the Old Covenant through Moses.

c. Jesus’ departure from Egypt ultimately led to the inauguration of the New Covenant, which brought salvation to Israel and all who trust Him.

4. Joseph obeyed God and settled the family in Nazareth, which fulfilled the words of the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (19-23)

APPL – When reading the Bible, it is important to observe what it says and what it does not say! Notice there is no mention of resistance, hesitation, or grumbling; just obedience. Obedience is worship and the wise obey God’s commands! Actions reveal what’s in a person’s heart!

John 14:15, If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 

Transition – Now let’s look at the remaining two groups, Herod and the Jewish religious leaders. What did Jesus’ presence reveal about their hearts?

II. The Foolish Heart Rebels Against Jesus (13-23)

A. The root of rebellion is pride

1. To put it nicely, Herod was a piece of work!

a. His father was a personal friend of Julius Caesar and he acquired the throne with Mark Antony’s help in the Roman Senate.

b. He reigned from 37 B.C. to 4 B.C., which helps us determine when Jesus was born.

c. Fear and insecurity drove him. But the root of fear is pride. Ultimately, pride drove him to be first in everything and to control all that he could, especially his place as king!

d. For instance, he had his own mother and mother-in-law killed, along with his eldest son and two other sons. In fact, Caesar Augustus said of him, “It’s safer to be Herod’s pig than his son.”

2. The Jews despised Herod because he was not a Jew but an Edomite, a descendant of Esau! Even though Rome gave him the title of king, the Jews wouldn’t let him into the Jewish portion of the temple that he had built because he was not a Jew!

ILLUS – Herod’s order before he died…

3. When Herod met the magi, he was troubled because he knew a rightful heir to the throne of David would threaten his reign! (3)

4. Herod lied to the magi and asked that they tell him where Messiah was so that he may worship Him.

5. But God is not mocked. He knows each man’s heart and thwarted Herod’s plan which led to the fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15.

James 4:6, God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

APPL We must see Satan’s influence in Herod’s actions.

John 8:44, You are of your father the devil… He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

APPLThough Jesus was just a child, His very presence revealed what was in Herod’s heart, pride. Herod’s pride drove him to rebel against the very One who could save his soul and give meaning to his life. It was true then, and it is true now.

B. Indifference to Jesus is rebellion (4-6)

1. Finally, there is the chief priests and scribes.

2. They knew the Bible and immediately quoted Micah 5:2 regarding Messiah’s birthplace.

3. Bethlehem was only five miles south of Jerusalem. Why didn’t they make the short walk to see Israel’s Messiah?

4. Because they were in the “religion business” and wanted nothing to do with the spiritual reality.

5. They knew the scriptures, but they did not understand them or recognize God’s power.

APPLIndifference is passive rebellion. This occurs when someone conforms on the outside but is inwardly hard of heart. The Pharisees and Jewish leaders were examples of what God does not want us to be.

Joel 2:13, And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness.

APPL – Rend your heart on the inside and then what God wants to change on the outside will follow.

APPLGod is not only the Revealer of Hearts, He is the Healer of Broken Hearts and Lives, the God of New Beginnings…

Psalm 147:3, He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.


ILLUS – Heidi’s gift to me the day before our wedding

APPLWhat’s the key to your heart? Will you give your heart to the Lord, your best? Will you let Him heal your life and give you a new beginning?

Psalm 139:23-24, Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. 

Matthew 2:1-23     NASB

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

6 'and you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
for out of you shall come forth a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'"
7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him." 9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." 14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "out of Egypt I called my son."
16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
18 "A voice was heard inramah,
weeping and great mourning,
rachel weeping for her children;
and she refused to be comforted,
because they were no more."
19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 "Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead." 21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene." 



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