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Sermon 3
Matthew 2:1-23




Sermon 3: Matthew 2:1-23
Wise Men Visit Jesus and the Escape from Herod (Who Has Your Ear?)
November 12, 2023

Hi, my name is Philip, a servant of God from Beggars Breaking Bread, and I will be reading, teaching and preaching from Matthew 2:1-23.

Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod.

About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.”
Herod was deeply disturbed by their question, as was all of Jerusalem.


He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law. “Where did the prophets say the Messiah would be born?” he asked them.

“In Bethlehem,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘O Bethlehem of Judah, you are not just a lowly village in Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Then Herod sent a private message to the wise men, asking them to come see him. At this meeting he learned the exact time when they first saw the star. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

After this interview the wise men went their way. Once again the star appeared to them, guiding them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!

They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him.

Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But when it was time to leave, they went home another way, because God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. 

“Get up and flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to try to kill the child.”

That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. 

This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

Herod was furious when he learned that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, because the wise men had told him the star first appeared to them about two years earlier.

Herod’s brutal action fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah: “A cry of anguish is heard in Ramah – weeping and mourning unrestrained. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted – for they are dead.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and told him, “Get up and take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”

So Joseph returned immediately to Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid. Then, in another dream, he was warned to go to Galilee. So they went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what was spoken by the prophets concerning the Messiah: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

This is the word of the Lord.

Let me ask you a question from your childhood.


When you were growing up, what was your favorite cartoon?

For me, I may be biased, but I believe that growing up as a kid in the 1990’s was the best time. I grew up watching beloved cartoons such as Doug, X-Men, The Magic School Bus, Arthur, and South Park. 

However, one of my favorite cartoon characters that I could watch for hours as a kid was a classic one: Donald Duck.


I don’t know if it was because he made me laugh out loud whenever he got frustrated or because I might have had a childhood cartoon crush on Daisy Duck back then, or him being the father of Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and the nephew of rich Uncle Scrooge in Duck Tales, I was a big fan of Donald.

One episode of Donald Duck that I remember fondly was when he heard an opportunity to invest money in war savings certificates. Maybe this was British war propaganda back then in the 1940s, but I was an eight-year-old watching this fifty years later.


Anyways, Donald decides to get money from his piggy bank to invest after being visited by an angel while he’s asleep. All of a sudden, he’s interrupted by the devil version of Donald Duck, who tries to persuade him to spend the money on himself. Then, the angel version of Donald Duck tries to persuade Donald to do the right thing and support his country today. Long story short, Donald follows the angel and invests in his country, much to the chagrin of the devil.

A popular play used in cartoons, whether with Donald Duck, or Tom and Jerry, or SpongeBob Square Pants, or even Family Guy, is the classic angel vs. devil conflict, where the angel is on one shoulder of the cartoon character and the devil is on the other shoulder. Both of them are trying to influence the character on what to do next. It becomes a game of which one will the character ultimately follow: the angel or the devil.

Now, what may seem initially innocent – or even silly – since we are talking about cartoons here, we have to understand that what happens in the cartoons here also plays out in real life with each of us. We may call it our conscience, but one way or another, we have at least one voice in our head trying to influence us on what is the next right decision to make. 

As for me, I believe that there are angels and demons in this fallen world of ours. Oftentimes, there is a mental tug-of-war between good and evil in many of our heads. And as we look at the second chapter of the Book of Matthew, we see more than one occasion where someone is being influenced on what to do next.

If there is one takeaway that I would encourage you to take seriously from this passage, it would be to: Be Careful Whose Voice You Listen to (and Obey).

Be Careful Whose Voice You Listen to (and Obey).

While this passage may be on the longer side of previous sermons, I want us to focus on how God speaks to us both historically and even now in the present. We’ll take a closer look by examining three key points for today:

1.    God spoke to the three Wise Men (at least) through a dream
2.    God spoke to Joseph – THREE times – through angels and dreams
3.    God speaks to us today in at least three ways: His Word, His Son, and His Spirit

First, let’s see how God spoke to the three Wise Men (at least) through a dream.

Now, first of all, while legend has it that there were three Wise Men that visited Jesus – and we celebrate it in the church Nativity scene around Christmas time or my wife growing up celebrating Three Kings Day in Puerto Rico – scholars cannot confirm if there were, in fact, three wise men, because of the three gifts given to Jesus, or if there were more.

What is more important is that these wise men traveled from afar looking for who they believed was the future King of the Jews. After Jesus was born, they arrived in Jerusalem following the star hoping to find him. And from what the Bible tells us, they may have been the only ones excited and in anticipation of finding the future King. 

As verse three points out: “Herod was deeply disturbed by their question, as was all of Jerusalem.”

And why was that?

For one, Herod the Great felt threatened about his position, for the Romans gave him the title of king of the Jews. The problem was that he was never fully accepted by the Jewish people as their king. He was not a descendant of King David and was only partly Jewish. Now, he gets word of this future Jewish newborn king, who potentially is the long-awaited Messiah that the Jewish people have been waiting for, and, all of a sudden, Herod is concerned about losing his position.

If the future Messiah was born in Bethlehem, it would prove to be a literal fulfillment of one of the Old Testament prophecies that the Jewish religious leaders were following. As verse six draws from Micah 5:2: “O Bethlehem of Judah, you are not just a lowly village in Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.”

As a friendly reminder, it is important for the author Matthew to mention these Old Testament prophecies – and their fulfillment through Jesus – to help prove to his readers – the Jewish people – that Jesus Christ was indeed the long-awaited Messiah of the Jewish people.

Herod secretly requests the wise men to find the future king of the Jews and to report back to him on the baby’s location, so he could “worship” him too. Clearly, that was a lie from Herod. He was not looking to worship Jesus. He wanted to kill him to preserve his position of power.


It’s amazing what people are willing to do to keep themselves in powerful positions of leadership…

So the wise men travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to visit Jesus. By the time they arrive, Jesus is clearly not a newborn anymore staying in a manger, as the Bible says that Mary and Jesus are in a house by the time the wise men show up. Scholars believe that Jesus was probably around one or two years old by the time of their visit.

After worshipping baby (or more likely, toddler) Jesus and giving him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the wise men received a warning from God in a dream. They were told not to go back to Herod, as Herod wanted to know the exact location of Jesus for himself. They decided to follow God and to go home by another route, avoiding Herod altogether.

They heard from God and followed what He asked them to do.


Following God as a Christian may mean that your life may have to take a different direction from where it was originally going. You may have to give up some guilty pleasures, some negative friends, or even a job or career that is less than what God has planned for you. Despite the temptation to do what is familiar, even if it is not of God, we have to be responsive to what God tells us and to be obedient to His Word.

Are you willing to navigate your life into a different direction to follow Jesus?

After the wise men go home, the Bible shares how the wise men are not the only ones having a dream.

This brings us to our next point where God spoke to Joseph – THREE times – through angels and dreams. 

If you remember from last week, Joseph is not foreign to hearing from the Lord, particularly an angel of the Lord. Back in Matthew 1:20, Joseph encounters an angel of the Lord in a dream, telling him not to be afraid to marry Mary, since she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. The angel told Joseph that Mary will give birth to a son, and that Joseph was to name him Jesus, because He would save his people from their sins.

Pop Quiz: when he woke up, what did Joseph do after hearing from the angel of the Lord in his dream?

He did what the angel of the Lord commanded him to do. He took Mary as his wife and named the baby Jesus after he was born.

That should give you a hint of what he does next in these three dreams.

Back to our passage in Chapter Two, verse 13: “After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up and flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,’ the angel said. ‘Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to try to kill the child.’”

Jesus was in danger if Joseph kept his family in Bethlehem. Even though Joseph was not the natural father of Jesus, he still was responsible for the safety and well-being of Jesus, as well as his wife Mary.

I just have to pause here and appreciate the type of man Joseph was back then. He could have left Mary on her own since her baby was not technically his. He could have been selfish and looked out for what was best for him. Yet, he stayed faithful both to Mary and to God. He followed through on God’s plan for his life and submitted his feelings for God’s greater mission that kept Jesus away from danger, so He could become our Lord and Savior.

I wonder if you ever had a Joseph in your life. 

A man that was not your earthly father, but he stepped in as one in your life when you needed a father figure, a protector, a guardian, or an advocate for your wellbeing. A man that may not be the father of your children but covered you and your family when you were vulnerable to make sure everything would be OK. 

There have been a number of Josephs in my life…

A youth basketball coach giving me a chance to play like Charles Barkley on the court at 10 years old…

A doctor, with a kid of his own, making sure I attended church on Sundays and looked after me in high school…

Some big brothers in college who took time to talk with me over Bojangles’ chicken, BoBerry biscuits (with extra icing), and sweet tea to make sure I stayed on the right path while pursuing my college degree…

A cousin who checked on me and set an example for me when I was desperately looking for role models of men who looked like me who were faithful husbands and caring fathers…

Though they were in my life for a certain season, these Josephs were instrumental in me staying on the right path, despite my tendencies to be influenced to do otherwise.

By Joseph following the angel of the Lord and taking Mary and Jesus to Egypt to avoid the murderous wrath of Herod, he also helped fulfill another Old Testament prophecy in Hosea 11:1 where the Lord spoke through His prophet that “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

When word got back to Herod that the wise men went home via another direction, avoiding him, Herod was furious and took matters into his own bloody hands to protect his position. He then sent out soldiers in and around Bethlehem to kill all the boys who were two years old or younger in an attempt to kill Jesus before He began His earthly ministry.

In spite of Herod’s brutal massacre of young boys in and around Bethlehem that would echo the mournful sentiment prophesized by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:15 (and shown here in verse 18), God’s plans would still prevail, thanks to the obedience of Joseph after hearing from an angel.

Once the coast was clear, after the death of Herod, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph again in a dream and said in verse 20: “Get up and take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”


Joseph followed what the angel said and started moving the family back to Israel from Egypt. 

However, upon returning, he learns that Herod’s son Archelaus was the new ruler and became afraid.

Why was Joseph afraid?

When Herod died, one of his sons, Archelaus, became ruler of Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Scholars note that Archelaus was a violent man who began his reign as king by slaughtering 3,000 people of influence in the region. His violent reputation preceded him, and Joseph was wary of putting Jesus and Mary back in harm’s way.

Hearing from God a third time in a dream, Joseph took his family to the region of Galilee where they settled in a town called Nazareth, where Jesus would grow up and become Jesus of Nazareth.
Joseph heard from God three times, and because of him trusting God enough to obey what He said each time, Joseph safely provided for the care and wellbeing of both his wife Mary and son Jesus.

Is there something in your life right now that God is asking you to trust Him with?

Maybe you felt a prompting in your spirit…

Maybe you saw it in a dream one night…

Maybe it appeared in your life one day as an odd “coincidence” …

However way it appeared to you, God is speaking to you, and He wants you to listen to Him carefully, for our God is a living God. He is the same God of Joseph back then during the early years of Jesus.

And today, after the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, God is still speaking to us now through His Word, His Son and His Spirit.

Now, up to this point, we have talked about how Joseph and the wise men heard from angels of the Lord. But, as I mentioned to you earlier, we have to be careful of who has our ear, because we can also hear from Satan himself and his own messengers (or demons).

If you don’t believe me, let me remind you of what happened in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve were walking through the Garden of Eden, when they encountered Satan as a serpent.


One of the reasons why I cannot stand snakes…

And this serpent convinced Eve first and then she convinced Adam to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit, which would be the original sin that brought on the fall of humanity. 

The original sin of all humanity, including you and me, was disobedience by trusting someone other than God Himself. 

Not murder. Not lying. Not adultery. Not even racism was the original sin.


The original sin was disobeying God. 

Satan deceived Adam and Eve and lied to them about God, persuading them to not trust God and to disobey. It is because of that original sin that we have the fallen world that we live in today. I don’t care what sin you may be struggling with, experiencing or witnessing in your life. It all comes from its origin of Satan being in the ear of Adam and Eve and convincing them to make the wrong choice in their lives.

Satan wasn’t done with the temptation of Adam and Eve. In Luke 4, and we’ll explore this soon when we get into Matthew 4, Satan comes after Jesus Himself, seen as the second – or last – “Adam” to tempt Jesus of disobeying God the Father. Thankfully, for all of our sakes, Jesus was faithful to trust God and did not fail the test that Adam and Eve did.

Who has your ear?

Who are you listening to? 

Is it God? Is it Satan? Is it your own thoughts and feelings? Or is it a mix of all three?

None of us are perfect like Jesus. We are all capable of falling to the wrong temptation if we are influenced by someone with bad intentions. That is why it is so important for us to stay alert of the people we hang around, the music or podcasts we listen to with our ears, and the images, movies, and videos we see with our eyes. All of that collectively influences us on how we live our lives, and how we will react at any given moment or circumstance that presents itself to us.


The scary part is that, when such moments occur…

A person scuffs your favorite shoes on the subway while out enjoying the city…

You don’t get the job offer (or pay raise) that you were hoping and praying for…

A rude boy cuts you off in traffic, nearly bumping your car off the road, and you feel tempted to pull up next to him…

Your kid embarrasses you in public, refusing to get in the car, yelling and crying because you won’t give her ice cream…

Or you find out the person you love is cheating on you behind your back…

If we make the wrong choice, after being under the (negative) influence, tempting the sinful nature that we inherited from Adam, we can face great trouble, punishment or even death, of which God would not want for his children.

As the Bible says, in James 1:14-15 (CSB), “But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”

James continues his warning to us in verses 19-21: “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

It’s hard for me to say this but…

Twenty years ago, I was in college.

I was a freshman. Just moved into my dorm with my roommate. Excited to embark on my new chapter in life as a young adult. During that year, I found myself having a girlfriend.


At least, that was what I thought she was: my girlfriend.

Come to find out, I had a great misunderstanding. One day, I found out that she was seeing someone else behind my back. Now, mind you: twenty years ago, we did not have social media and smartphones like we do today.


Back then, we had flip phones, $0.99 ringtones, blogs, and AOL Instant Messenger.


Don’t worry: I won’t tell you my username. It’s quite embarrassing!

Anyways, I find out from my girlfriend’s blog of her seeing someone else. At that point, I was a mix of emotions: hurt, embarrassed, frustrated, and boiling. Basically all the feelings of the Anger character from the movie Inside Out. Since she lived right across the hallway from me, I felt the need to confront her of what I saw.

My roommate could see that I was changing color (oddly enough) all of a sudden. He asked me what was wrong. I told him. He quickly said that he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for me to go see her.


I insisted. He insisted that I stay inside. This went back and forth until he called my friend to come over and try to settle me down, while blocking the door for me to exit.


I was not having it. I was beyond angry at this point, and I was no longer the cute and cuddly teddy bear. I was a mix between a grizzly and a polar bear seeing red in my eyes. It got to the point where my roommate picked up the phone and made a call.

He did not call 911.


He did not call our resident advisor.


He called…my grandfather.

He told my grandfather the situation and then simply told me: “He wants to talk to you Philip”.

I grab the phone and quickly tried to calm myself down a notch, so I don’t risk disrespecting him on the phone. Twenty minutes later, I got off the phone teary-eyed and curled up in my bed. I was still mad. But I realized, after having my grandfather talk to me directly in my ear, it was not worth being that upset about it, especially to go over there and talk to her while I was still feeling very hurt and upset.

After I took a nap, I gathered myself to my desk and pulled out my Bible. The exact same Life Application Study Bible that I read today I had back then twenty years ago. I kept reading until I could not read anymore. I needed to calm my mind and refocus it on good versus evil.


And then God led me to a particular passage...


Romans 12:19-21.

“Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But: If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing, you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”

To this day, I am so grateful for my grandfather, my “Joseph”, during that moment 20 years ago. If I had acted on my own feelings and emotions, without the help of godly counsel like his, my life may have taken a turn for the worst.


And, oftentimes, it is during those moments, when anger shoots through, your fists clench like the cartoon character Arthur, in reaction to what someone else did to you, consciously or unconsciously, accidentally or on purpose, that if we have been listening to the wrong stuff or the wrong people, we can easily make the wrong decision and reap the consequences.

Family: every day, there is a mental tug-of-war going on between our ears. Who will we listen to when things are going well in our lives? Who will we listen to when things are not going well in our lives or make a sudden turn for the worse?


God has given us His Word, His Son, and His Holy Spirit – that lives within us as believers of Jesus Christ – to help us in our times of need to make the next best decision when it comes up. Though my grandfather is no longer with me on Earth, I learned the importance of relying on God – through His Word, His Son, and His Spirit – to speak to me and to help me through this fallen and sinful world the best way I can under His guidance and His direction.

What about you?

Like Donald Duck, you got an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other shoulder.

Which one will you listen to today?

The challenge is that you don’t just pick one time and you are set for life. No, you have to make that decision on who to listen to every day and every choice you make. It helps to have a consistent person to rely on because life is hard.

That is what Jesus is for.

God loved the world so much, despite its sinful “human nature” and deceitful hearts, that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to show us a better way to live for Him and to not be a slave to sin, Satan, and our sinful emotions, feelings and insecurities.


By repenting of our sins and making the choice to follow Jesus, He will give us not only eternal life after this earthly life, but He will give us a Comforter (not the one on your bed), an Advocate, and a friend in the Holy Spirit to guide us through every decision we need help with each day to help us avoid going left when we should have gone right.

Jesus loves you.

If you are feeling someone on your shoulder nudge you to come to Jesus, following Him is the best decision I ever made. And I want you to make the best decision in your life too.

All we have to do is ask Jesus into our hearts and make Him the Lord and Savior of our lives.

If you’re ready to take that step, would you pray this prayer with me: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe that you came from Heaven to Earth to live, die and rise again just for me, so that my sins may be forgiven. I trust you with my life. By faith, I make you my Lord and Savior. Thank you for your love and sacrifice. In Jesus name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, let me be the first to congratulate you on the best decision you could make in your life. Let me also welcome you to the family, as the angels in Heaven are rejoicing on you coming back home. I encourage you to find a local, Bible-based church to connect with and to join its community as you do life together with other believers.

If you already are a believer, and you feel the Holy Spirit nudge you on your shoulder to share this message with someone who does not yet know Jesus, please share this message with him or her.


God has a great plan for you, and it involves bringing the spiritually lost back to God through Jesus Christ. Let us continue the good work ahead of us to globally spread the Good News about Jesus Christ and to welcome more into His family.


God bless you for watching, listening to or reading this sermon. Thank you and take care.

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