A Revolutionary Christmas: Christmas for all (Matthew)

Publié le 29 décembre 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon preached by Aurelien Duperchy, apprentice pastor, on 26th December 2021

Have you ever met a brother or sister and said to yourself, « He’s too different from me, we’ll never get along… »? It is human, but very sad to see the world only as a reflection of our own personality. If we imagine Jesus treating us in the same way, we know we would deserve to be condemned because there can actually be no greater difference than between Jesus and us. He is perfect whereas we are rotten…

Yet, Jesus came. The holiness of God, incarnated on earth in Jesus. He was born into a particular culture and faith, and he wants to be friends with everyone.

And that’s what we’re going to see today, a simple man who was born in a very small country that God had blessed, has become the greatest Man in all of human history because he wants to be in communion with everyone. It is the story of a man who does not define borders as we do. It is the story of the Jewish Messiah who offers himself for all peoples.

1 – Jesus, the Israelite (Mt 1-2)

a) From birth – Mt 1:1-17
In his gospel, Matthew emphasizes in Jesus’ genealogy that he is the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Messiah. In the first verse, Matthew highlights his Jewish heritage: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.” Culturally speaking, this sounds very Jewish, it is THE verse that sets the tone for the rest of the Gospel.

The Old Testament tells us specifically that the Messiah will be one of David’s descendants, mentions his birthplace, that he will be born of a virgin, that he will be brought out of Egypt, and multiple other details, among which some were given eight centuries before Jesus’ birth. The Messiah is the Prophecy itself, the Word of God made flesh. In his genealogy, there are some precious details that form the beginning of Matthew’s message concerning Jesus’ internationality. Let’s look at two examples:

First, Abraham, mentioned at the beginning of the genealogy, in verse 2.

Abraham worshiped idols, and he got that from his father Terah. Contrary to what would happen later on, there was not a People of God at the time. But one day, even though Abraham was a foreigner and estranged from God, he converted to a new faith and obeyed God.

Obedience to God was his true stamp, an identity that surpassed his national and family identity. He started to worship God, who in turn blessed the countries Abraham passed through during his nomadic life, setting up altars to worship God. Abraham was an apostle before the time of the Apostles. And he became « the Father of Believers ».

We see God’s plan for all nations already achieved through Abraham. Thus, God had foreseen a rescue plan just as he told Abraham in Gen. 12: 2-3, “And I will make you into a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

One becomes a child of God through faith, the same faith as Abraham’s. Abraham’s example shows that anyone from anywhere can have faith.

Second, in Jesus’ genealogy, we also find Ruth.

Ruth didn’t belong to a religious family, and she was not one of Abraham’s descendants. In fact, her case was even worse than that of Abraham because she was a Moabite, and therefore an enemy of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. She was the kind of person with whom we think we have nothing in common. Yet Ruth converted to her mother-in-law’s faith. She married a Hebrew and became the grandmother of the greatest king of Israel, David.

After David, no king could match him. And the only room left was for someone who was greater than David, and by nature, that is Jesus, God made Man, the King of heaven who was born to save all nations and who will one day set up his reign over all the nations of the whole earth.

Jesus was like a young tree planted in a garden -the garden of Israel- that people from elsewhere could come to see, as in 1 Kings 10 when people from foreign lands came to see Solomon to benefit from the wisdom God gave him. And the more a young tree grows, the more it spreads its foliage in neighboring gardens and surrounding countries.
Jesus is the tree whose foliage spreads over all nations, and he also wants to extend his presence to our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

God can make us like Abraham and Ruth through the Spirit.
God has chosen us among the nations, estranged from his promises. He wants to make us sources of blessings to others, to bear fruit in the ministries in which we are involved… even if we have no Christian education. That’s not a problem because it is the Spirit of God who does the work through us.

We have no control over the fruits that God can produce through us. They can have a scope that goes beyond our region and our country.

Among the foreigners who came to see him, there were wise men coming from the East.

b) Expected by foreigners – Mt 2.1-2

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “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.”

Magi came to see Jesus, at the time when there was no low cost flights. They were so enthusiastic that they walked several hundred kilometers to come to see what the star was pointing at. These wise men were pagans, renowned scholars in the scientific field. They show us that studying God’s creation should lead us to Jesus. God reveals himself to mankind through his creation, and therefore no man on earth has any excuse to not follow God as Paul says in Romans 1 and 2.

In Matthew 2.11: “And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

The wise men were welcomed in the house of Mary and Joseph. This points to how God wants to welcome the Gentiles, and let people from all backgrounds come to him.

When we look at how Mary and Joseph welcomed these foreigners, we can wonder if we do the same. As Leviticus 19:33-34 says: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”

But in the gospel of Matthew, it is the opposite. It is a foreigner who comes to bless an Israelite, the Messiah. In the passage, it is the stranger who sets the example by loving Jesus. Too often, we don’t like to be with people who are different from us. But Jesus fundamentally wants to change our hearts. The story of the wise men shows us that all human beings can come to worship Jesus.

We always need to be reminded of a basic truth. Before Jesus came, we are aware that the Messiah would come for all nations, as it is repeatedly mentioned from Genesis to the Gospels through prophets like Isaiah, Joel, etc.

Jesus came for all.

c) For everyone (Mt 8:5-13, 28:18-20)

In Matthew 8.5-13: “And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, begging Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, terribly tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my [m]servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.”

Jesus came to forgive the sins of all people.

In the passage, there’s a Roman officer, a pagan involved in the Roman colonization of Israel, who comes to Jesus. (It is important to note that the Israelites hated the Romans because the Romans oppressed and humiliated the Israelites they were colonizing.) The officer calls Jesus to heal his servant who is paralyzed, and Jesus responds by healing the servant. But in v8, the officer acknowledges his unworthiness and sin before the Messiah of Israel, « Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof. »

But look at Jesus’ reaction in v10-13: “Now when Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.”

Jesus admires the faith of the centurion who trusted him but who was hated by his fellow man.

In the film, « The Silence of the Sea », a young German soldier is sent to France with the Nazi regime. When he arrives in France, he stays with a family engaged in the resistance. The young soldier was not very motivated to fight for the Nazis. Furthermore, he had always dreamed of going to France since he was a child. He saw the trip as a great opportunity to discover France and its culture. For him, it was a dream come true. But he was rejected by his hosts. He tried to communicate, but it was in vain. The silence in the home was heavy.

Jesus is the one who wants to be near the hearts of foreigners and who speaks to them, even to those who are believed to persecute. Jesus has a spiritual perspective. He sees the hearts, and is not partial. He touches the hearts of all those who recognize his Almighty Power.

In Matthew 9:12-13, Jesus says: “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. Now go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, rather than sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Whoever we are, and whoever we meet, let us see each other as people, sick with sin, who need to be healed by the Gospel. It is a sin to say to ourselves, « She/he cannot come to the Gospel because she/he is too different from me, she/he cannot understand me ». But if they saw Jesus, they might do as the centurion did: they would acknowledge they rely on him.

In the passage, that is an example of his daily life, we can clearly see Jesus’ project for the salvation of all nations as he lived out universal salvation every single day of his life.

His life pointed towards the great mission that the body of Christ, the Church, was going to be called to live.

And we too can live it.

In Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus does not have the same conception of borders as we do. Besides, from a heavenly perspective, there are no borders. God did not create the world with borders. They appeared as a consequence of sin.

To get us out of sin, Jesus wants to save his chosen ones in all regions, in all languages and dialects, in all cultures and sub-cultures, whether in a Chinese or an Aztec culture, or in artistic cultures.

In all languages and dialects: those who speak in a sophisticated way or in urban dialect or in scientific language… as we saw last week. For example, with “Metal Mission”, we reach out to people who love « metal hard rock ». The message of the Gospel is embodied in a form that is adapted to the language and cultural codes of this subculture.

We are in this universe to bring the Gospel just as Jesus incarnated himself among us and adjusted himself to our human condition to offer us eternal life: eternal life that surpasses all forms of human and social categories; eternal life offered to those God has chosen.

That’s the magnificent foliage of the tree of eternal life spread over each of us to protect us.

Conclusion

The first verse of the Gospel begins with a very Jewish tone that presents Jesus as the son of David and Abraham, and ends with a call from Jesus to make disciples in all nations, in all human categories.

We have to look at maps to see borders. Yet, just by looking at the communitarianism commonly displayed, we can see that borders truly characterize us. We have a tendency to withdraw in our own communities, to organize ourselves ethnically and culturally, and even at the level of the church.

The borders are in our heads. They come from our evil hearts. It is our evil hearts that send us to hell, on the other side of the border, far away from the presence of God. It is our evil hearts that create groups in the church – between the pro-vaccine and the anti-vax, between the white and the black, between the non-Charismatic and the Charismatic, etc. We create categories to « save » ourselves. But the truth is that this is the road of perdition because we set up a system to save ourselves instead of relying on the sacrifice of Jesus to save us.

On the contrary, let us show the features of Christ who has overcome the boundaries we created for ourselves. Jesus came down from heaven to destroy the walls of separation we erected between us. Jesus alone can make us ascend to God.

Today, in a society where communitarianism is soaring, where communities are pitted against each other, where people are afraid of those who are different from them, Jesus is the solution to this problem.

I am not preaching a humanistic universalism but the universal reign of Jesus, king of the world who wants to reign in the heart of every human being on earth. Let’s ask God to transform our thoughts and to destroy intellectual boundaries.

We need to think according to faith because faith sees as Jesus does. Lack of faith is to keep preconceptions and intellectual borders. The one, who is the stem of Israel and who died for all different types of people, old, young, rich, poor, etc., is the only one who has the power to forgive the sins of those who confess them.

Maybe some of you feel unworthy to come to Christ because you feel different. And that’s true, you are unworthy; not because of your differences, but because of your sin. Everyone is unworthy. But Jesus accepts all of us with our differences.

So renounce your life of sin, and put yourself under the shelter of Christ who died for us, as it is said in Matthew 26:28, he shed his blood for many people: “for this is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”

The Old Testament is summarized in Jesus. He embodies the destiny of the people of Israel that has been fulfilled in him, no longer as a nation with borders but as a people who belong to him.