I like to do lots of research when I’m planning a trip. I talk to people, read guidebooks, search the Internet and so on. For me, all of that research feeds into the anticipation of the trip itself; preparation helps me enjoy the journey and enhances my learning. But sometimes a guidebook overstates the beauty or intrigue of a particular spot, and I experience some disappointment with the reality of the trip.
Describe something you once strongly desired (for example, a car, television, stereo or a relationship with a particular person). When you got it, did it fulfill your expectations? Explain why or why not.
What are you currently waiting for or anticipating? How does it affect your thoughts during the day?
The nation of Israel waited for centuries for God’s anointed king to be born. Jesus’ birth, however, was not greeted with royal gladness by the nation and its leaders. Instead, there was intrigue and conflict. The political and religious establishment felt threatened by the coming of the Messiah. It was
left to foreign leaders to welcome the newborn king.
Read Matthew 2:1-18.
- Compare and contrast Jesus the heavenly king and Herod the earthly king in this chapter.
- There are many traditions and myths in church history about the Magi that may or may not be true. But drawing only from the information in this passage, what can we discover about them?
- Describe the details of their search for Jesus.
- How has knowing Jesus involved you in a search or journey— either initially or in your ongoing spiritual life?
- How has what you have found in your journey with Jesus been similar to or different from what you expected?
- Compare and contrast the response of the religious leaders (vv. 4-6) to the response of the Magi (vv. 7-12).
- On hearing of Jesus’ birth from the searching Magi, Herod also begins a search for the newborn Christ (vv. 13-16). How does his search compare with that of the Magi?
- The responses of the Magi and Herod are typical of the ways people respond to Jesus today. Describe some different responses to Jesus you have witnessed?
What factors might cause people to respond to Jesus in radically different ways?
- God is the unseen actor throughout the chapter. In what ways can we see his behind-the-scenes actions (vv. 6, 15)?
- You may be reading this during a season of Advent or after it. The way in which we celebrate the Christmas season can lead to much anticipation and at times great disappointment. What disappointments has the most recent season brought for you?
What gifts has it brought?
- What activities or practices might help you to foster a season of Advent which is centred on the Christ child who has come to fulfill God’s promises to us?
Spend time worshipping the King of kings. Then ask God to help you tell others about him.
Now or Later
The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. You might want to have a celebration with your group as you conclude your study. One fun way to celebrate is to follow the European and Hispanic tradition of making or purchasing (from a Mexican bakery, for example) an Epiphany bread called Three Kings Cake. Beliefnet.com has recipes for a French, German, Spanish or Mexican king’s cake.
The week after Epiphany, Jesus’ baptism is commemorated. In the accounts in Mark we see Isaiah’s prophecy leading to John’s desert preaching and then Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:1-13), weaving together several themes from these studies. See also John 1:1-34.