Text: Matthew 2: 1-18
Title: Hope of the small land
The story of Dr. Gap-Duck Choi: his experience in America.
Dr. Choi was a visiting scholar to Baylor University five years ago.
Before he came to Baylor, he was studying at Stanford in San Francisco.
He was very much frustrated at Stanford, mainly, due to language barrier; soon he recognized the limit of the small and weak country, saying no hope for Korea and himself, and wished he were born in America.
Is there any hope for Korea?
Is there any hope for Korean Americans?
The text says "yes". Why?
The visit of magi
Identity of magi: They were a group of people from the East. Probably they were more than forty people. According to the history of Iran, they were the priests of Zoroastrianism. They knew about God whom Zoroaster called Ahura Mazda, the wise Lord.
The meaning of the East: The land of the great king; the land of the conqueror; the land of the power; the land where the Jews were carried out; the land that destroyed Jerusalem and Temple; the land that gave freedom to the Jews; just like China to Korea.
Journey to the land of Judea: Messianic expectation in Zoroastrianism (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1); the king like Cyrus; however, their messiah, the just king, the king like Cyrus was born in the land of Judea, not in Nineveh, not in Babylon, not in Susa, but in the land of colony, even not in Jerusalem or Hebron, but in the small town of Bethlehem.
The meaning of the gifts: The traditional gifts for the king of the Persia; the gifts they used to give to their king, the king of their land, the king of the East. Now they give the gifts to Jesus. That means their acceptance, Jesus as their messiah, the king of the world.
Application and conclusion
If the king like Cyrus was born in Judea, if the Messiah, the true king, the king of the world was born in the small town of Bethlehem, I can see a hope for Korea, I can see a hope for Korean Americans. Do not complain of that you were not born in America! Do not complain of that you are not one of majority! Remember our king was born in the small land, the land that had been abandoned for a long time, the land that had been occupied by the power, the land that had been forgotten, the land that was weak enough for no hope! Do not look at where you are! Do not consider where you are from! Let's look up to God! There is hope in God. The will of God is strong enough to change the name of your land. The people of the world call Judea the holy land.
Do you know the end story of Dr. Choi? He came to God. He strengthened himself in God and did his best. Baylor University chemistry department offered him enough fund to stay and study in America and asked him to bring two more students from Korea.
An exegetical study for the text
The text is talking about the birth of Jesus. The author of this gospel sees Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy mainly by means of quoting the Old Testament passages. Therefore, the primary intention of the author for the text is that Jesus is the one whose birth had been prophesized. As a narrative, some excitements are involved in the story: unexpected visit of magi and Herod's conspiracy. The visit of magi gives a sense of celebration and Herod's conspiracy does presence of the evil force that tries to stop the fulfillment of the divine plan.
Some exegetical questions arise.
Who are magi? Where were they from? Why did they make such a long and dangerous journey to Judea to see the king of the Jews? Why did Herod play an evil role? Who or what caused the death of the innocent infants? Who might be responsible for that tragedy?
The term for magi(NASB) is the Greek form of the Old Persian magau. These magoi constituted a priestly caste that originated in Media. They specialized in dreams and omens and, according to Herodotus(Book i. 107, 120; Book vii. 19, 37, 113), claimed the gift of prophecy. NRSV renders it as "wise men". Korea bible renders it as Doctors. The history of Iran says that magi are the priests of Zoroastrianism. Since the text indicates that magi had some sort of knowledge about God, that possibility should be taken into consideration.
The term 'the east' and the notion of kingship in the text strongly imply Isaiah passages regarding king Cyrus as a possible behind scene. Isaiah 44:28 says, "It is I who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd!" 45:1 describes Cyrus as Messiah, saying, "Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him, and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut." There is a possibility that the Persian priests who know about God and have been expecting the appearance of the just king like Cyrus came to Judea to bow down before the true king in the guidance of God.
My congregation consists of half UT graduate students and half first generation of Korean American. Out of the birth narrative of the text, preacher intents to encourage and give a hope to the congregation in the time of distress.
Text: Matthew 5: 1-12
Title: Two kingdoms
Personal remark for sermon:
The text might be understood better if it is interpreted in contrast with the kingdom of earth. In this case the Roman occupied Jewish political party at the time of Jesus.
Difference between two kingdoms.
There are many differences between two nations: South Korea and North Korea.
There are two kingdoms: one that belongs to the earth and the other that belongs to the heaven. The text says how blessed the ones who belong to the kingdom of heaven.
Invitation to the new kingdom
Whereas the poor are excluded in the kingdom of earth, now they have the kingdom that welcomes them by means of the Spirit, the kingdom of heaven.
Whereas those who mourn are not comforted in the kingdom of earth, they will be comforted in the kingdom of heaven.
Whereas the gentle are exploited in the kingdom of earth, they will inherit their place on earth in the kingdom of heaven.
Whereas those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are not filled in the kingdom of earth, they will be filled in the kingdom of heaven.
Whereas the merciful do not receive mercy in the kingdom of earth, they will receive in the kingdom of heaven.
Whereas the pure in heart cannot see God in the kingdom of earth, they will see in the kingdom of heaven.
Whereas the peacemakers are not honored in the kingdom of earth, they will be honored with the most beautiful name in the kingdom of heaven.
Whereas those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness have no place to go in the kingdom of earth, now they have the place to be, the kingdom of heaven.
And Jesus encourages His disciples to participate in the new kingdom by overcoming the various persecutions.
Application and conclusion
You are the ones who are blessed.
We need to recognize how much we are blessed as the citizens of the new kingdom.
People easily forget the preciousness of water and air unless they are in serious need for them.
Let us give sincere thanks to God who bless us through our daily church lives and the works of the Holy Spirit !
Can you see the people who are desperately searching for the new place to belong?
Let us share our blessings with them, for whom Jesus died !