Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Thanks for listening to episode 174 of Missions on Point. We're going to start a new series called Missions Insights from the New Testament. We just finished a short series of Missions Insights from the Old Testament, and similarly, I just want to remind you that we're not trying to be comprehensive or very deep, but trying to take some personal reflection and observations from the New Testament that reinforce the biblical priority of missions to all nations. This episode will deal with a handful of insights from Christ's advent, the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, the incarnation. We could start in the Old Testament, but for the sake of time in this episode, we'll just use the New Testament. Note, however, that many of the prophecies of Christ coming in the Old Testament do refer to the nature of His coming being a blessing to all the nations and a fulfillment of God's promise to exalt himself, bring glory to himself in all peoples of the earth.
Let's take note of connections to all nations in Christ's advent. Number one, starting in Matthew 1, in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, at the very beginning of the Book of Matthew, we see that there are four Gentile women in Jesus's genealogy, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Each one of these women have very interesting stories that link them to the lineage of Jesus Christ, our savior. They are stories filled with human need and weakness. They're also stories of grace and mercy in the midst of those needs and weaknesses. One of the observations or insights from this fact is that God uses quite a bit of space in words in the inspired scripture to tell their stories here, climaxing in their part and role ultimately in the birth of Jesus Christ. This little fact in and of itself is amazing that it includes four Gentile women in the lineage of Jesus Christ.
The second insight comes from Matthew 2. It is the wise men. They are from the East and they come to Herod the King. They certainly came from a considerable distance because Herod discerns that because of the time of their travel, all the children that may have been born for two years time before the wise men arrived were to be killed because of his hatred and jealousy for a rival king. We don't know how many wise men there were exactly, but they probably had an entourage with them of a number of servants and caretakers for whatever animals they used for transportation. Of course, the hymn and old church history wants to try to name them and say that there are three. We don't know how many there were. All we know is that there were three gifts given.
But the essence of this observation or insight is that God was so concerned that the world know of the birth of the Messiah, king of Israel, and ultimately the Lord of the nations, that He gave special revelation in the form of a star and information about this king to respected leaders from a foreign gentile nation to come and pay homage to this king. The fact that it was announced in the court of Herod the King and all of his wise men and counselors simply served to spread the news of Jesus's birth much farther than it would have been otherwise. And don't you think that those wise men told the story of all the incredible things that happened to them in that whole encounter from the time they met Herod to the time they left Bethlehem to return back home?
Our third little insight is about the flight to Egypt of Jesus's family. So Joseph and Mary and very young Jesus had been warned to leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt, a foreign country in order to be safe from Herod's persecution, and the record shows that Herod actually did command his troops to go in and slaughter young boys in an attempt to kill this rival infant king. So Matthew records that the prophecy is fulfilled when the Old Testament says, "Out of Egypt, I called my son."
The fourth insight of Jesus's advent, and I should say early childhood, is the settling of the family in Nazareth, which was part of an area called the region of Galilee, or known commonly as Galilee of the Gentiles. Historically, this region was very multi-ethnic and dominated by foreign powers since the fall of Israel. We can certainly say that this was the intentional plan of God, that Jesus be raised in Galilee of the Gentiles and spend most of His ministry in this region. There are Old Testament prophecies that specifically name these northern tribal regions of the 12 tribes of Israel that would later be called Galilee of the Gentiles as the place where the ministry of the Messiah would be revealed. And part of the nature of His ministry is touching the Gentiles with the gospel message, including His extensive ministry of healing, exorcism of demons, and even raising the dead.
Though Jesus's hometown was Nazareth, which the Old Testament also prophesied, He later chose Caesarea as the center of His ministry, His headquarters for His three years of ministry. Caesarea is the capital of the Galilee region and also a majority multi-ethnic Gentile people populating it. Think about it, as He traveled in and around the region of Galilee, these were the primary audience of Jesus teaching and ministry while in this region. As He feeds the 5,000, as He feeds the 4,000, as He interacts with Jewish people and the leaders of Israel, the Pharisees, the Sadducees that are all around, yet many, many people would've heard His message and His call to repent and believe.
While it is easy to argue that the primary direction of His ministry was to Jews and Jewish leaders for them to change and follow Him and become a part of the Kingdom of God, yet it was non-discriminatory to the listeners in general, and we'll see this in the episodes to come. But the point here is that the choice of Nazareth for young Jesus to grow up there and later to become His center for ministry was a strategic choice by God and Jesus Christ himself. This majority of multi-ethnic Gentiles would have been the majority of His audience while He was in this region.
The fifth insight in this episode is in the Gospel of Luke, and we see the stories of people associated with the infancy of Christ all pointing to Jesus Christ in His coming as for the whole world, for salvation, for blessing, for the whole world. Luke 1:33, the angel giving the message to Mary that she is going to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit says, "Of His kingdom, there will be no end." Then Zechariah in his song in chapter 1:79 says that "the purpose of Christ coming is to give light to those in darkness." And it is speaking of Isaiah 9, where it also mentions Galilee of the Gentiles again, the angels giving the announcement to the shepherds in the field at the time of Jesus' birth.
In Luke 2:10 say, "This will be good news and a great joy that will be for all the people." And then in verse 14, "on Earth peace." So it is comprehensive to all peoples, to all the earth, and it's not a mistake or a slip of the tongue, it is intentional on the part of the angels, and the shepherds get it. Later, as Jesus is presented in the temple, according to the law, He meets Simeon. And Simeon was informed by God that he would not die until he had seen the Christ. Simeon's prayer of praise in verses 30-32 of Luke 2 says this, "My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles." This friends is a missional insight from Christ's advent. Simeon got it. He praised God for it in prayer, and he realized that the prophecy to him personally had been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
In closing, I'd like to just consider Mary, Jesus's mother. Obviously, she was a godly young lady. She knew something of the scriptures, she knew something of the prophecies of the Messiah, and she heard all of these people around her testifying to the worldwide impact of Christ's birth, eventually bringing salvation to all nations. She knew the genealogy of Jesus, she was part of it. She heard the wise men speak of the King of Israel. She knew of the special revelation and instructions that have been given to them from angels to herself and to Joseph, her husband, and regarding the flight to Egypt and the return back to Nazareth. She knew how all of these things fulfilled so many Old Testament prophecies in the scriptures about the coming of King Messiah. She knew of and probably heard from Zechariah's own mouth, the song in which he says, "This Messiah yet to be born will give light to those in darkness."
She heard Simeon's prayer personally, she knew of Anna's blessing as a prophetess in attendance at the temple, at Jesus's consecration, and she made note of all of these things in a special way. It says in Luke 2:19, "Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." Every Christmas season we have this special opportunity to treasure up all these things and ponder them in our heart to grow in a deeper appreciation for God's faithfulness, His unstoppable sovereignty, and providence, even in the details of Jesus's life and of our own and His provision through Jesus for our salvation. And not for ours only, but think about it, we know about His intent to provide salvation for some from every nation, every tongue and tribe and people. We are blessed to know these things. We are blessed to be able to tell these things to others. May we be faithful to get the good news to all nations.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at propempo.com and missioserve.org. We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
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