In 1977, the Chicago Tribune reported the story of Maria Rubio of Lake Arthur, New Mexico who was frying tortillas when she noticed that the skillet burns on one of her tortillas resembled the face of Jesus. Excited, she showed it to her husband and neighbors, and they all agreed that there was a face etched on the tortilla and that it truly bore a resemblance to Jesus.
So the woman went to her priest to have the tortilla blessed. She testified that the tortilla had changed her life, and her husband agreed that she had been a more peaceful, happy, submissive wife since the tortilla had arrived. The priest, not accustomed to blessing tortillas, was somewhat reluctant but agreed to do it.
The woman took the tortilla home, put it in a glass case with piles of cotton to make it look like it was floating on clouds and built a special altar for it. Mr. Rubio built a utility like shack in the backyard and opened the little shrine to visitors. Within a few months, more than eight thousand people came to the shrine of the Jesus of the Tortilla, and all of them agreed that the face in the burn marks on the tortilla was the face of Jesus (except for one reporter who said he thought it looked like former heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks.)
Within two years, more than 35,000 people visited the shrine. For 28 years, pilgrims kept coming to see the Holy Tortilla. Over time, the burn marks faded and the image was hard to make out, but people still wanted to worship at the shrine (John MacArthur. The Ultimate Priority, page one).
What Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4:22, would apply to Maria Rubio: “You worship you know not what.”
Jesus also told her and us that God “the Father seeks worshippers” (John 4:23). Ever since creation, when the angels sang and shouted God’s praise for His creation, God has sought worship.
Maria Rubio is not alone in distorting the worship of God. A. W. Tozer called “worship, the missing jewel of the church.” A. W. Tozer in The Best of A. W. Tozer, as quoted in Making New Discoveries (Anaheim, Calif.: Insight for Living, 1996), 29.
What is true worship?
Is true worship a feeling when we go to church? Do I worship when my needs are meet at a church service? Is worship self-centered? What is true worship?
The Wise Men in Matthew 2 show us what true worship is. From the Wise Men we learn
1. We Must Know Who God is To Worship (2:1-6)
In Matthew 2:2, the wise men ask “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” They did not ask, “Where is he born who will be the King?” The wise men knew that Christ was now the King of the Jews. They had to be students of God’s Word to know about the sovereignty of God. This knowledge was probably passed down to them from Daniel the prophet while he was in Babylon as a wise man himself.
Christ is the King or the Ruler of the universe, the church, and our lives. Herod was a king among kings, but Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords.
True worship involves learning about God from His Word. Only students of God’s Word can be worshippers of the Lord.
2. We Must Be Committed to Worship (2:7-12)
The wise men said, “We have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him.” In order to worship the Lord, the wise men expended great energy and financial resources.
Worship is giving to God according to Psalm 29:1-2:
Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
1) The wise men invested money to worship
They travelled with a caravan of flocks and soldiers in order to worship the King in a distant land.
What we give to we worship. What we worship we give to. Jesus said, “Where your heart there will your money be” (Matthew 6:19-20). Look at your budget or check book or credit or debit card receipts. After the necessities of life: food, shelter, clothing, and transportation, what do we spend our money on? Recreation? Material possessions? God’s work?
2) The wise men gave time to worship
They traveled over a year to find and worship Christ the King. Herod in 2:7, asked the wise men what time they saw the star. Herod wanted to know how old his rival king was so that he could eliminate him as he attempted to do in 2:16.
A 20 year-old masked gunman dressed in black massacred 12 girls and 8 boys and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. on Friday. There had been only one homicide in ten years in this small community about 60 miles northeast of New York City. This is tragic and unthinkable for the parents of these twenty kids and the families of the six adults. People are asking, “How does this happen?” “How does this happen at Christmas?” “How does someone execute a six year old?”
The first Christmas massacre was when the wise men sought to find the King of the Jews and wicked king Herod sought to exterminate his rival by having all boys under the age of two murdered in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was located five miles south of Jerusalem and had a population of only 500 to 600 people. Probably about the same number of children were murdered by king Herod as were at Newtown, Conn.
“Evil visited this community today,” Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy said of Friday’s massacre. We have to remember that not only is Jesus the reason for the season, but sin is also the reason for the season. That is the reason Jesus was born and God was incarnate so He could go to the cross and die for our sins.
Who worships the Lord?
Not Herod. Herod invested no time or money in worshiping Christ. Not the religious teachers. These had knowledge but were unwilling to give time and money even to travel only 5 miles. They had knowledge and religious activities but were unconverted. The reason some do not worship the Lord is because they have not been converted by Him. It is possible to go to a house of worship and not worship.
The Ethiopian eunuch did not worship because he was unconverted according to Luke’s account in Acts 8:26-39.
3) Giving Money and Time have to be a lifestyle of worship
Worship must be a personal lifestyle during the week before it is a corporate act on Sunday.
MacArthur observed, “The source of most of the problems people have in their Christian lives relates to two things. Either they are not worshipping six days a week with life. Or they are not worshipping one day a week with the assembly of the saints. We need both.
A pastor went to see a man who didn’t attend church very faithfully. The man was sitting before a fireplace, watching the warm glow of the coals. It was a cold winter day but the coals were red hot, and the fire was warm. The pastor pleaded with the man to be more faithful in meeting with the people of God, but the man didn’t seem to be getting the message. So the pastor took the tongs beside the fireplace, pulled open the screen, and reached in and began to separate all the coals. When none of the coals was touching the others, he stood and watched in silence. In a matter of moments, they were all cold. “That’s what’s happening in your life,” he told the man. “As soon as you isolate yourself from God’s people, the fire goes out.” The man got the message (MacArthur. The Ultimate Priority, page 106).
How do we worship six days a week?
The wise men sought to worship Christ over a year before they actually bowed before Him and gave Him gifts.
There are two key words for worship in the N.T
1. Worship as in Matthew 2
2. Serve as in Matthew 4:10
a. Serving people as in Romans 14:18. How do we treat people during the week? If we are rude, stuck up, and unkind to people during the week, we are not going to worship on Sundays.
b. In Hebrews 13:15-16, our worship to God is closely related to how we treat people.
When we have worshipped during the week, by giving God our time and service and treating people properly, we can worship on Sunday.
Personal worship during the week feeds our corporate worship service. The more we worship six days a week, the more we will worship on Sunday. If we are not getting anything out of the worship on Sunday, then ask yourself, “Am I putting anything into my personal worship during the week?”
The wise men finally worship in Matthew 2:9-11. The star they had been following for months was the manifestation of God’s presence instead of a literal star. This presence of God directed them to the exact house Jesus was living in, something a literal star could not do. For over a year, the wise men had been in the presence of God. This was the same brilliant shining that led Israel by day and by night or the Shekinah glory of God. No wonder they worshipped when they finally saw Christ.
We believers today have something even greater than the wise men to prepare us for worship according to Peter’s testimony in 2 Peter 1:16-21. Here is how James Montgomery Boice explains our advantage:
Our experience parallels that of the wise men and shepherds at this point, but is actually superior to theirs. The shepherds received a vision of the glory of God, accompanied by angels. The wise men saw a star. But we have received the Scriptures, which are the very Word of God and are described to us as a “light shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). The context of that reference is interesting. It comes from the second letter of Peter and follows a section in which Peter has cited the fact that he was an eyewitness of the heavenly glory of Jesus Christ. He was one of those who was with Jesus on the mountain when He was transformed and a voice from God was heard, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). That experience of Peter (and James and John, who were with him) would compare quite favorably with the experience of the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem or that of the magi as they studied the heavens. Yet immediately after that Peter speaks of the Scripture as being even ‘more certain” and concludes: “You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (v. 19). In spite of his experience, Peter valued the written Word of God above everything (The Christ of Christmas, Moody Press: Chicago, page 78).
The light of God’s Word is greater than the star that directed the wise men or the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites by day and by night.
God’s Word is a light unto my feet and a lamp unto my feet. If we spend time in God’s Word, it will lead us to worship the Lord.