TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church
We’re in our series on the life of Christ from all 4 gospels and this morning we are in Matthew chapter 2 for our message titled – “TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS.” Each year, the first couple of Sundays in November are designated as a day of prayer for the persecuted church all over the world. We in America take so much for granted but there are people all over the world who cannot do what you are doing right now – hold your Bible, pray, and meet as a church.
Matthew 2 19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Context – Back on July 19 of this year when people in America were deciding whether to go to the beach or to the mountains, something quite different was happening in the city of Mosul, Iraq and the surrounding areas near Nineveh. Christians were being given an ultimatum – leave the city or pay the tax (Jizya) or die by the sword. The very next day ISIS terrorists went around the city of Mosul and spray-painted the Arabic letter N – looks like a smiley face with one eye – on the homes of every Assyrian Christian. It was just like when the Nazis marked the homes and businesses of the Jewish people with the Star of David. Why did they do that? The Arabic word for Christian is Nasrani and this was their way of marking the Christians. What did these Assyrian Christians do next? They began to change their profile pictures to the Arabic letter N. They began to make T-shirts with the Arabic letter N. They began to protest all over the world. Very soon even Christians who were not Assyrians began changing their profile pictures to the Arabic N. I’m sure you saw that but probably didn’t know what was going on. Sadly, it did not stop the ISIS terrorists from killing Christians in northern Iraq and northern Syria. Men, women, and even children were brutally beheaded.
What does all this have to do with the passage we just read? Go back to verse 23 “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” In his earthly ministry, Jesus was called a Nazarene and His disciples were known as the followers of the Nazarene. When Paul was being accused before Governor Felix in Acts 24, listen to what they said in verse 5 “For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” In fact, through the centuries Nazarene became the designation for Christians, especially in the Middle East. Nasrani is just the Arabic form of Nazarene. When the terrorists spray-painted N on the doors, they were declaring war against all the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
Christians in America have blinders on. We think – “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s tragic but it’s not my problem. After all, what can I do? It’s for the politicians and the armed forces. In the process more and more of our brothers and sisters are being killed everyday. In the process we are losing the battle on the home front. In the process we are failing in the mission God has given us.
Application: Do we care about what’s happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world? What are we doing to ensure that what is happening in Mosul and Iraq and Syria and for that matter in Iran, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Kazakhstan won’t happen again? There’s a greater question – what are we doing to make sure that it will not happen in our own country? Are you a Christian? Then you are a Nazarene, follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Is there enough evidence for those terrorists to spray paint your house with an N? Do you know the cost for following Jesus of Nazareth?
This morning we will look at this passage and we will also look at what we need to do as followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
I. GENERATIONAL HATE
19 Now when Herod was dead…
Background: Herod tried to kill the baby Jesus and in the process massacred every male child in Bethlehem and the surrounding districts 2 years old and younger. He died with hate in his heart. As you heard previously, he killed his own son just 5 days before his death. If I can make an important statement – “How you live is how you die.” If you don’t live a righteous life, don’t expect a righteous death. If you don’t live a Christ honoring life, don’t expect a Christ honoring death.
For e.g. Nicole’s dad was a caring pastor. I learned a lot from him. The last time I saw him, he said to me – “Call so and so (a very famous pastor). He is my good friend. Tell him I told you to. He’ll take care of you. I’m sorry I may not be able to help.” I never had to. God had other plans.
For e.g. I was on a hospital visitation one time and people were crying, this man was hooked up to all these machines but still alive enough to talk to his family. He was cursing, didn’t care I was there. His main concern – “get the lawnmower out of the rain.”
After Herod’s death, when Joseph thought that it was safe to head back, listen to verse 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.
Background: What’s the deal with Archelaus? After Herod died, his kingdom was divided between three of his sons – Judea/Samaria went to Archelaus; Galilee and Perea (east of the Jordan) went to Antipas; and the northern part of Herod’s kingdom went to Philip. Archelaus was just as unpopular as his father plus he didn’t have any political savvy and the people hated him. In fact, he began his reign by killing 3000 people who had gathered to celebrate Passover. Even Herod didn’t do something that drastic!
Let me make another statement – “what you as parents do in moderation, your children will do in excess.” If you have been mean, bitter, cantankerous, envious, angry, and busybody, your children will supersede you and every one of them. If you have denied Christ, your children will persecute others for claiming Christ. What’s happening in the Middle East is a product of generational disobedience.
Let me add another statement – “you don’t have to follow in the bad footsteps of your parents.” By the grace of God, you can break the chain. By the help of the Holy Spirit, you can chart a different course. There is no such thing as a generational curse.
For e.g. My father was a Muslim who became a Christian. He lost it all but he paid the price and today I’m serving Jesus Christ. He broke the generational cycle.
Application: Are you walking with Christ? Do your children and grandchildren see you walking with God? Are you breaking the cycle of generational hate for God. My job as a pastor is to help train you and especially your children and your grandchildren to make sure that Christians don’t become a minority in America. My desire is to see them capture politics and every important position that will chart the course of our nation. When Christianity leads, every person regardless of color and religion, has freedom. Are we doing enough? Are you doing enough?
II. GENTLE KING
23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth…
Background: Instead of going to Judea in the South, Joseph took Mary and the infant Jesus to Galilee in the north, to the town of Nazareth. It was a very small village with a population of 150 – 200 people. Like we would say today – “if you blink, you’ll miss it.”
But Matthew adds something else in verse 23 “…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” We have a problem – you can read the entire Old Testament and you will never find the prophecy “he shall be called a Nazarene.” Do you remember when Philip invited Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus? John 1 45 …“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Meaning: That worthless place?!! If it was in the Old Testament, Nathaniel would’ve said, “Oh really.”
Even though the prophets never used the name “Nazarene,” there was always the understanding that the Messiah would be GENTLE NOT FORCEFUL. Hence, He would be unrecognized, ridiculed, and rejected.
Zechariah 9:9 “…Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Psalm 22 6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me…”
Psalm 69 4 Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, Being my enemies wrongfully; Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it… 20 “…I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none…”
Isaiah 53 2 “…He has no form or comeliness; (from Old English ‘cymlic’ that means lovely or beautiful) And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”
For e.g. When my father told his father that he was following Jesus Christ, he reminded him of the great family heritage we had – generation of rulers and kings and conquerors. Then he told him – “This Jesus was just a beggar. If you follow Him, you will end up a beggar and it will be up to me to receive you back or not.”
The world is offended at the Gentle King. Why did He not come with all the pomp and show? He came as the gentle Lamb of God to give His life for us. Hence some people have hated Him.
Application: What is your response to this Gentle King? Pride, Ridicule, Anger, or Humble submission.
III. GENUINE POWER
In the Book of Acts, the name “Jesus of Nazareth” was name of power.
In Preaching – Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—
In Miracles – Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
In Saving Souls – Acts 22 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 So I answered, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’
This is the name that will save our world and our nation and our community today.