The Gospel Sync | #14 | Matthew 2:1-12, Luke 2:39a

When God Supplants Our Leadership

Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at Matthew 2:1-12 and Luke 2:39a and shedding light on how we should respond when as disciple makers we feel like God is taking the reins in the disciple-making relationship with others.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – Matthew 2:1-12, Luke 2:39a

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, and when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, (during the time of King Herod) Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of My people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called the Magi and learned from them the exact time the star had appeared. And sending them to Bethlehem, he said: “Go and search carefully for the Child, and when you find Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great delight. After coming into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they withdrew to their country by another way.


Let’s focus on Matthew 2:3 

When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 

King Herod, also known as Herod the Great, was an Edomite who fully embraced Hellenistic culture. Despite any potential Jewish ancestry resulting from interfamily relations, he did not show any significant adherence to the Jewish faith. Additionally, he exhibited a paranoid streak, as he executed three of his sons for alleged plotting against him, as per the accounts of Josephus. It would be safe to say that Herod saw any potential messiah as competition. 

The passage raises a more intriguing question: Why were the people of Jerusalem disturbed by the news of the Messiah’s arrival? After all, one might expect the Jewish people to be overjoyed at the prospect of the long-awaited Messiah. There could be several reasons for this reaction, and here are three possibilities that come to mind:

Political threat: King Herod, who was the ruler of Judea at the time, would have seen the birth of a new “king of the Jews” as a direct threat to his own authority and power. He would have been concerned that the Messiah would challenge his rule or seek to replace him as the king of Judea.

Social threat: The arrival of the Messiah was seen as a significant event that could potentially bring about huge changes in society. The people of Jerusalem may have been concerned about the potential disruption to the existing social order that the Messiah’s arrival could bring.

Religious threat: The religious leaders in Jerusalem could have been disturbed by the news of the Messiah’s birth because they may have seen it as a challenge to their own religious authority. They may have been concerned that the arrival of the Messiah would undermine their traditional teachings and practices (and ultimately Jesus did!).

Jesus Christ was a threat to their way of life. The government and the people of Jerusalem’s systems and life-styles would be seriously disrupted. News of the Messiah’s birth was only the beginning. Most people tend to be comfortable with the status quo and the established religious and political systems. And most people are reluctant to embrace change. The arrival of the Messiah would have represented a significant shift in leadership, as promised in the Scriptures; 

Listen to this Messianic prophecy in Micah 5.2 again;

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of My people Israel.’”

No wonder Herod and some others may not be so excited about the coming of the Messiah. Their leadership and life-style will be supplanted. 

Now this may seem like a completely ludicrous question, but as disciple makers are we in danger of competing with Jesus’ leadership in a person’s life? Will we be “disturbed” like Herod and the people if God chooses to supplant our leadership or lifestyle? 

To supplant means to take the place of something or someone else, often by force or through competition. It can refer to the displacement of an existing thing or person, or to the act of replacing something that is no longer effective or desirable with something new. The word can also suggest an element of unexpectedness or surprise, as the new thing may come from an unexpected source or be a departure from what was expected. Overall, to supplant is to replace or displace something or someone in a significant or impactful way. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus Christ the Lord has purposed to do in every man, woman, and child’s heart?

My Story

Many times I’ve had to bite my tongue when a person I was discipling said something I wouldn’t have said. I’ve had to stand idly by as they do something I wouldn’t have done. I’ve had to remind myself that when they drop the ultimate trump card; “God told me to…” that Jesus is their primary leader not me and step aside. 

Now I’m not talking about clear cut sin. We have every right and responsibility to step in and counter a “God told me so” statement or action when we know for sure it’s unbiblical. I’m talking about you having done your job as a disciple-maker and they are actually going to Jesus for direction rather than you! This can be scary.  You may feel like you’re losing influence. Or humbling, as they disagree with you and you’re supposed to be the “leader.” How should we respond when it looks like God is supplanting our leadership?

Our Action Plan

It may be helpful to remind ourselves of the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30) As mentors, our ultimate goal is to help the person we are guiding to grow in their relationship with God, even if it means taking a step back and allowing God to supplant our leadership. Here are a few possible responses:

Humility and Acceptance – We need to recognize that our time in leadership in those circumstances (or our influence all together) has come to an end and humbly accept God’s will, trusting that He has a plan for our life and the lives of others.

Gratitude and Support – We should feel relieved to be released from the burdens of leadership and grateful for the opportunity to step down and let Jesus lead. We may end up supporting a new leader in their lives and pray for God’s guidance in their future endeavors.

Confusion and Questioning – When our leadership is supplanted it may be unexpected or unclear, leaving us with questions and doubts about what happened and why. This is natural and perfectly normal. We need to seek God in prayer or maybe even seek counsel from others.

Avoid Resentment and Resistance – We need to steer clear of feeling a sense of injustice or disappointment at being removed from our leadership and resist the change, either by trying to maintain control or by lashing out at others.

Until next time, Keep Making Disciples of Jesus!

Author: Chuck & Deb

Chuck & Deb love Jesus!

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