The King Of The Jews

Matthew 2:1-12

We three king of Orient are

Bearing gifts we traverse afar

Field and fountain moor and mountain

Following yonder star

We three kings, we three kings

 

I am sure you recognise what these words are. They are the words of the first stanza of the Christmas hymn; We Three Kings written by John H. Hopkins who was born in 1820 and died in 1891. These are words narrating the events of Matthew Chapter 2; i.e. the visit of the wise men two years after Christ was born (v.18)

Now traditionally, it is believed that the wise men who visited Jesus were three. In fact, tradition has further given them names: Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. But all these are based on assumptions. The Scriptures didn’t give us such details. How did we even think they were three? Apart from tradition, I think it is possible that this has come from the gifts they presented: gold, frankincense and myrrh. In fact, we don’t know the numbers involved. But it will suffice for us that wise men visited Jesus. And we can work with that.

The title for this sermon is The King of The Jews, We will work through this title under 3 subtitles The Reality of The Events, The Reign of a New King and The Response To The New King

These will form the map through which we will navigate the text. Firstly,

The Reality Of The Events

The reality of Christ’s birth and the events. You may ask, “Is this something to even argue about?”. Hasn’t that been long established in human and church history? Do we have to belabour this point? Indeed it is necessary to argue this point because not everyone believes in the person of Jesus Christ like you and I do. There are indeed people who don’t believe in a historical Jesus. Just head to the internet and you will find volumes written about the subject: both for and against.

When you look at the Scripture we read, there is certain information we must not gloss over. The narrative before us is a historical narrative and we will shortly consider that. Note certain markers in the text which marks the historicity of the texts. The events we read here are indeed historical events.

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea”. This is geography. This locates the events to a particular place. Bethlehem is not a fictional place. Bethlehem is a real place that can be located and plotted on a map. In the Bible, Bethlehem was first mentioned in Genesis 35:19 where Rachel died and was buried. Bethlehem was a subject of biblical prophecy where the Messiah was to be born. And we see this clearly stated in the text (vv.3-6). The prophecy is from Michah 5:2

Bethlehem (house of bread) one of the oldest towns in Palestine, already in existence at the time of Jacob’s return to the country. It’s earliest name was Ephrath or Ephratah (Genesis 35:16, 19; 48:7). The book of Ruth is a page from the domestic history of Bethlehem. It was the home of Ruth and of David…The Modern town of Bethlehem lies to the east of the main road from Jesrusalem to Hebron (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

Another historical marker we note is that “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King” “In the days of”. This also places a date to the event of Christ’s birth. Herod was a family of Kings and six are recorded in the Biblical narrative ( Herod The Great, Herod Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Herod Philip The Tetrarch, Herod Agrippa 1, Herod Agrippa 11).

The Herod we are interested in is Herod The Great. He is the one mentioned in our text. He is noted to have reigned from 37–4 B.C. Available records indicate he was a ruthless king. He killed his own wife, some of his sons and even relatives. It was under the reign of this guy that Jesus was born.

Finally, on the reality of the events, we note another geographical information: “Wisemen from the east.” The phrase Wisemen is a broad category that identifies a group of people: astrologers, magicians, interpreters of dreams, sorcerers, religious men occupied with the interpretation of sacred writings etc.

Now, we are not to impose our modern understanding of magicians for example on these people. The Greek word magi, in a sense, presents them as scientists (of course of their times). In the book of Daniel, we see these categories of Wiseman clearly listed. When Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, he summoned “…that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the KIng his dream” (Daniel 2:2). If you remember or know the story of Daniel, all these groups of people were called Wisemen; Daniel included. The east is also identified as place in the region of then Babylon and Persia which are present-day cities in Iraq.

What’s the point of all these? The events of the birth of Christ are not fictional events. They are real events. Christ was born. God fulfilled the promise of a Saviour to his people. The birth of Christ is a fulfilment of prophecy.

When the gospel writers wrote, they were not writing fiction. They wrote things they either directly witnessed or got records from eyewitness accounts. Luke’s account of the life of Jesus expresses these so well. He describes his gospel as an orderly account. No guess works. No fictional characters. The historian that he was, he gathered his material. He did his research, he spoke to witnesses. He wrote with one agenda in mind: produce certainty of the Christian facts in the mind of his reader Theophilus and by extension us (Luke 1:1-5).

The Reign Of A New King

What did the wise men go looking for? They went looking for a King: “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews (v.2). This child they were looking for was no mere baby. He was a King.

The wise men came looking for a King. And obviously, it makes sense that their first stop was at the palace of Herod. If the one who is born is a King, then he must be of royal descent. Yes, he is of Royal Descent, but he is not from the root of the current King. Herod was not a Jew. Herod was a foreigner. And when we traced the genealogy of Jesus Christ is the first in the series, we traced his root to King David and identified him as coming from a lineage of Kings. It is the throne of King David this child is going to reign on as prophesied by the Scriptures. And this throne is an everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-33).

For this King to have an everlasting Kingdom, means he himself must be eternal. He has no beginning and no end. This King has a Kingdom made up of those who have come to believe in him (John 3:3;5). As a King, he reigns in the hearts and lives of his people. Note that there are two kings in the narrative. Herod and Jesus. Herod’s Kingdom is earthly and transient. Jesus’ KIngdom is heavenly and everlasting. His Kingdom shall never end. Earthly kingdoms shall come and go. Jesus’ Kingdom remains.

Look at v.19 “But when Herod died…” This is the one who sought the life of the newborn King. He died. Herod died. Herod is a mere mortal. Herod’s life has an expiry date. Herod’s kingdom is limited in power. Herod died! But this King Jesus lives on forever and he said all power and authority has been given to him (Matthew 28:18). “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever.” (Revelation 11:15). We are citizens of an everlasting Kingdom. The King is our father. And nothing in this world can shake his kingdom. Whatever happens in our lives, the King of this unshakable Kingdom is on our side. We can have hope.

The Response To The New King

There are two contrasting responses to the Birth of the King. The contrast is there in the vv. 2 & 3 “ have come to worship him.”: The wise men responded to the birth of Christ with reverence. They came to worship him. They came to adore him. They brought gifts to him. This is reverence. This is faith. Note the fact that they came to worship him tells something of who Christ is. Worship is given to only Deity. It means that they only did not see Christ as King, but he was divine.

This is not a mere child. This is a king. This is God manifested in the flesh.

“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” This is the second contrast and  such a big contrast between the wise men response and that of Herod and the nobles in Jerusalem. They were afraid. Herod feels threatened. Herod was not threatened by an army or an army general. He is threatened by this child.

To feel threatened by Christ is a sign of rejection of his rule over us. It is a statement that we are okay in our sins and will want to continue with them. It is an indication that we will have nothing to do with Christ.

The reality of Christ’s life and his reign as King demands a response. We will either worship him or reject him. We will either come to him in faith or turn away from him in fear. Christ doesn’t threaten our lives when we submit to him. Rather he releases from fear bringing us into his Kingdom

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