Jesus Is Our King
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The Visit of the Wise Men (Listen)
2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men1 from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose2 and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Who were the Magi?
They were not kings, at least not in the modern sense of the word. They served royalty but they themselves were not.
The term wise man is also probably not correct. The term the Bible uses is Magi. Magi were occultist, astrologers. They studied the skies and dreams for portents and signs.
They did probably come with camels. They did come from the East. We do not know there names. There may have been three of them or many more. They did bring Jesus gifts. They were not familiar with God’s word. They did know who Jesus is.
In short we know more about what we don’t know that about what we do know about them. We don’t know that much about them because Matthew simply doesn’t tell us that much about them. Matthew isn’t interested in telling us about the Magi. He is interested in telling who Jesus is not who the Magi are.
The Magi are here in this account to teach us something about Jesus, not about themselves. They are witnesses to the truth that His star has appeared. They are messengers proclaiming to Jerusalem the king has come. They are part of the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah 60, proving that Jesus is the one foretold.
Matthew does not tell us that much about the Magi because he is not interested that we should know who the Magi are. What he wants us to know is that Jesus is our king.
Epiphany means appearing or revealing, it is the revealing not of the Magi but of Jesus.
Jesus is the rising star
In our text the Magi say that they have “seen his star in the east.” The word for east anatolae can also mean rising. This is especially true when the word is used of heavenly bodies like the sun and stars. Hence it is quite possible that, and the ESV does translate it this way, the Magi said “when have seen the raising of His star.” This is just one more connection between our gospel reading and our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 60.
Isaiah 60:1 the glory of the LORD is risen upon you
Isaiah 60:3 Gentiles shall come to your light,
Isaiah 60:6 The multitude of camels . . . The dromedaries . . . shall come; They shall bring gold and incense, And they shall proclaim the praises of the LORD.
All these things are fulfilled in our text. Jesus is the rising star, the “dawning star from on high.” The Magi come to proclaim His star is risen and call all people to wake from slumber.
When it is night, we sleep and even if we can’t sleep it is hard to get a lot of work done and be productive. But with the rising of the sun, it is time to get up and get to work.
The people of Jerusalem and all of Judea were certainly slumbering as they waited for the coming of the Messiah, the arrival of the Magi and their announcement that the star of David had arisen should have been a powerful call for them to rise, awake and seek out the Savior. But they would not listen.
Christmas, the coming of the rising of Christ’s star, ought to be a wake up call to us as well. Not a holiday that is done and past but a call to rise from slumber. Shake off the dullness of last year and set our hearts and minds with joy to the work of the Lord that is before us in the year to come.
My Dad used to wake us in the morning with the most annoying rendition of “rise and shine and give God the glory.” I won’t sing it for you, but the message of that song is the wakeup call of Isaiah 60.
The morning star, the day spring, the star of Jacob has arisen. Wake from the slumber of lukewarm faith and seek out the Lord with all your heart.
He is the Shepherd
In verse 2 and 6 of our text Matthew quotes from Micah
Micah 5:2 2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
Micah 5:4 4 And He shall stand and feed His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God;
You may notice that the wording that Matthew uses is not the same as the wording in Micah. The English bible uses quotations marks indicating that this is a direct quotation. It is not. Matthew is more concerned with relaying the meaning of Micah five rather than the exact words. The fault is really with the English translators who treat it as a direct quote when it is not meant to be.
The meaning of the prophet Micah is quote clear. The people of God will be oppressed and scattered until God calls forth from the little town of Bethlehem the one who will be a true shepherd to His people. He shall stand and feed them as a shepherd.
Jesus says of the Israelites
Matthew 9:36 because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
John 6:58 58 “This is the bread which came down from heaven– not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
He is the shepherd who feeds His flock. We too become lost and separated as sheep wandering without a shepherd when we refuse to come to Him and be feed by Him. Those who will not gather regularly around His word and sacraments will not remain long as His sheep.
He is not hard to find. He is in every place where His name is taught and His word is preached in truth. He is feeding His sheep in every place where the sacraments are correctly administered.
Jesus is the shepherd who stands in the power of the Lord to feed His flock.
He is the king of All
Even though the Magi declare Him to be the “king of the Jews,” nevertheless they still offer him honor and gifts declaring that he is their king as well. They acknowledge that He is not only the king of the Israelites but of all who seek Him by faith.
Romans 9:7-8 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.
No matter what Pilate meant when he hung the title above Jesus. No matter what the leaders meant in our text when the quoted Micah F5. What did God meant when he declared Jesus “the King of the Jews?” He meant that Jesus was king to all who were children of Abraham by faith.
Daniel 7:14 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.
To them who accept Him by faith Jesus’ kingdom is eternal.
The wording the Magi use when they talk about Jesus is important. They do not say “born to be the King of the Jews,” nor “who will be the King of the Jews,” but rather they say He is born who is King of the Jews.
The eternal nature of Jesus rule is also emphasized by the prophet Micah who declares “Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
Jesus is our eternal king if we hear His word and believe in Him. This word can not enter our hearts by our own efforts, yet God has promised His Holy Spirit and His power so that this word will rise in our hearts. Just as we heard in our Children’s Sermon. By the power of God Jesus rules forever in our hearts.
Let us know stand and pray that we too may be children of God and that Jesus may be our king.