When Julie and I were married, I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about her. Forty-two years later, however, nothing could be further from the truth. My eyes are still being opened to new and wondrous things about my wife. More and more, I am convinced that I truly am a blessed husband.
In the same way, the longer I follow Jesus Christ, the more I find He still has plenty to reveal to me about Himself. Our special quest these next few weeks, which the Church calls the Season of Epiphany, will be to discover some revelations about Jesus, which are found in the Bible.
Now that Christmas has come and gone, it’s time to take a closer look at the central character of Christmas – Jesus Himself. Who is He? What does His arrival have to do with me? The title of our series is called “Jesus Revealed.” Our goal is to get to know Jesus better.
The first insight we learn about Him is found in Matthew chapter 2. After the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, perhaps several months after, some foreigners rode into Jerusalem, the capital city of Judea, with their entourage. They caused quite a bit of a stir among the locals. These men had come from the East, most likely some place like Persia or modern-day Iraq. They were Magi – Wise Men – who studied the stars and the movements of the planets. They had seen something in the sky, which caused them to make this very long trip to Jerusalem. One particular star stirred them into believing something big had happened: a king had been born, the King of the Jews.
So they asked, “Where is the child that has been born King of the Jews, for we have observed his star at its rising and have come to pay homage to him.” Upon seeing the star, they probably looked up some of the ancient Jewish writings and found a text about a special star, a prophecy of sorts in Numbers 24:17: “. . . a star will come out of Jacob, a scepter will rise out of Israel . . .” Their question caught the people by surprise for no one knew of the birth of a king. Herod was the only King they knew, and he had been in power for quite some time.
Soon the news of these Wise Men and their questions reached King Herod, and he was extremely troubled. A new threat to his throne had arrived perhaps. Some competition? Would there be a rebellion, would he be overthrown? If Herod ain’t happy, no one is happy. So the host city was troubled right along with Herod because this could mean trouble for them. What action would Herod take against the citizenry if he thought a plot to over throw him was being hatched? Everyone knew how paranoid, cruel, and violent Herod could be.
Herod called together the local religious experts – the priests and the scribes – and asked them where the promised Christ of Israel was to be born. According to God’s Word in Micah, they answered, the answer is Bethlehem, which is only about five miles down the road. That is the city of King David, his birthplace. Herod passed this information along to the Wise Men and cunningly asked when exactly they had seen the star rise so he might know how old this child might be by now. Then he asked them to return to him so he, too, could pay homage to this King.
Of course, we know that is not what Herod had in mind. He was already plotting to eliminate this threat. Later on, he would have all the boys in Bethlehem two years old and under killed.
The Wise Men went on their way with this information. As they stepped down the road toward Bethlehem, the star reappeared and directed them to the place where Jesus was. When they saw the Child, they knelt before Him and paid Him homage. They bowed in reverent obeisance to this King and gave Him gifts fit for a king.
What is the main thought being revealed to us about Jesus in the story? He is royalty! He is a King. Through their worship and splendid gifts, we see a signal that in Jesus is a kingship beyond all kingships, just as promised in ancient Scripture for the last times. This child, who was born in a stable, is the King. He is the King of Israel. As the Christmas Carol says, “Noel, noel. Born is the King of Israel.”
He is the Anointed One, the Christ, the One they had been longing for, waiting for, hoping and praying for, the Messiah from David’s lineage who would rescue them and rule over them. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
We also learn He is King of the nations – all the nations. These men who, came to pay homage, were outsiders, foreigners, non-Jews worshiping Him as a divine King. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah talked of this event. He described the King as a light. All the nations and kings of the nations would come to Him, give Him gifts, and pay homage to Him.
He is the Shepherd King according to Micah 5:2. Born in Bethlehem, the birthplace of David, the first shepherd king. Bethlehem is now the birthplace of the last Shepherd King – Jesus – the One they had been longing for. Later He will declare He is the Good Shepherd who will lay down His life for the sheep (for His people). He will allow Himself to be nailed to a cross in order to rescue us from humankind’s greatest problem: sin and its consequences – death.
Finally, Jesus is the eternal King.
Note: there are two kings in the story: Herod and Jesus. Later on in the same chapter, Herod dies and is entombed somewhere. Yet the Babe of Bethlehem is alive and well. He is resurrected and seated at the right hand of God with all power and authority over this whole universe. He is enthroned as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is coming again in majesty, glory, and power to claim this world once and for all. On that day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.
You have a King! Is He your King? What are you doing with this King?
Over the centuries, attitudes toward this King have been divided, just like in our story for today, which gives us a foretaste of the future to come as people respond to Jesus the King. Some have rejected Him, like Herod did who was threatened by Him. I don’t want anyone taking over, Herod thought to himself. Likewise, we have a little Herod in each one of us. I don’t want anyone telling me how to run my life. I want to be on the throne. I want control. I want to run my own life and be captain of my own destiny. Our hearts are naturally that way ever since the sin in the garden of Eden. We want to be our own gods, and so we’re hostile toward God.
Some are indifferent toward this King, like the priests and scribes in our story for today who didn’t even bother making the five-mile trip down the road to see Messiah. Can you believe it? Was it indifference? Was it unbelief that kept them at home doing the same old thing, basically ignoring what they had heard, hanging onto their familiar religion and ways?
Yet many treat Jesus as their King. (Do you?) They kneel before Him, submit to Him, yield control of their lives to His authority. They declare their willingness to not only trust Him with their lives, but to also serve and obey Him. They declare their allegiance and loyalty to Him. His word carries weight in their lives. What the King says is truth. What the King says goes for me.
For instance, Paul in his New Testament letters, would sometimes say of himself, “Paul, a servant of Jesus the Christ, the King.” Martin Luther, in the second article of his small catechism, writes about Jesus. “He has done all this (going to the cross and rising again) in order that I may belong to him, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.”
People struggle with the thought of submission to anyone, even to Christ. They are hesitant to give Him absolute sway and control over life. Can I really trust Him with my life? I’m afraid He’ll wreck it. I am doing okay without Him. He can be on my board of directors, but He is just one vote among many; that won’t hurt. But give Him control? Obey Him unquestioningly? I don’t know.
My response to those who say or think something like this is: Look at the cross with the Savior upon it, your King! See His love for you. Can’t you trust the One who would do something like that for you?
Treating Him as King, they not only submit to Him, they also give Christ their best. They give gifts fit for a King like those Wise Men did – their assets, their hands and feet, their voice, their skills and talents and energies – all for His purposes. These gifts are given not out of an obligation, but out of love and gratitude for all He has done for them at the cross and the grave, changing their lives for the better as they walk with Him. They live by the verse, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord Jesus not for men” (Col. 3:23).
A few years ago I came across an interesting illustration, which was shared by Howard Hendrix, a Christian educator. He had been sitting in a plane that was delayed for takeoff. After a long wait, the passengers became more and more irritated. Hendrix noticed how gracious one of the flight attendants was as she spoke with them. After the plane finally took off, he told the flight attendant how amazed he was at her poise and self-control, and said he wanted to write a letter of commendation for her to the airline. The flight attendant replied that she didn’t work for the airline company but for Jesus Christ. She said that just before going to work, she and her husband prayed she would be a good representative of Christ.
This is an example of someone giving their best to the King.
Our good news for today is simply this: you have a King in Jesus Christ. Treat Him as your King. Bow before Him. Trust Him with your life. Live under Him in His kingdom serving and obeying Him. Give Him your very best – not out of obligation but out of love for the King who first loved you. Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer