On your birthday I’m sure you open a few presents. I know I do! If you think about it, the gifts you open on your birthday say a lot about who you are. So much so that if we were to take a field trip to your house and look at the gifts you received, we’d be able to tell what you are interested in, what your hobbies are, and even what type of work you do.
So for instance, my Dad usually receives either some jeans, a tool of some sort, a gift card for Home Depot, a new baseball hat, bat, cleats, or a glove on his birthday. He receives one of those things because my Dad likes to play softball and he remodels houses. So you can see that the gifts we receive say a lot about who we are.
That’s not just true today. It was also true in Jesus’ day. Which means that the gifts He received after His birth tell us a lot about who He is. But they don’t just tell us who Jesus is, they also tell us how we should respond to Jesus. So who is Jesus and how should we respond to Him?
Who is Jesus and How Should We Respond to Him?
So far, in our series, we’ve learned that Jesus is a Prophet and a Priest, but there is one more role we need to explore. The Magi’s gifts reveal that role to us.
Who Do the Magi Reveal Jesus to Be?
We pick up the Magi or Wisemen, whatever you want to call them, in Matthew chapter 2. Matthew begins in verse 1 by telling us that,
“…After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”” (Mt 2:1–2)
The Magi were most likely Gentiles of high position. As their name indicates, they were specialists in astronomy — stargazers.
As they gazed into the dark night sky, they saw a star they had never seen before. Somehow they knew that this star was the one that would lead them to the king of the Jews. God may have revealed that to them through special revelation. Or somehow they had contact with the Scriptures and were able to discern this fact. Some commentators think Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 could be that Scripture. That is a possibility especially when you consider what it says.
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.” (Nu 24:17)
But all of that is just conjecture. Ultimately we don’t know how they knew, but they did.
Seeing that star in the night sky, they saddled up and began to follow it. It led them to Jerusalem, where they started asking around about the King of the Jews. Their questions unsettled those living in Jerusalem at this time.
Herod was the king, and let’s just say he was more than a little crazy and paranoid. History tells us that he had one of his wives and two of his sons killed because he thought they were plotting to steal his throne from him. So when these foreigners rolled into town and starting asking where the King of the Jews was, everyone was troubled, including Herod.
Wondering who this king is, Herod called the Chief priests and Scribes together. Essentially he assembled a scriptural dream team to figure out where the Christ would be born. This dream team ends up pointing him to Micah 5:2, which Matthew quotes for us in verse 6. The text says,
““ ‘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.’ ”” (Mt 2:6)
Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, which is not too far from Jerusalem. Herod now knows where Jesus should be, but he doesn’t know how old He should be. So he calls the Wise Men or Magi to the kingdom, and he asks them what time the star had appeared. The Magi didn’t know that Herod was up to no good, so they told him. With that last piece of information, Herod now knows how old Jesus is and where He should be.
Now, if you are familiar with the story, you know that’s not true. Herod didn’t want to worship Jesus. He wanted to kill him in order to protect his throne, but the wise men didn’t know so they agreed to bring Jesus back. We aren’t going to get into it in this post, but know that God does reveal Herod’s plan to the Wisemen, so they don’t try to bring Jesus back. I encourage you to read the rest of the story to see how that plays out. But for now, let’s pick back up in verse 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. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. (Mt 2:9–11a)
Finally, after such a long journey the Magi had found Jesus. And finding him, they did what we should all do — they fell down and worshipped Him.
After falling down on their knees to worship Jesus, we are told in the second half of verse 11 that:
“…opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Mt 2:11b)
The Durham’s, who are Jen and I’s friends from seminary, bought a new house this last year and they had us over a few months back to show us their new home.
Since it was our first time there, we brought them a house warming gift. I wish I could tell you we brought them gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but I can’t. It’s not that I wouldn’t if I could, it’s just that those are expensive gifts. Gifts that are reserved for a King. While I think highly of the Durham’s, they aren’t royalty.
But Jesus is — He is a King; the King. We not only know that from the narrative, but we also know that from the gifts the Magi brought.
All this tells us, then, that Jesus not only serves as a Prophet and Priest but He also serves as a King.
A Foreign Rule
Now, probably for most of us, the idea of living under the rule of a king is foreign. We live in the United States. We don’t have a king. We have a President that is voted into office every 4 years. So I think it is safe to say that if we want to know what it’s like to live under a king, we would have to take a trip. If we were to do that, if we were to travel to a place ruled by a king, we’d find that a king is someone who has absolute rule. What they say goes. There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s. There are no votes. The king makes all the decisions. He sets all the rules. Those in the kingdom are expected to follow them.
The same is true of Jesus. As a King, He has the right to reign and rule over His kingdom just like any other king. I think this is where we get hung up. You see, most of us are happy for Jesus to serve as a Prophet who pronounces the good news of salvation, and even as a Priest who mediates on our behalf, but we aren’t willing to call Jesus King. We aren’t willing to do that because we want to be in control. We want to call the shots. We want to be the king.
So instead of submitting to Jesus as King, allowing Him to reign and rule over our life, we reject Jesus as King while trying to keep Him as Savior. We do that because we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to be saved from eternal punishment, but still get to call the shots. While that might sound like a good idea, it’s not. We will explore why that is in my next post.
Question for Reflection
- Do you recognize Jesus as King?
Post adapted from my sermon Jesus as King