Sermon – Matthew 2.1-12 (Epiphany observed – 2020)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You have given us the light of Your holy Word, the guiding star that leads us to the Christ-child: Send, we beseech You, Your Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we may receive this light and make use of it for our salvation, and that we, like the wise men, when they were seeking the star, may not be afraid because of any hardship or peril, but put all our trust in Your only-begotten Son as our only Savior, devote our earthly possessions to the advancement of Your kingdom, and in all things serve Him, Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,

 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

 6 `But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'”

 7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.

 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

 9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.

 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

It was an interesting situation. The king of the Jews, we’ll say the lower case “k” king of the Jews wasn’t a Jew. King Herod was a Idumean, a man from the Edomites, a descendant of Esau who was the twin brother of Jacob, or Israel as we also call him.

But there is the true and proper King, big “K” King of the Jews, who had been born in Bethlehem. And He was a Jew. He comes in fulfillment of the prophecy spoken of Him by Jacob, when he said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between His feet, until Shiloh comes.” At the time when a foreigner is occupying the throne, a true descendant of Judah is born who will pick up the scepter.

So this Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is the King of the Jews, so the Jews welcomed His coming, and submitted to Him right? Well, no, it didn’t quite turn out that way. Some did. For instance some shepherds came to worship Him. There were some who were waiting for Him, like Simeon and Anna. But then there were these foreigners that came and bowed before Him in worship, as subjects of His, and gave Him some gifts fit for a king.

It was kind of a mixed up situation. But what is the difference when we say that Herod was the king of the Jews, and Jesus is the King of the Jews? Let’s examine.

The wise men came from the East with their mission well determined. They were looking for the Messiah, the one born king of the Jews, in order that they may worship Him and give Him gifts. The star had made them known that the child has been born, and the star miraculously guided them to Judea. How they came to know that the star was a sign for the Child’s birth, and how they knew that this Child is the king of the Jews and that they should find Him we do not know. Scripture does not say. Perhaps, the promise and a prophecy had been passed down from them the prophet Daniel, who lived a few centuries earlier. We do not know.

But it’s interesting that these wise men of the Orient, important people wherever they’re from, they go to worship the King of another people. This is much too long of trip to be making any assumptions about this King. They go believing that this Jesus, born King of the Jews, is their king, too.

The star guides them as far as Judea. And the wise men go to the sensible place, the great city of Jerusalem. And there they go to Herod, the king presently ruling over the Jews, by all sights and sounds the king of the Jews. The wisemen do not pledge allegiance to him. He is not their king. But perhaps this king would know whats going on in his kingdom, or at least have the resources to find out the location of where this “King of the Jews” is born.

But this news troubles Herod. Though Herod made vast improvements to the Temple building and other structures under his authority, he was a wicked king. He was jealous and insecure. He executed one of his wives, and had three of his sons put to death. He is responsible for numerous other unjust executions, and also for the slaughter of the innocents of Bethlehem, which took place after the events of our gospel reading. So, when he heard that a child who is called “King of the Jews” was born, he was disturbed, and immediately had ill will toward Jesus. He sent the wisemen out to find Jesus in Bethlehem, and to bring back word to him about the location of the child.

When the wisemen went on their way, they saw the star again. They rejoiced exceedingly, because it was Jesus’ star and it was showing them the way to Him. And in some supernatural way, it brought them directly to the house where the Child was. They fell down in worship of the humble Child. They honor not a king, but their king.

I wonder if we think enough of the significance of this event: this King of the Jews is the King also of these foreigners. Maybe it is because we simply grew up with the fact that Jesus is the Savior of all people, which is good.

But we should ask this question. Can we lay claim to this King of Bethlehem as our own? What does Scripture say? Jesus is the Messiah, the One promised to the Jews. Jesus is born a Jew. He is the King of the Jews. He came to His own people, to save them. But then this example of the wisemen recorded for us in Scripture resounds to us the good news that this Jesus is for the Gentiles, too. He is for you!

Paul says in the Epistle reading for today, “Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith, and the uncircumcised through faith.” God also spoke through the prophet Isaiah, speaking to the Messiah, “I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6)

He that is born “King of the Jews” is our king, too. But we are also sinners! If only He knew our filthy sins of which we’re guilty. The wretched lusts of our flesh. The selfishness in our hearts. If He knew how I treated my spouse, my parents, my siblings. If He knew how lazy I was, how apathetic I was. If He knew these things, He would want nothing to do with me.

He knows it very well, for He has bore those very sins for you once long ago. And behold the star, His star, His holy word, guides you to Him. Through it the Holy Spirit calls you to come to Jesus in faith, to come before Him and fall before Him in worship, repenting of Your sins and receiving His mercy toward you. For He is a King born for you. His cross has removed from you your sins.

He is Your gracious King. And He calls all people to Himself. If only Herod would have joined the wisemen, and acknowledged Jesus as His king.

All, Jew or Gentile, who believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior can claim Him as their King. And He claims us as His own people. He is our King of Grace, our Savior. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is

Share this post