“Where Is He Who Has Been Born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Friday, January 6, 2023

“Where Is He Who Has Been Born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:1-12)

Today is the Epiphany of Our Lord, a major festival in the church year. Epiphany always falls on January 6, right after the twelve days of Christmas. The Holy Gospel for this day always is the story of the visit of the wise men, as found in Matthew chapter 2. And the question that the wise men ask gives us the theme for our message today: “Where Is He Who Has Been Born King of the Jews?”

These wise men from the east come to Jerusalem, the capital of the nation of Israel. There they ask that question: “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” This question about a newborn king of the Jews does not sit well with the current king, Herod the Great. He wants to eradicate this threat to his power. So he comes up with a scheme that will lead him to this infant usurper, so he can then get him out of the way. Herod will use the wise men to locate the child for him, on the pretense that he too wants to go and worship him. “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” Of course, what Herod really wants to do is to kill the child. Look, the powers of this world do not like it when their authority is threatened. They will go to extreme lengths to prevent it and to snuff the threat out.

And so the wise men set out to find the one born king of the Jews. The prophecies say that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, and so to Bethlehem they are sent. They’re guided by the star God provided to lead them to the place where the child is. “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” That’s a lot of joy! Notice, it doesn’t just say, “they rejoiced.” It doesn’t just say, “they rejoiced exceedingly.” It doesn’t even say, “they rejoiced exceedingly with joy.” No, it says, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Why such exceedingly great joy? Because the star is leading them to an exceedingly great Savior! The prophecies of the Messiah to come tell of one who will be king not only of the Jews but also of the Gentiles. These wise men, visitors from the pagan lands to the east–they too will be included in the Messiah’s kingdom of blessing and salvation. They find the infant king and fall down and worship him. “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Costly gifts. Gifts fit for a king.

This child, the Christ child, is the world’s true king. The powers of this world think that they are in charge, and so they want to get Christ out of the picture. That’s what Herod tried, wasn’t it? But God had other plans. The wise men were warned not to return to Herod. So then Herod tried plan B. He had all the baby boys in Bethlehem slaughtered, figuring he’d get the one born king of the Jews killed in the process. But that didn’t work either. God had other plans.

The rulers of this world assert their power, and they persecute those who worship the Christ. They make their plans and their schemes, but in the end they will not prevail. As the psalmist says: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”

Well, even so, even though they will not triumph in the end, the powers of this world lash out at those who belong to Christ. We seem threatening to them, because we do not bow the knee to their supposed superiority. The god of this world right now, at least in Europe and North America, is secularism, which means living without particular religious beliefs and practices. “Organized religion” is seen as the great enemy. That’s a put-down, by the way. “Oh, I don’t believe in organized religion.” See, it’s okay to be “spiritual,” whatever that means, but “religious”? That’s bad!

So Christians, because we make church a priority . . . because we believe in moral standards of right and wrong and we call sin “sin” . . . because we do not worship the gods that the world worships, false gods like money or entertainment or pleasure . . . because we believe that Judgment Day is coming and that there is only one Savior who can help us on that day, and that this Savior is Jesus Christ–for all these reasons, the world hates us and wants to at least marginalize and mock us and cancel us, if not outright imprison us or kill us. By our very existence we are challenging their authority. The fact that, like the wise men, we worship and bow down only to King Jesus–this is seen as a threat by the powers that be.

But we know a king who is greater than all the kings of this world, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the only king we worship. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Friends, take refuge in Christ, the Son of God. He will protect you. The world will do its worst, but Christ Jesus will do his best. And his best is exactly what you need.

Think of what Jesus has already done for you! The one whom the wise men called “king of the Jews,” when would he be called with that title again? The one born king of the Jews will die as the “king of the Jews.” That’s the title Pilate placed over Jesus’ head when he was crucified: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” So our question: “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” On a cross. You can find this king hanging on a cross, wearing a crown of thorns. There you will see your Savior, shedding his holy blood to win your forgiveness and your salvation.

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” You can look in a tomb, but you won’t find him there. This king triumphs over death and the grave. Our king is alive, and he is reigning forever. And he will share with you, you who are baptized into Christ–he will share with you his resurrection unto eternal life.

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” Go where you can be sure to find him, where he has promised to be. And that would be right here, in church and at this altar. This is where Jesus has promised to be present, where his Christians are gathered in his name. Here our Lord gives you his very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. And “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

Now that’s something to rejoice over, isn’t it? The wise men, when they saw the star, “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Likewise, when we see with the eyes of faith all that God has done and will do for us in Christ, we too rejoice exceedingly with great joy.

The Herods of this world will do their worst, but Christ has done and will do his best for us. The world will label us with all sorts of nasty names: “kooks,” “weirdos,” “religious extremists.” But God will call us his own dear children, and I’m more than okay with that. The world will say we’re “out of step with the times.” Well, fine, I’ll take that too. I’m glad I’m out of step with the times! Christians will always be out of step with the world’s misguided values. It comes with the territory. Get used to it.

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” He’s right here with us, brothers and sisters. Here where God has led us, by the star of his word, to find our Messiah. Here where, having found him, we now worship the one born king of the Jews. This Jesus is king, not only of the Jews, but also of us Gentiles. He is the world’s one true king. However, you and I, because we acknowledge and worship only the one true king, Jesus Christ–we present a challenge to all the false kings of this world. They feel threatened by us. But we feel greatly comforted, comforted by Christ. And so we rejoice exceedingly with great joy, for God’s grace is shining upon us like a star, shining with the light of life, leading us to where our true king is.

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Published in: on January 6, 2023 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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