Who is King?
It being the holiday season, we are going to not only hear the story of Matthew 2 repeated, but we’ll also see a variety of Nativity Scenes depicting part of this story. We are all familiar with the basic plot points: wise men show up to bring gifts to the baby king, Herod gets jealous and kills the toddlers in Bethlehem while Jesus, Mary and Joseph had fled to Egypt and returning to Nazareth when the coast was clear.
However, as Paul Harvey would say, it’s time for the “rest of the story.” In Matthew 1, the Gospel writer is trying to establish Jesus as the King of the Jews. After all, Jesus is in the line of David through whom God made an irrevocable covenant in 2 Samuel 7. Matthew will also provide many OT prophecies and allusions pointing to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Messianic expectation.
If we were first century Jews sitting around the fire reading Matthew 2, many elements would jump off the page. First and foremost, Herod was not a nice guy. “Herod was a mean, paranoid, narcissist—‘After frequent disputes with Caesar Augustus, the emperor uttered his famous pun that he would rather be Herod’s pig (hys) than his son (huios)’” (NAC). Why? Because it is known through extra-biblical sources that this Herod (yes, there were other Herod’s) put many people to death, including immediate family members, who he thought were trying to usurp his throne. How ironic is it, then, for three (maybe) Persian (probably) wise men to show up bringing gifts to a “new” king of the Jews. This is like walking up to a uniformed police officer offering to sell scalped tickets—bad idea.
Matthew does a great job pointing to Jesus’ kingship. However, what I want to focus on are the reactions—the same reactions we find toward Jesus today. Herod, when he heard about Jesus, reacted with worry and rejection. He immediately began plotting how to preserve his power and prominence.
The wise men, however, reacted with worship. Looking at the gifts they brought, these items were not what one would give to a carpenter’s son, they are gifts for royalty. We love to break them apart—the gold symbolizes Jesus purity and perfection, frankincense points to God’s presence like the incense in the temple, and myrrh was used for embalming, pointing to Jesus’ death. While that may have been in the mind of the wise men, we don’t really know. What we can definitively say is that these items were hugely expensive, expensive enough to provide a family of three enough wealth to travel to Egypt for a number of years to hide.
The question we should be asking ourselves from this story is, who is the king of my life? If Jesus is king of my life, it’s going to cost something—comfort, control, acceptance from peers, or maybe even my life. What does it look like for Jesus to be king of your life? That’s the question we should be asking ourselves each day.
In God’s timing, funny as it often is, you all will be reading this the day before I go to teach this exact passage to a group of college students. I’d love it if those who read this would take a second and hit the “leave a comment” button and answer this question, “Wherever you’re at in your life right now, what would you want a bunch of college students to know about making Jesus King of their lives?” I’d love to get 100% response on this. Keep it short because I don’t have much time. I think it will be really neat for them to get to hear the wisdom from the Body of Christ! I look forward to reading your responses.
By: Tyler Short