Matthew 2: Seeking the King, Following the Star

Introduction – the Thai King

The last two months, I was in India, for my first time.
I was studying Indian religions and culture.
I learnt about some wise men in India.
Today we are reading about wise men coming to Jesus,
so I’m wearing my Indian clothes,
hopefully I look like a wise man from the East!
 
On the way back, last week I was in Bangkok, Thailand.  Is anyone here from Thailand?
It was the 80th birthday of his Royal Highness the Thai King.
He has been King for 61 years – the longest-ruling King in the world.
He is a very good King.  He cares for his people and works very hard for them.
He got rid of many diseases.
He is a musician – he plays the saxophone, and writes jazz music.
When he was younger, he used to win boat races. 
And he walked a long way in the mountains of Thailand, to visit his most far away people.
The Thai people love their King, and he loves them.
 

Good King David

I was sitting on the Thai Airways flight watching videos & reading the magazine about the Thai King.
I got quite excited!
Because it sounded just like another King in the Bible 3000 years ago.
King David
 
King David was also a good King. 
He loved God, and he looked after the people of Israel. 
He was strong – he was a shepherd looking after sheep.
he could fight off lions and bears.  He killed the giant Goliath.
Like the Thai King, he was a musician-he played the harp, and wrote many songs.
 
Thinking about the King of Thailand, and the King of Israel, David, I remembered a third King.
God promised, that one day, another King, like David would come.
the great-great-great-great-great-great-etc (>28 greats!) grand son of King David
We saw this in Matthew chapter 1
the Messiah, God’s great King, who would save his people
 
But King David died, 100s of years passed, the Jewish people became unhappy.
Everyone was waiting for this king, and wishing he would come to save them.
Well, not quite every one:
 

Bad King Herod

At the time of Jesus, another King ruled over Israel.
King Herod.
King Herod was the opposite of King David – look at this table (1st 2 columns)
 

Good King David Bad King Herod God’s King Jesus
Shepherd Wolf The Good Shepherd
Looks after the people Hurts the people Saves his people from their sins
Relies on God’s strength (mostly!) Relies on his own strength Trusts & obeys God the Father (always!)
Will not kill to become King Kills his wife, his sons, his uncles, and many baby boys, to keep his power Dies, is killed himself, so we can be kings with him

 
King Herod was a false King,
he wasn’t even Jewish.[1]
Do you think King Herod wanted another King like David, to come?
 
Let’s read the story now and find out: Matthew 2: 1-16.
 

The “Three Kings”

Bethlehem is the town where King David was born 1000 years earlier (1 Samuel 17:12, 20:6)
King Herod we just met – not a nice guy, especially in a bad mood!
 
so, who were these mysterious wise men?
The Bible just says "Magi from the East".[2]
from “Magi” we get the word magician, someone who does magic.
“East” – from Arabia or Persia.
Maybe philosophers or scholars.
Maybe astrologers, who studied the stars and planets in the sky
And you ladies will be pleased: the Bible does not say they were men.[3]
 
 
God showed them a new star.
 
They didn’t just look at the star and say, wow, that’s a pretty star,
and go back to sleep.
There’s a lot of theories and ideas about the star.  You’ll find lots on the internet.
But the wise men didn’t just sit and talk about interesting ideas.
 
No, The star made them really want to see this new baby King.
they left their homes, they packed their bags,  filled their water bottles,
they got on their camels.
and set off through the desert.
a long hard journey, sweating hot by day, shivering cold at night.
Maybe they didn’t know where they were going, but they followed the star. 
 
 
The Christmas song “The First Nowell” says:
“And by the light of that same star,
Three wise men came from country far;
to seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.”
 
Seek means to really look hard for.
 
Seeking the king, following the star
 
At last they came to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.
When he heard they were looking for a new King, King Herod was upset, afraid, disturbed
He was the boss, rich and powerful.
– he didn’t want any new King.
 
the Jewish priests and religious teachers knew the first part of the Bible, the old testament, very well.
They knew that the Messiah, God’s great King, would be born in Bethlehem.
So they told Herod and the wise men how to find Jesus.
 
but I have a question:
why didn’t the priests go to see the King themselves?
The wise men travelled 100s, maybe 1000s, of kilometres to find the king.
Why couldn’t the Jewish leaders travel just a few kilometres to Bethlehem?
for me, this is the saddest part of the story.
 
Were the religious leaders scared of King Herod?
Or just not interested?  didn’t care? 
 
 
But the wise men, were filled with joy, great happiness
For so long, they had been Seeking the king, following the star
They were so happy at last to find the king!
They bowed down to the baby Jesus.
they gave him their treasures
They worshipped him,
 
 
The Bible doesn’t say so, but many Christmas songs call them Kings
Because three gifts are listed, often “three Kings”
Later, artists showed one with black skin from Africa, and one from China
– people from every part of the world coming to worship Jesus.
People like us.
From China & Japan & Korea.  NZ & Germany & America.
Jesus is the King of all peoples, not just the Jews.
 
 
Here’s one Christmas song that talks about the wise men, the “3 kings”:
You might hear it this Christmas
 
The 1st verse talks about the long, hard journey of the wise men to follow the star:
We three kings of Orient are (from the East);
Bearing gifts we travel afar,
Field and fountain, moor (grassy place) and mountain,
Following yonder star.
 

God’s King Jesus

The next 3 verses of the song talk about the 3 gifts, gold, frankincense, myrrh, and tell us about this King
 
1. they give Jesus Gold, maybe to make a royal crown,
because Jesus is the Promised King that many have been waiting for.
the Messiah, the son or descendant of David, he fulfils what God promised through the prophets.
He is the King of kings, for ever.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.
 
2. they bring frankincense,  – a hard word.  Not Frankenstein the monster, but
incense, perfume that makes a sweet smell to worship God,
because Jesus is God in human form.
 
the king of Thailand travelled a long way to meet all his people.
The wise men travelled a long way to find the baby Jesus.
God in Jesus travelled even further to us – all the way from heaven to earth!
 
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh (a God nearby);
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshipping God on high.
 
3. They bring myrrh, a perfume of sorrow, because Jesus will die.
Myrrh was used to preserve Jesus’ dead body before it was buried in the tomb (John 19:39)
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom (growing darkness);
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.[4]
Look again at the table of kings (above – 3rd column):
Jesus is everything King David was, only much more and better
Jesus is the Shepherd King
Jesus is the good shepherd, who lays down his life and dies to save his sheep (John 10:11)
as the angel said,
he is called Jesus because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21)
 
But that wasn’t the end.  3 days later, Jesus came alive again.
Jesus is the Promised, Shepherd, Saviour King – and the living king!
The last verse:
Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice (who died for us);
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Sounds through the earth and skies.
 

Conclusion

In this story, we saw three different responses to God’s new baby King:
 
1. King Herod was filled with fear and hate.
he searched for the baby Jesus – to kill him.
 
I can be like this.
Sometimes God wants more of Jesus to be born in my life.
But maybe I don’t want to change.
Maybe I want to be the boss, to stay in charge of my own life.
So I kill the new thing that God wanted to do in me
Are you ever like that?
 
 
2. The Jewish priests and teachers knew a lot about the Bible.
they knew a lot about God, and the new King.
but they had no love for the King, in their hearts.
 
Sometimes I can be like this too.
I have been a Christian for a long time.
I know a lot about the Bible in my head.
It’s easy to forget that love and obedience from the heart are more important.
Knowing about Jesus isn’t enough – we have to follow the star, and seek the king ourselves.
 
 
3. And then there were the wise men from the East.
They saw God’s star, and they followed it
they fell in love with the hope of the new King,
Seeking the king, following the star, until they found Jesus.
They gave up their treasures.
and found the greatest treasure of all.
They were filled with joy, great happiness, and worship.
I hope I’m sometimes like this as well.
 
Which of these three are you like?
 
 
In this story, God speaks to people in many ways: through stars & scripture & dreams.
I believe every person has a star from God, to call them to him.
 
So, what star has God placed in your heart, in your life, to call you towards the King?
are you following it?
 
Jesus was born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.
But he also wants to be born in your heart today.
 
What gift or present will you bring to the King today?
Another Christmas song asks:
“What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring him a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him – I give him my heart.”
 

Questions

 
How is King Jesus different from King David or King Herod?
 
 
How did people respond to the baby Jesus:
King Herod, the Jewish leaders, the wise men?
What about you?
 
 
Why do you think the wise men followed the star?
What star(s) has God placed in your heart & life?
                Are you following?
 
 
What do we learn about Jesus from the gifts the wise men brought?
What gift will you bring to the King today?
 
 


[1] Herod the Great (re)built the temple, like Solomon did.  Symbolic of wanting to be the Davidic Messiah King himself?
[2] In "Chasing the Eastern Star: adventures in biblical reader response criticism", 2001, Mark Allan Powell says all scholars agree they were not kings, and suggests they were even the opposite: lowly, powerless servants in the royal court.  He also suggests they were not wise, as pagan astrological knowledge was viewed as nonsense by the Jews.  So the point of the story, for him, is that neither the powerful King Herod, nor the wise Jewish scribes, recognised Jesus, but only the weak, foolish Gentile Magi.  God hides things from the wise and intelligent, and reveals them to infants (Matthew 11:25).
[3] See the delightful cartoon at http://www.agnusday.org/comics/141/matthew-02-01-12-2002
[4] See another cartoon at http://www.agnusday.org/comics/142/matthew-02-01-12-2003

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