Have you seen any of the Netflix drama The Queen?
It’s the dramatization of Elizabeth the II – Queen of England …who is still alive
It’s fascinating to me on several levels:
· For anglophiles like Penny and me it’s cool. We’re all about all things England right now.
o A little pub watching Liverpool while eating fish and chips
· On the historical level - It captures well some of the history of the last half of the 20th century.
· The coolest thing about it is what light it shines on the mystery and power of the monarchy.
o Kings and queens have some kind of aura about them.
o Monarchs carry a lot of weight and wield great influence …even if it’s mostly ceremonial.
o When the Prime Ministers…including Winston Churchill treat the Queen with such great deference it tells you about the power of a monarch.
Did you know there are still a couple of dozen monarchies still in the world? That’s out of 195 countries.
· Some of them are ceremonial constitutional monarchies (like Queen Elizabeth) where power really lies with legislatures and executive branches of the government.
· But 5 of them are still absolute monarchies where the King rules with an iron fist. (More like Saudi Arabia)
Well, today we are going to talk about kings
· …a very bad, mean and nasty King
· A group of folks mislabeled as kings…as in We 3 Kings of Orient are
· …but mostly and importantly the King of all Kings…Jesus.
I’m going to ask you a question that I will return to in a few minutes.
What kind of King is Jesus to you? Ceremonial or absolute?
Does Jesus have power over every aspect of your life (that’s an absolute King) or…is he a religious mascot, a mythical ceremonial figurehead of your so-called faith?
That question is kind of a big deal.
Matthew 2:1 page 800
1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod.
Here’s our first King and he was a doozy…an absolute tyrant. Herod the Great (see image)
· Son of parents who were born Arab but converted to Judaism
· In around 40 BC Herod and his brother were named by Rome as tetrarchs to support the local Judean leader Hyrcanus. But…that guy was overthrown by his own nephew, Antigonus
· Herod went to Rome to complain and low and behold while he was there the ruler of Rome appointed him King of the Jews.
· He returned to Judea and went to war for 3 years with Antignous…upon his victory he took the throne and literally became the King of the Jews where he ruled for 34 years.
· Though he followed Jewish traditions he was seen as a man "prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition. Including murder and genocide.
About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
· These “wise Men” were literally “Magis” –
o Part religious priest (oldest world religion Zoroastrianism) , Part astrologer, part wizards, part sorcerers
o Mostly from the east (Persia) but who were all over the Roman world
o They were not literally kings but carried that kind of influence. They were big dudes.
o They had to be a very big deal for the Holy Spirit to pull them into the story!
· They way they are drawn in is through a “star”
o Theories about this star:
§ A comet / A planetary conjunction /A supernova – the death and explosion of a star
§ But others suggest it was not natural
· It acted unnaturally -“went ahead of them” and “stopped”
· Odd story (apocryphal – star actually became a baby boy who “paved the way for them”
o For whatever reason, the HS used this star…
§ These guys who were “star gazers” astrologers who read into cosmic signs
§ I’m sure they believed that special stars indicated birth of royalty
· They assumed that Jerusalem was where they needed to be – they probably assumed that Herod had had a baby.
3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: 6 ‘And you, OBethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
· Now we see the paranoia of Herod – “deeply disturbed” why?
o Somebody is after me.
o Kings, politicians, monarchs – anyone in power - spends much of their time figuring out how to stay in power.
· All Jerusalem got worked up likely because they assumed this mean another bloody civil war was coming
So, Herod begins an investigation and calls in experts – where is this king?
· The religious experts give him a mashup of Micah 5:2 and 2 Samuel 5:2
o When they quoted Micah …a “ruler” will come from you…I’m sure Herod blew up.
o And his devious mind starts planning his attack on this new ruler.
7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
· You can see his plans coming together already
o When did it appear? – Oh about 2 years ago…later all boys under 2 killed
o So he sends these dignitaries as his spies
9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The star once again guided them the final 6 miles.
And what happened when they got there is nothing short of astounding.
· They bowed down =“fell down”
· They worshipped = “kissed toward” …kissed him, his feet, the ground
· They gave him the things that only affluent people and kings would get in those days…likely Mary would never have any of those three in her lifetime.
This is so peculiar. They offered no such honor to Herod. But they went overboard with a 2 year old little boy. And no one knows why.
· We never hear of them again.
· Legend has it that eventually Thomas found them and converted them but really we know nothing other than this outrageous act of deference.
What was the purpose of their visit? Here are some possibilities:
· To establish Jesus power:
o over all world religions including the world’s oldest – Zoroastrianism
o over every nation…including Persia
o over the most powerful people on the planet
· Maybe they became evangelists?
· Maybe it was for Mary…to balance the warnings of Simeon we looked at last week.
· Maybe it was for Jesus.
o Somebody told him this story…if Matthew knew it, then Jesus did.
o Imagine Mary retelling this story.
o Did he need it for when he faced his death?
· Of course it was for us…to remind us of his power and international monarchy. He was king from birth!
Let’s finish the story…
12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
Skip ahead to V 16…
16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A cry was heard in Ramah— weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”
This reminds us what evil monarchs do: they consolidate power – even if it means murder
· Since Bethlehem had 1000 people – likely 20 boys were killed
It also reminds us that two Kingdoms cannot coexist.
· Kingdoms that come into conflict always end up with some kind of battle.
It makes Simeon’s words from last week mean even more…
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.
Kings and their kingdoms, by their very nature, force people to choose...especially absolute monarchs.
Absolute monarchs demand loyalty. Absolute monarchs offer no wiggle room. You are for them or against them.
Jesus is just such a king….Jesus is an absolute monarch.
· This is why some of the most influential people in the world kissed the ground around him.
As kind and meek as he was…Jesus was unsparing…
If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26
So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. Luke 14:33
Jesus is good but he is demanding.
Jesus is a shepherd but with high expectations.
Jesus is loving and patient but will not long stand for equivocation.
So…He is your king
· But is he your ceremonial king or your absolute king?
o Is he a religious mascot to you or the sovereign monarch of your soul?
o Do you evade him or embrace him?
o Is he fake news or is he the truth?
o Do you hit the ground in his presence or wave on your way by?
What kind of King is Jesus to you?