King of Kings

When we make the King of Kings our King, He makes us Kings.

Matthew 2:1-12 

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” 

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  

They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” 

After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. 

When the Magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up!” he said. “Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.”  

So he got up, took the Child and His mother by night, and withdrew to Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” 

Introduction 

So, review. How many Magi came to visit Jesus? 3?  

Nope. Bible says that nowhere.  

You’re thinking of the 3 Kings. Which Gospel records the 3 Kings?  

None.  

How’s that for your morning curveball. All of our Christmas songs are a jumbled mess of myth and misconception – or maybe there’s a bit more to the story than we’ve really given it credit for. 

This morning we read not just about the Magi coming to visit Jesus, but we read the words of King David, Psalm 72. King David wrote this psalm to be a song of blessing for his son Solomon, but it was more than just that, because David’s songwriting was a vehicle for a very special prophetic gift. His song was not just a blessing on his son, but a prophecy of his distant descendant, Jesus Christ. He prophesies:  

“May the kings of Tarshish and distant shores bring tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts.” 

That’s the kings of Tarshish, Sheba, and Seba. 3 locations – 3 Kings

Now – as we all know, the Queen of Sheba brought tribute to Solomon. David’s prophesy came true for his own son, in part. But the rest of the prophecy says, “May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him.” 

Of whom is this true but Jesus? King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

And it’s these prophecies that early Christians saw fulfilled when the Magi came to worship the newborn King, hence the close connection between the 3 kings and the magi, or the wise men.  

Now, I want us to look at this story a little closer so you can really learn what it means that Jesus is King of Kings, and what that has to do with your life. And I want to start first with the Magi – because even if those wise men weren’t kings who wore the worldly crowns of their countries, they were truly kings in God’s eyes anyway.  

And by the same token, you’re going to see that even if you’re not a king in this world, you’re a king in God’s world – because your King is the King of Kings

*** 

Start With Scripture 

You Are Kings And Priests 

So we see that these Magi went in search of the King of the Jews. And they looked for him by following scripture: “For thus it has been written through the prophet [Micah]: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  

The star they were following was foreseen by Moses, who said, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob”. 

This is the first crucial step that the Magi showed us: if you want to be a King, you start with scripture. Really? Yes really. The instructions are right there.  

In scripture, Peter says, “you are a royal priesthood.” In scripture, John says, “you have made us kings and priests unto God.” It’s all right there in the Good Book. Read it! That’s step one. You are set aside by God to be Priest-Kings, just like Jesus, who is our King and our High Priest. Only scripture is going to tell you that, and only scripture is going to show you who our King of Kings is, and what he’s like. 

He is who we are imitating. We are told everywhere to imitate God — Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children, and walk in love” — “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” — and what is imitating God but imitating Jesus? Jesus said to his students, “He who has seen the Son has seen the Father!”  

*** 

Submitting To God’s Authority is Embodying Authority 

Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience To God 

See, you’re meant to be a Priest-King. And that brings me back to the Magi. The Magi were priests, probably from the Zoroastrian religion, but in spite of their different religion, they believed in the testimony of the prophets of Israel. They submitted to the authority of God by submitting to the word of His prophets, traveling all the way to Jerusalem and then Bethlehem just to see the fulfillment of an ancient prophesy. You know, Micah, Isaiah, Daniel, all the great prophets who told about where and when Jesus would come, they prophesied 500 years before Jesus was born. There was no prophecy for almost 500 years – they were called the Silent Years. People probably thought that God had given up on them. 

But these Magi, they were going out on a limb, traveling by foot and camel to a whole other country, gifts in tow, to see the fulfillment of a 500 year old prophecy – from the prophets of another nation and religion! That’s confidence. That’s faith! You can say that these were the first non-Jewish believers – the first Christian gentiles. 

Now watch what they did. King Herod, the man who was then king over Judea – the man who was King of the Jews, in other words — asked the Magi to lead him to little Jesus. But after they encountered Jesus, and worshiped him, they were told in a dream to stay away from Herod.  

They were supposed to go back to Herod, but they didn’t. They disobeyed King Herod. 

This is because Herod had hatched a plot to kill all the of children under the age of 2. Instead of believing in the prophecy like the Magi, Herod feared the prophecy; instead of searching for the newborn King of the Jews to worship him, he was searching for what he perceived to be a threat to his throne – so he could kill him.  

The Magi did not allow this to happen. 

Because Herod didn’t know where or how to find Jesus – he resolved to have every child Jesus’ age and younger slaughtered. Herod would tolerate no competition for the throne of Judea. 

If the Magi were the first Christian gentiles, these children were the first Christian martyrs. This horrific martyrdom is known as the “Slaughter of the Holy Innocents”. And today it’s fashionable for scholars to dispute whether it really happened. We’re going to talk more about this, because it holds some answers for us about what it means for us to be Kings, and what it means for Jesus to be the King of all Kings. 

But first, we need to finish this thought about what made the Magi kings. Here’s the question: whose authority did the Magi submit to? King Herod? Or Jesus the King of Kings?  

Jesus. They disobeyed Herod’s order, and in so doing, demonstrated equal authority to a king. And in this way, they showed themselves to be Kings. And what gave them this authority other than their obedience to the King of Kings, in going to worship Jesus. 

It’s our obedience to the King of Kings that makes us Kings – in other words, when we make the King of Kings our King, he makes us Kings. Just like the Bible says: a royal priesthood. Kings and Priests. Just like the Magi – priests whose obedience to the King of Kings made them Kings whose authority was greater than King Herod.  

They might not have been kings in their world – but they were kings in God’s world. It’s a bit like that old saying: “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.” In disobeying the authority of Herod, they demonstrated the higher authority of God by embodying it.  

When you embody the authority of the King, you’re a King, reigning with God’s crown. That’s the grace of God – that obedience to the Father yields the glory and crown of the children of God. 

[We are the body of Christ – and Jesus is our crown.] 

*** 

Shining The Light Of Truth 

Bearing Witness is Martyrdom 

So. Back to the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Now, some say it never happened. Let’s think about this for a few moments. King Herod was no fictional character. He was a real king, installed by the Romans to rule over Judea, and the first non-Judean to sit on the throne. Not only did this make his claim to the throne shaky by Jewish law, and therefore in the eyes of his subjects – you can imagine how paranoid that could make him — but it also fulfilled a prophecy that the Messiah would come when a non-Judean sat on the throne!  

Herod was as real as you and me. And so was Caesar Augustus. He said these exact words about Herod: “I’d rather be a pig than Herod’s son,” because Herod had his own children slaughtered to protect his power. 

Now. Do you think a man who would kill his own children to protect his power wouldn’t also kill the children of others for the same reason?  

Nor should we expect such mass scale murder to be something kept on public record. There are people to this day who debate whether the Holocaust happened in Nazi Germany. We have arguments about what really happened to the indigenous tribes of North America. And lest we think that this only happens to events as they recede further and further in the past, we still have no veritable public consensus that the Armenian Genocide really happened either. People argue about whether or not Stalin or Mao really killed tens of millions of innocents decades ago, and just as easily question claims of the genocide of Christians in Africa and Asia at this very moment. 

Does anyone do such works of darkness out in the open? What sources are official enough to believe when it comes to evil in the world?  

So, as far as the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents goes, we have only the testimony of scripture and tradition. Likely the silence surrounding that tradition is accounted for in the same way as the silence surrounding these other genocides – evil usually hides in darkness, where it can thrive. 

But  — when the darkness is exposed to the light, the evil therein flees. Now, what happens when the light shines on something evil? Does the evil thing become magically good? No. Instead, the evil that is there is finally seen, and seen for what it is. 

How can evil be exposed unless we see it happening? And how does God expose evil? Martyrdom. 

 And this is the most painful truth about what it means to be made a King by the King of Kings: the crown of the people of God is the crown of martyrdom. The innocents were the first martyrs. To be a martyr means to be a witness — it doesn’t purely mean that you die. In the strict sense, it means witness. What did Jesus say when he was on trial before Pilate? “I have come to bear witness to the truth.” He didn’t try to say the right thing to get him further away from the cross – because the cross was going to be his ultimate act of witness, of martyrdom. 

Paul says that Jesus “disarmed the powers and authorities” — those who conspired to put him to death — ‘and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” 

How is this possible, that the one who disarmed the powers and authorities, triumphed over them by being put to death by them? Isn’t that the very definition of being beaten into submission by evil? But the Bible says it was by the cross that Jesus triumphed over them – how? 

“He made a public spectacle of them.” He took a big ole spotlight and put it right on their evil. He exposed them. This is how he triumphed over them – by showing the world what these people do to the innocent, blameless Son of God. 

Had he not allowed this to happen, would anyone have seen how evil the powers and authorities were? How much those who claimed to love God, in truth despised God? 

He drew them out of the darkness and into His light, and exposed their evil, taking it all upon himself. 

This is why Christians throughout all time rejoice and thank God even when it seems the world is falling apart, even when it is beginning to burn: not because they love evil and relish in destruction, but because the corruption that was there all along is finally being exposed. The truth is being revealed to all. This is an act of God. 

Can we all agree that the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents is a horrific tragedy? But consider this. And I know this is a sensitive issue for many people, but we’re going to go there, because of the subject matter we are dealing with today – the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Just as we question whether it truly happened, so today do we question whether the widespread phenomenon of abortion can be called infanticide. In other words, our society is confused as to whether the 60 million and counting abortions in America alone since Roe v. Wade can be called a “slaughter of the innocents” or not. 

Now stick with me here. 

Black and Hispanic women comprise less than 30% of the population of this country, but represent 55% of the abortions. Now, our country is consumed right now with the question of police violence on black men. Black men are 13% of the population but are shot and killed by police twice as often as white men. This has been called the other pandemic of 2020. 

There are more black babies aborted than born in the State of New York. Are these both evidence of systemic racism, or is only one? Which one has the people marching? Why is only one called the other pandemic of 2020? 

The COVID-19 pandemic claimed 1.8 million lives globally last year according to the WHO. Do you know the leading single cause of death is globally last year? According to the WHO, it’s heart disease, claiming about 9 million. Worldometer lists a different cause: abortion. Do you know why it’s at the top of Worldometer’s list and not the WHO’s? It’s not because there’s a discrepancy over the figure, which is 42.7 million – it’s that the Worldometer includes abortion as a cause of death, while WHO doesn’t even have it on the list. 

[As you know, there is a debate about whether a child in the womb is a living person, just as once upon a time there was actually a debate as to whether black people were fully human or somehow sub-human.] 

So, ask yourself, which one has the light shining on it, and which is hiding in the darkness? I’m not asking you to look at this purely in terms of “Pro-Life” vs “Pro-Choice”. There are so many other things to look at aside from this, but again, today’s reading calls for it.  

But the question you have to ask yourself — as a child of God anointed to His priesthood and kingship —  is where is His light shining, and where is it not? In Argentina, the home country of the current Pope, abortion was just legalized, and social media is overflowing with videos of women dancing and stripping off their clothes in celebration and the streets. 

Are they dancing in the streets over the death of George Floyd? Over the 9 million who died of heart disease?  

What’s the difference? 

Is there or is there not any equivalency whatsoever between the death of children in the womb and the death of individuals at the hands of the police? Should abortion even be considered a cause of death of children in the womb, or should it not be, as many say?  

Millions of well-meaning and decent women have abortions, and yet these questions would seem to be unanswered [in our society]. And this is all to say, many of life’s most important questions are hiding in plain sight. 

What I want to say to you today is: it is absolutely without a doubt the duty for you as a Christian to ask these questions and more. Many, many more questions like this – and some that God has ordained for you in particular as your calling. And the answers can only be found by shining the light of truth on the darkness – by asking the questions. Ask the questions. Draw the answer out into the open by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Because what has Jesus, the King of Kings, shown us? Kingship is Standing for the truth in an untruthful time, and drawing out what is hidden. 

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be made known and brought to light.” 

*** 

Throne & Crown 

Sword & Scepter 

Am I absolutely seering y’all with the hot coals of conviction? That is my job this morning, but it’s all y’alls job too, every day of the week, 24/7. But I’m not talking about a bearing a conviction as a license to judge – I’m talking about a license and a duty to bear witness to the glorious truth, that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that anyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. 

God is Love. Go tell it on the mountains, and shine the light of His love from the hill tops. And see what His love reveals in the darkness. 

“’You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD…‘you are My witnesses…that I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and none can deliver out of My hand.” 

“None can deliver out my hand” — that is the highest authority on earth. And as we saw earlier, obedience to God will sometimes mean disobedience to others. It’s “yes, and” — Yes, we’re supposed to be in submission to every earthly authority since they were placed there by God, that’s what Paul says – and that doesn’t contradict Jesus: “You cannot serve two masters.” There can be no obedience to evil.  

This is also what Paul meant when he said: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Yokes are an instrument of submission. If you are a King under the King of Kings, you never accept the authority – the yoke – of one who does not believe in or submit to the King of Kings. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership can righteousness have with wickedness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” 

“You are kings and priests unto God.” You may not be a king in this world, but be encouraged and stand assured: you are a king in God’s world. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” That’s what our King of Kings says. And our King of Kings was crowned with the crown of life because he fulfilled God’s purpose: he was a martyr, a witness, for the truth.  

The crown of life is the crown of martyrdom, the crown of witness.. 

“To the one who overcomes, I will grant the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Notice how he doesn’t say “to the one who overcame”, but he says “the one who overcomes,” or the one who is overcoming — this isn’t just a heavenly reward.  

When I say we are kings in God’s world, I declare with scripture that “the kingdom of this world has become the Kingdom of the Lord and His Christ.” The Kingdom of God is for overcomers who are overcoming. That’s who the King of Kings gives a throne to – that’s the type of King he coronates. An overcomer – a witness, a martyr, like him. 

So this is a call to spiritual arms, Christians. Because the truth is a sword. If you’re going to be a witness to the truth, then you’re going to carry and wield that sword. The Bible says that Jesus strikes down the nations with his sword, which is the word of God proceeding from his mouth; and so will you.  

And it says that He rules the nations with an iron scepter – and so will you. “And to the one who overcomes and continues in My work until the end, I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter and shatter them like pottery —just as I have received authority from My Father.” 

That iron scepter and that sword is the authority of God, and that authority is the unmitigated truth. And the truth is God is Love.  

You are to be witnesses of that love. Every knee will bow to that love. And when the law of love is broken and the law of the liberty of the children of God is broken, you are the minister of reconciliation, the healer of the breach, by the power of the Spirit – that is your role in the Kingdom of the King of Kings. Reconciling — restoring those in open rebellion to the King of Kings back to a state of relationship with our Father, by the powerful witness of the word of God, the prayer of faith, and the gift of Christian love. 

He is the Shepherd and we are the Sheep. He is vine, and we are the branches. He is the King of Kings – and we are his kings. 

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