Epiphany of our Lord—Observed (Mt 2:1–12)
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
INI + AMEN.
The prophet said, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” That little point of light started Epiphany, and it brought the odd characters of the Magi to the toddler Jesus. Where’d they come from? No one knows. But these Gentiles, foreigners, outsiders were asking for the King of the Jews. Herod? No, not Herod. Quite troubling, indeed! We all know what he did…
The Lord promised where the Messiah, the Christ would be born. No star would tell that. These astrologer Magi needed more Word of God. They got it, and off they go to Bethlehem. They fell down and worshipped Him, gave Him their best. Then off to parts unknown. They had their 15 minutes of fame, and that’s it. No more Magi. Were they lost? No. The Magi were His men, His loyal subjects. It’s why they came: “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star…and have come to worship him.”
((2. What sort of King is Jesus?))
There is only one King of the Jews. The LORD Himself. Not all who are of Israel are really Israel, for, as Jesus says, “many will come from the east”—the Magi—“and from the west”—you and me—“and they will eat with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven”—God’s kingdom, His people, His Israel, Jesus’ Israel—for Jesus is the Christ, the King of the Jews.
The King the Magi meet is quite a ridiculous one. A very strange Messiah! Sign in its opposite! Not in royal palaces, in kings’ courts, but the pauper home of a carpenter. The nicest things there were the gifts they brought—gold, frankincense, myrrh. But those weren’t the greatest treasure. That was Him! They didn’t just bend the knee to some worldly lord or sovereign. No, they worship and genuflect before the eternal and almighty God Himself, the toddler Jesus.
This King’s reign is different. It’s humble and meek. To human estimation: weak and worthless. But His is a reign not of power but of love and mercy. He’s not a King who sheds His subjects’ blood in order to gain, protect, or increase His own power. He’s a King who was born to shed His own blood to gain His subjects (even you), to win a Kingdom—His own people, His Israel. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
((1. Where does He reign?))
King Jesus reigns with love and mercy, and so His is no earthly kingdom. His royal decree: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus is no political king. A kingdom that’s tied to a so-called “Christian nation” or a plot of land in the Middle East or political alliances between nations, countries, and super powers is NOT His kingdom. If Herod had trusted the LORD, He would’ve known that, and he wouldn’t have feared some hostile takeover. (No coups with Jesus.) No, Herod, too, would’ve rejoiced! For the true King comes to save His people—all people!—from their sins!
But kings and kingdoms have borders, and Jesus’ is no different. Jesus’ Kingdom, however, crosses all borders. His kingdom isn’t found by what flags fly on our flagpoles. His borders are determined by the delivering of His Word and Gifts, where Jesus Himself is seen and heard among His people.
We don’t act like that’s true, though. We determine His borders in our lives. We fit Him in. We don’t think the hearing of His Word or the receiving of His Gifts is all that important—it’s optional. As long as I’ve “made Him Lord,” in a way I think is fine, then it’s fine with Him. (That’s what we do.) The hearing of His voice, His final will and testament, being united to His very own body and blood—is supplanted for other things.
We act like the King dances to our tune. But He doesn’t. He’s King. He alone! And be warned, sons of the kingdom can be cast out, those who don’t receive the Christ, those for whom He is not Lord, those who have another Christ, another Lord Jesus of their own liking and making.
Not so the Magi. He spoke to them. “A Star shall come out of Jacob.” “From [Bethlehem] shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.” So, they genuflected and bowed down before the One they heard in His Word, before the One they saw standing right in front of them—God in His flesh and blood, born to give His body and shed His blood for them and for all on a cross.
You, too! It’s not just King Jesus before the Magi. MERCIFUL KING JESUS REIGNS AMONG YOU. Today! He really does! He reigns with His love and His mercy and His forgiveness towards you. He lays down His borders today: Word and Body and Blood. We hear of the Magi bending, bowing, genuflecting before their flesh and blood Savior. So we, too, bend and bow before the same flesh and blood Savior who epiphanies, reveals, shows, and delivers Himself to you in His body and blood that were given and shed for you on the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins. MERCIFUL KING JESUS REIGNS AMONG YOU.
INI + AMEN.