Summary: There were two reactions to the birth of Jesus. The Wisemen came and worshiped. Herod was disturbed and sought to kill the child, others were indifferent. Modern nations and some world religions are still afraid of the infant born in the manger at Bethl
In Jesus Holy Name January 6, 2008
Epiphany Matthew 2:1-3 Redeemer
“O Worship the King, The New Born King”
In the Lutheran Hymnal there is a hymn with a similar title as the one chose for the message today. The words of the hymn, “O Worship the King”, could well have been on the lips of the wise men who came to Jerusalem to bring gifts to the new Jewish King.
“O Worship the King.
O gratefully sing (of) his power and His love
O tell of his might, sing of his praise
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
With true adoration we shall sing his praise.”
Let me read how Matthew recorded the event. “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, magi, (magi were astrologers of the ancient world), from the east came to Jerusalem and asked: “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with Him.”
Can you believe it? The King was disturbed at the birth of a baby. Was the baby born with a machine gun in one hand and a hand grenade in the other? Why would Herod be disturbed by the birth of a baby? Herod had an army. Herod had more than a few fortresses to protect himself. Herod had a body guard. Herod had the backing of Rome. How could a Baby born in Bethlehem stable make him afraid?
Then I started to think. You know over the centuries various rulers, when they came to power have done their best to eliminate their opposition. They did all they could to remove from consideration any individual who might be competition for their crown. Murder was the best option.
In 1483 England’s young Prince Edward V and his little brother were locked away in the Tower of London by their uncle. That same uncle declared himself King. Immediately following his coronation, the little princes disappeared.
Three hundred years later in 1795 after the French Revolution beheaded King Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette, the rebels were left with a decision: “What to do with the royal son?” He was locked away. The ten year old boy stayed in prison until the cruel treatment of the jailer hastened his death.
All these rulers realized that a young prince a descendant to the throne could grow into a powerful troublemaker. From a practical standpoint the young royals had to die.
No student of history should be surprised by Herod’s response. A new Jewish king? Although he was king of a Jewish nation. He was not Jewish. He was half Jewish. No matter how much Herod improved the economy, building a new Harbor and buildings at Caesarea, and expanding the Temple mount with new buildings, the Jews did not like him. So Herod ruled by fear. Jealous, merciless, suspicious and ruthless, Herod made sure no one challenged his kingship.
Over the years he had drown his wife’s brother, the High Priest. He killed his favorite wife, her mother and three of his own sons. When Herod got disturbed, everybody got disturbed.
With that kind of track record, Herod’s reaction to the news brought to Jerusalem by the Wisemen, is not shocking. Not knowing himself where the child was born he forwarded the question to the religious leaders of Jerusalem. They didn’t miss a beat. “Bethlehem, in Judea. That’s what the prophets wrote.”
The star led them and came to rest over “the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were overjoyed.” But the baby was no longer in a manger. Mary and Joseph and the baby had moved into a house. The movie provided a great, enduring visual. It looked like the Christmas card. The cave, the shepherds, the baby in a manger and the wise men with their camels. Not so. Matthew writes: “On coming to the house they saw the child…and they worshiped him.” After their visit…an angel told them not to return to Jerusalem so they went home another way.
Herod was not happy. All Jerusalem was disturbed. And rightly so. Since the days of Herod, other rulers have been disturbed by the baby.
The religious rulers, who knew the prophecies, did their best to ignore the infant Jesus. Today modern religions have taken the indifference of the ancient priests and transformed it into the hatred of Herod. Modern religions and nations are afraid of the baby.
When the Russian Bolseviks murdered the Czar of Russia and his family…they also did their best to eliminate the Christ child. For over 60 years they sought to stamp out message of Christianity and install the theology of atheism. Even in present day China those who worship the infant Jesus are arrested and jailed.