Summary: When people came looking for the Messiah they expected to see “a reed shaken in the wind,” or a wealthy and mighty king. Instead of finding a wealthy king, they found the Christ who was meek and humble; born in a place of low esteem.
Our message for today is a reflection on the lowly and humble estate of our King of Kings. To begin this morning, turn in your Bibles to Isaiah chapter 9, and we will look at verses 1-2, and 6-7. What I am about to read are the words of the prophet Isaiah concerning the entrance of our Savior into the world:
1 By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles. 2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined . . . 6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever . . .
We learn from verse 1 that the Savior would be born in Galilee of the Gentiles, named such because it was long occupied by its original Gentile inhabitants before its Jewish occupation. It was originally called Cabul, which means “How little!” or “It is nothing.” The Savior of the world would be born into a place of low esteem and nothingness, which is what we are going to reflect upon this morning, as we go a little deeper into the account of the wise men and Herod.
The King of the Jews (vv. 1-2)
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
Right here the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled, but what is significant about the wise men? Well, in verse 11 of this passage, they presented Jesus with gold, myrrh, and frankincense. One of these gifts, frankincense, “was imported into Judah by camel caravan from Sheba (Isaiah 60:6; Jeremiah 6:20), [which was] a trade connection that originated with the queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem in the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 10:10; 2 Chronicles 9:9).”(1) Frankincense, and these other gifts of gold and myrrh, were extremely valuable and presented unto royalty.
The wise men were wealthy merchants and traders who were accustomed to dealing with kings. Notice how they approached King Herod first. They traded with upper class people who were able to afford such luxuries. When they asked Herod, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” they were expecting to bring these luxurious gifts to a king, and they figured that Herod, being a king himself, would be able to direct them to the child’s whereabouts. They were probably reasoning among themselves, “Shouldn’t a king know where another king lives?”
There was no way that the wise men, who were foreigners, could have known that the King of the Jews, the Savior of the world, was actually born to the underprivileged and downtrodden of society. Many of the Jewish people were actually expecting the Messiah to reign with judgment and force; to be a powerful and militant king who would punish all the enemies of God’s people. They were looking for a King – one that fit the stereotypical image of being large and in charge – but they did not understand His true nature; but His nature was portrayed in some Old Testament prophecies.
For example, in Genesis chapter 49 we read, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver . . . To Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding His donkey to the vine, and His donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed His garments in wine . . . Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea” (vv. 10-11, 13). Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
These prophecies were finally fulfilled in Matthew 21:6-9 in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. What we need to take from them is that riding on a donkey revealed His lowly and humble nature. I did some research and discovered that “in the ancient Middle Eastern world, leaders rode horses if they rode to war, but donkeys if they came in peace.”(2) For example, “1 Kings 1:33 mentions Solomon riding a donkey on the day he was recognized as the new king of Israel.”(3) The Jews apparently forgot, or ignored, some of these prophecies about the Messiah’s lowly nature: