Summary: We all know the story of the Three Kings at Christmas, here is a story seldom told of the Two Kings
The Story of Royalty
We all know the Story; we’ve heard it over and over again. If you close your eyes you can almost picture them. Riding their camels across the desert at night, the moon highlighting their royal robes and crowns against the stark desert sand.
It is a very familiar part of the Christmas story and it has all the earmarks of a great story. You hear it this time of year in sermons, songs and read about it on Christmas cards.
A favourite Christmas Carol even honours them,
“We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.”
Which of course sounds better than “We undetermined number of men of non-royal descent”
In the bible, they are described as wise men and there are no numbers mentioned. Sometime around 600ish the wise men were promoted to Kings, some feel that perhaps it was a reaction to Psalm 72 verse 10 where we read Psalm 72:10 The western kings of Tarshish and other distant lands will bring him tribute. The eastern kings of Sheba and Seba will bring him gifts.
Of course, while some Psalms are referred to as Messianic Psalms, which simply means they were written about the coming Messiah, Psalm 72 isn’t one of those. It was simply written about King Solomon and his reign.
So, the bible never refers to the visitors as Kings or even alludes to it and the early church never identified them as kings. And while their actual numbers are never mentioned the fact that they brought 3 gifts has set their numbers at 3. But the story of the Kings remains a part of the Christmas story that most people are familiar with.
We all know the Story; we’ve heard it over and over again. But there is another story, a story seldom told that is part of the Christmas Narrative as well.
I would invite you to stand for the reading from God’s word.
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-8
So, while there were kings mentioned in the Christmas story there were only two and they didn’t come from the east. Let’s go back to the scripture
Matthew 2:1-2 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
The two kings didn’t arrive on camels; they didn’t arrive carrying gifts and they didn’t arrive from the east. The only two kings mentioned in the Christmas story were King Herod and King Jesus.
And while both kings are mentioned here, and while they would both hold the title “King of the Jews” their kingdoms, their objectives and their methods were diametrically opposed. As they would say in Australia “They were as different as chalk and cheese.”
The first King mentioned was King Herod, and this was Herod the Great to be specific, not his son Herod Agrippa who we meet later in the story when he executes John the Baptist.
And Herod was not a nice person.
Now Herod has received a lot of bad press through the years. You ever get the feeling that sometimes we need to tear heroes and historical figures down just on principal.
In Australia, they talked about the “tall poppy syndrome” and that was the desire to pull anyone down who had risen above the herd, that is if poppies come in herds.
In Herod’s case, it may very well have been valid. Now granted he wasn’t perfect but he wasn’t entirely bad either. After all he wasn’t called Herod the Great for nothing. Herod was half Jewish and half Gentile. He had curried favor with the Romans during the civil wars in Palestine and kept the locals in line for the Romans.
While this did nothing to endear him to the Jewish population but it made him a favourite of the Romans and if nothing else Herod knew which side his bread was buttered on. In 47 BC he was appointed Governor of Palestine and seven years later he was appointed King by Octavian who you would know better as Caesar Augustus.
The other king in the story of course is Jesus. He has just been born, but already there are those talking about his destiny. There was no hesitancy in what the Wise men asked, they didn’t say “The one who will be called king of the Jews.” They didn’t say “The one who someday will be king of the Jews.” There were looking for the new born king of the Jews. The one who was the King of the Jews. And that must have been a shock to Herod because he thought he was king of the Jews.