Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, IA
1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6“ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sometimes when you hear a text you are presented with lots of questions. Over the centuries this account is one that has done just that. People have been asking questions about this visit of the ‘Wise Men’ ever since it happened, ever since Matthew committed it to ink. The questions that are often asked are: Who were these men? Where did they come from? How many were there? What are their names? We could spend time talking about these questions, and we probably have at one time or another. They are interesting and intriguing questions, but really, they aren’t important questions. They aren’t questions that have any real importance to our faith.
There are important questions that we can and should ask when we read this text. And those questions have correct answers that are found here. And even more than that those answers prompt us to certain proper responses.
There are questions that have been asked here. The first is the question the Wise Men asked Herod. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” Really, it’s not the first question they asked. They already knew the answers to their first question: “Who is he?” If they had not answered that question they wouldn’t have traveled so far to find him. They didn’t need to know the “who” only the “where.”
Herod carried the question to the scribes and Pharisees. He also wanted to know where. He recognized immediately what the Wise Men also knew. Herod answered the question “who” in asking where the Christ would be born. And then he asked the Wise men when the star appeared. Herod asked important questions, but as we see later in the chapter, he was asking the questions for the wrong reasons.
These are questions that we too should ask. Who is he that came? When did he come? Why did he come? For whom did he come?
The bible, God’s own word to us, gives us the answers. God always makes sure that we have the correct answers to the right questions. The Scribes and Pharisees knew the answer to “Where.” He was born in Bethlehem. They told Herod and he told the Magi. It was the right answer to the right question. The Wise Men went and worshipped Jesus where he was to be found.
Herod asked “When.” It had to do with the appearing of the star. It’s an important question, too. But there’s more to the answers than just a date. In fact, the date isn’t the important part of the question. The real answer is that Jesus was born in God’s own time, at exactly the right time. "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4-5, ESV) It was the perfect time to accomplish God’s great desire to save human creatures from sin.
Both Herod and the Magi seemed to know “who” the child is. Notice how the visitors didn’t say, “Where is he that will become the king?” “Where is he who has been born King?” Jesus is the king of the Jews already when he was born. He is king in the stable, the house, walking along the road and teaching. And most of all he is King as he hangs on the cross, with a sign above his head that also said “King of the Jews.”
And that’s the answer to the question “Why did he come?” He came to minister to people; to heal, them and feed them, but most of all to restore their relationship with God. Because of sin people deserve only God’s anger and punishment. Jesus, the King, came to pay the punishment by his suffering and death on the cross. And through faith, he rules in the hearts of those who believe in him.
When the right questions are asked and the correct answers given, a response is always required. This Epiphany text shows us responses too. Herod and his advisors didn’t respond in the right way, and they had the right answers even before the questions were asked. The Scribes and Pharisees knew where to find Jesus. But the text doesn’t say they went to see him. In fact, it says nothing at all, about how they reacted. They knew the answer but it seems as if their knowledge was only knowledge in the head, not knowledge of the heart.
We know all about Herod’s response. He knew when the child was born and sent His soldiers out to kill all the children of the proper age in Bethlehem. He sought to protect his own place on the throne. It wasn’t a response out of character for him either. He killed many that he saw as threats to him, even his ‘favorite’ wife and two of his sons.
It is the Wise Men who respond according to God’s will. After all they were ‘wise men’ right? What makes them wise is that they were led by the Holy Spirit to believe the correct answers to all the questions. They even understood that Jesus came for all people, the “for whom did he come?” question. They understood that the answer to that question was that the child they were seeking was for all people. When they found him, they rejoiced with “exceeding great joy,” joy born out of the realization that God sent a savior for them. They worshipped him, offered him valuable gifts and went on their way.
What’s our response? Well, often times we act as if our faith was simply in our heads. Our response to God’s love is dry and lifeless. We live as if the King of the Jews wasn’t our king at all. We stand with the Scribes and Pharisees knowing the truth but not allowing it to motivate us to action. Other times we push the king from our lives, preferring to be king for ourselves. And that’s were we’d always be, if it weren’t for the grace of God. Because of God’s working in our hearts through his Word and Sacraments, our response is different; our response is like that of those Wise Men of Old:
As they offered gifts most rare
At thy cradle, rude and bare,
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to thee, our heavenly king.
We worship the King, Jesus, born to die for our sin. We worship him with our hearts, lives and treasure.
This text brings many questions to our minds. God provides the answers through the guiding of the Holy Spirit. The answers tell us of his great love through his Son, Jesus Christ. And again through him we respond with “exceeding great joy.” Because of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.