Bethel CRC Lacombe

December 24, 2023 The Names of Jesus: King of kings and Lord or Lords Matthew 2:1-12; Colossians 1:15-23

December 27, 2023 Pastor Jake Boer Season 8 Episode 4
Bethel CRC Lacombe
December 24, 2023 The Names of Jesus: King of kings and Lord or Lords Matthew 2:1-12; Colossians 1:15-23
Show Notes Transcript

Today we are completing our Advent series The Names of Jesus. We will reflect on Matthew 2:1-12 and Colossians 1:15-23, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Magi from the east came looking for the one-born King of the Jews, after reading God’s birth announcement in the night skies. Imagine their surprise when they got to Jerusalem, and no one had a clue regarding what they are talking about! When Israel’s Wisemen checked out their claims, they rediscovered that the Magi’s news fits with their own prophets’ predictions. Paul described Jesus as being higher than any king and he is also head, or king of the church .

King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Matthew 2:1-12; Colossians 1:15-23


Matthew gives us the story of Jesus’ birth from Joseph’s perspective. It happens during the reign of King Herod, a Jewish king not from the line of David, so not really considered a true king in the eyes of the most orthodox Jews. Herod worked hard at gaining legitimacy for his reign by rebuilding the temple, with some even saying it was more spectacular than Solomon’s temple! Yet his cruelty and love of power over everything else made the people distrust him and fear him. Herod knows that many of the Jews don’t recognize him as legitimate, this helps explain his extreme reaction to learning about the birth of a child called “king of the Jews” from these eastern Magi, astrologers in their own country who have travelled for months to come see this child whose birth is being proclaimed in the night sky. This king has to be really important because the heavens themselves are celebrating the birth of this king to those who know what to look for. 

It's likely that the news of a promised Messiah for Israel entered into Eastern thought and legend in the time of Daniel and the other exiles from Israel at that time. The Jews in exile kept their faith, their hope, their rituals and beliefs during this time, sharing them with their children and grandchildren. Those like Daniel who found themselves in positions of influence would also have shared their wisdom with the wisemen and leaders of Babylon. When the Babylonians conquered Israel, they took the nobles and scholars of Israel with them to serve in Babylon and they had the ears of the eastern scholars who then recorded Israel’s stories and the promises of Israel’s God to his people to send them a Messiah. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown mention in their commentary that “the Roman historians, Suetonius and Tacitus, bear witness to an expectation, prevalent in the East, that out of Judah should arise a sovereign of the world.” It’s ironic that eastern scholars and Roman historians were more in tune with Israel’s history than the Jews themselves. 

Imagine the surprise of the Magi when they arrive in Jerusalem and nobody has a clue about what they’re talking about.  There’s no parades or celebrations going on for this new king, there’s no buzz of excitement in the air or people talking about the baby. Everybody’s just going about their regular lives under the Roman occupation. Instead of excitement, the Magi discover that they’re the ones letting Judah know that they have a new-born king. It must have been awkward for the Magi to go to Herod asking about the new-born king and finding out that Herod had no clue that such a child had been born since he doesn’t have any children that fit their story. Herod’s deeply disturbed.

Herod’s wise enough to turn to his own wisemen, “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” These foreign astrologers’ reading of the night skies agrees with Israel’s prophets’ predictions! God’s amazing; he blasts the announcement out so everyone can share in the hope of the Messiah, the sovereign of the world. Today he might have used Facebook or Instagram instead.

The Magi followed a star to Judah and Jerusalem and we hear echoes in the Old Testament to the coming of a king and a star in the oracles of Balaam, who was hired by Balak, king of Moab to curse Isael while they wandered through the wilderness. The oracle found in Numbers 23 points to God being Israel’s king before they had kings, “No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The Lord their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them,” while in Numbers 24 we read of a star connected to this ruler who’s coming and will destroy Israel’s enemies, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth.” This echoes back to Genesis 3 and the promise given by God to Adam and Eve through the curse to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This king that the Magi are seeking is a king who will protect his people and crush his people’s enemies, a powerful king sent from God; a king for all peoples! 

Herod summons the Magi to come to him secretly and sends them off to Bethlehem with orders to report back to him with directions to this new-born king so he can go worship him too. What a liar! What the Magi probably didn’t know was Herod’s reputation for cruelty, even murdering his own sons when they became a threat to his power. The Magi couldn’t know that Herod’s plan was to eliminate this threat to his throne, not worship this child. The Magi head off, following the star and it leads them right to the house Joseph and Mary have made home and are raising Jesus. Matthew describes the scene, “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” These wisemen, nobles in their own right, bow down and worship Jesus, offer him tribute, which these gifts represent, pointing to how highly they regard Jesus as a king, a king whose birth even the heavens announce! The Magi are warned in a dream to not go back to Herod so they leave by a different route, giving Joseph and Mary the time to raise Jesus to have the qualities needed to be king. 

What kind of king is Jesus? Paul’s letter to the Colossians gives us a starting place to understand who King Jesus is and how his kingship impacts the world and his church. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” We hear an echo here to John 1 and the creation of the world through and by Jesus, taking us all the way back to Genesis 1 where we see how in the beginning of time, there was chaos and out of chaos Jesus brings order, beauty, and unity to creation, culminating with humanity who is created in the very image of God! As the creator and originator of all things, this right away puts Jesus in the category of being over and way beyond who we are and what we can understand about who he is and what he’s able to do. This is king work, king identity language that Paul uses here in his letter to the church. The city of Colossae was a city where people came together from many nations and cultures and many became followers of Jesus, so they recognized Paul’s claims of Jesus’ kingship, even though Paul doesn’t specifically use the term king. 

As king over all creation, Jesus sustains and keeps everything going in creation through the work of the Holy Spirit; providing for creation, protecting his people from his enemies, even when they are his enemies; Jesus does through reconciling them to God through his sacrifice on the cross, where Pilate writes about Jesus, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” This echoes Psalm 72 which we opened the service with. Isaiah also points us to Jesus as the child king, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah is pointing past the throne of Judah to the throne at the right hand of God, the throne over all peoples, nations, and even creation itself.

Paul then moves on to show that Jesus is also the head of the church, his body. He uses the Greek word kephale, which is a military term of authority. Jesus is not just part of the body, he’s the head, the authority over, the controller of the body, determining its focus, values, morals, and reason for being. There’s a beautiful call here to unity, the same unity that Jesus prayed for in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his death, a unity that seems impossible today, and yet in Jesus, all things are going to come together, all things will be reconciled to himself. Peace comes through his blood, an amazing image of commitment to his creation, to his body! 

Jesus, as our head, has commanded us to carry on the work he has begun, telling us that we will do even more than he’s done, taking his work to the next level. This is why we’re given the Holy Spirit, reminding us of Jesus’ last words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”