Prince And The Pauper.
Reverend Patrick Vossen, Omaha, Nebraska
Matthew 2:1–12 (NRSV)
The Visit of the Wise Men
2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
John Henry Jowett, the great English preacher, liked to tell about the time he attended the coronation of Edward VII. Westminster Abbey was filled with royalty. Jowett said, “Much bowing and respect was shown as nobility of high rank entered the cathedral.” When the king arrived, however, a hush came over the audience. Every eye was on him, and no longer did the dignitaries of lower status receive the gaze and interest of the people. All the subjects fixed their attention on their royal leader.
The King And I.
A King is to be respected, honored and feared. One whom people give allegiance to. However, our Lord chose a different path of Kingship than was the one humanity had become used to. He chose a sacrificial and servant’s heart to be the cornerstone of His Kingdom. No high Lord and non approachable King would he represent in his human form. When the God of Glory came down to earth to redeem mankind, it wouldn’t be as a King of political authority and power, but in sacrificial love he would pour out his life for us, even death on a cross.
Jesus does deserve to be worshipped and glorified as a King, but He became a little lower than the angels, and took on human flesh, so that he could be amongst us. Thereby revealing the love that God had for us, and choosing to show us that God was approachable. Jesus wanted to share his love each day with us. Allowing us to experience the love of God expressed in human form around about us. Demystifying what had become this concept of this terrifying ogre, or mean spirited high Lord of heaven, that the religious leaders of the day had made him out to be. Yes, in sharp contrast to the perception the religious leaders had painted him out to be, our loving Lord chose instead to reflect the Father's true love for humanity, representing himself as both Prince and Pauper. What a game changer!! God would now never be seen the same again, and this intimate portrait of infinite love would be painted upon the face of all humanity forevermore.
Through his servant's heart and remarkable liberating theology of hope. Jesus Christ changed for eternity the way God should be seen or understood. He should no longer be seen as only the holy God of justice, but through his humanity reflecting God's image in such away, that his agape love forever changes the landscape of our understanding of the Father's care for all creation. His death, burial and resurrection forever paved the way toward a path of redemption for us. Giving us hope where there was no hope, as the visible and wonderful Prince of Peace became a servant, a Pauper for us. Shedding aside the riches, wealth and power of a King in order that humanity's relationship to God could be healed by the power of Calvary's sacrificial love.
Summary of Matthew’s account.
The ancient world, innocent of streetlights, never forgot the night sky. Many people, particularly in the countries to the east of Palestine, had developed the study of the stars and the planets to a fine art, giving each one very particular meanings. They believed, after all, that the whole world was of a piece; everything was interconnected, and when something important was happening on earth you could expect to see it reflected in the heavens. Alternatively, a remarkable event among the stars and planets must mean, they thought, a remarkable event on earth.
Scholars have laboured to discover what Matthew’s ‘star’ might have been. Halley’s Comet appeared in 12–11 bc, but that would be very early for this story. Or it could have been some kind of supernova. More likely is the fact that the planets Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction with each other three times in 7 bc. Since Jupiter was the ‘royal’ or kingly planet, and Saturn was sometimes thought to represent the Jews, the conclusion was obvious: a new king of the Jews was about to be born. We cannot be certain if this was why the ‘wise and learned men’ came from the East. But, even if it wasn’t, nothing is more likely than that thoughtful astronomers or astrologers (the two went together in the ancient world), noticing strange events in the heavens, would search out their earthly counterparts. If, as it appears, they were also wealthy, they would have no major difficulty in making the journey.
Matthew is not telling us all this simply to satisfy astronomical curiosity. Nor is he offering us the kind of cosy, picture-book story we have created for ourselves out of it, with strange but gentle oriental kings bringing gifts to a child in a stable. (Matthew says nothing about a stable; as far as we know from his gospel, Mary and Joseph were simply living in Bethlehem at the time, only moving to Nazareth later (2:23). Nor does he say the visitors were themselves royal.) The overtones of his story are quite different.
What he tells us is political dynamite. Jesus, Matthew is saying, is the true king of the Jews, and old Herod is the false one, a usurper, an impostor. As we shall see, this Herod died soon after Jesus’ birth; but his sons ruled on, and one of them, Herod Antipas, plays a significant role in the developing story of Jesus himself. The house of Herod did not take kindly to the idea of anyone else claiming to be ‘king of the Jews’.
Putting Christ first is the way it should be in the life of a Christian. Jesus is the King of kings, and He deserves the place of highest prominence. Naturally we love and respect our families, friends, associates, and those who serve the Lord. But the Lord Jesus must have the preeminence! Our devotion is always to be centered on Him. With all the activities that compete for our time—even the work and program of the church—it’s so easy to take our eyes off the Savior.
May we never lose sight of King Jesus who deserves our praise and worship. Let us join the heavenly voices and say, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor” (Rev. 4:11). Yes, Christ is the preeminent One!
Then let us adore and give Him His right--
All glory and power and wisdom and might,
All honor and blessing with angels above,
And thanks never ceasing, and infinite love. —Wesley
Focusing on Christ puts everything else in perspective. When we have the right picture of God, and His son.
Reverend Patrick Vossen,