Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph. D., Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“Where is the King?”
I want to start with something funny I heard about a husband and his wife. They had been arguing for a long time about who should make the coffee in the morning. The husband thought it was the wife’s job. But she disagreed with him. After several debates, she told her husband, “I can prove from the Bible that it is a man’s job to make the coffee.” He said, “What are you talking about? Does the Bible say that a man should make the coffee?” She said, “Sure. There it is.” She opened the Bible and point to the book of “He brews” [Hebrews].
Who makes the coffee in the morning at your home? I used to say to my friends and siblings, “I would marry the one who would make coffee for me in the morning.” That was one of my dreams because I grew up in a patriarchal family. My brothers do not like to cook. They still thought cooking was a wife’s job. But, my brother-in-law likes to cook and clean up the house. However, my sister said, “if her family (his in-laws) were at their home, he should not do anything in front of the in-laws.” He used to say, “It is the way to keep peace at home.” He means that he cooks for peace at home, and he doesn’t cook in front of his in-laws for peace at home as well.
Today, I want to talk about, “where is the King?” We often argue about who would be served or who should serve. Even though we do not argue about it, there are potential tensions among people’s relationships. It happens everywhere at home, at the workplace, in the community, and in the country. One of the human natures is to be served, not to serve. In other words, most people want to be the leader and the king and get first place. However, remember Jesus came to us to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45).
In today’s scripture, there is a king in Judea, Herod. He had been governor from 47 B.C, and he had received the title of king in 40 B.C. In power for four decades, he was called Herod the Great, a great ruler in keeping order, a great builder whose works included building the temple in Jerusalem, a great manager supplied from his own reserves to help the Jewish people famine. But he was also a man of great suspicion, and in his later years became known as a murderous old man. He murdered his wife (Mariamne); his mother (Alexandria); his oldest son (Antipater); and his sons (Alexander and Aristobulus) to keep his throne safe. Someone said at that time, “It was safer to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son.” King Herod was suspicious of the people around him and murdered many people to keep his throne.
Meanwhile, he had a big challenge on hearing the wise men. The wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “where is the king of the Jews?” They did not ask if the king was born a Jew. Instead, they asked, “where is the king?” They were sure the king had been born. They said, “for we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him was shaken. People were afraid of it how dare mention anything about the other King in front of Herod.
What is interesting is that the wise men saw the rising star from the east and followed the star to Judea, but they lost the star in Jerusalem. There were two assumptions by the wise men. They assumed that the king would be in Jerusalem, the capital city of Judea, and they went to Jerusalem and asked people, “where is the child who has been born king of Jews?” Their other assumption was that all Jewish might know about the child who will be the king. The wise men were not Jewish but gentile who did not know about the Messiah. They were the Eastern Scholars, like astronomers. They knew the providence of God through their studies of stars. As soon as they found the star, they traveled to worship the king as they said, “We saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” They were excited to seek the king.
On the other hand, King, Herod, who was always suspicious of people, called all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah was to be born. King Herod and the chief priest and people’s scribes already knew about the Messiah God promised. The chief priest and scribes remembered the prophecy that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem of Judea, but they did not believe it. They talked to Herod about the prophecy that it will be Bethlehem of Judea because the prophet has written it. Even after they heard from the wise men and taught Herod about the Messiah who will be born in Bethlehem, that is all. They were indifferent about whether the Messiah will come or the child was born to be the King of Jews. Of course, Herod was concerned if it was true and talked to wise men “if you find him, let me know. And then I will go and worship him also.” As you may know, his intention was not to worship him but to kill him to sustain his throne.
Let us pay attention to the wise men’s assumption. Why did they lose the direction of the star in Jerusalem? They came from the east following the direction of the star. They were almost there but lost their way. The town of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, is about five miles south of Jerusalem. They assumed the king would be born in the palace in the city of Jerusalem. Their assumption made them blind to the direction of the star. We need to be careful if we interpret God’s providence by personal bias. We might make God’s work smaller or distorted by our bias and assumption.
Here is an example of the assumption of God’s providence. There was a commander of the Army of the King of Aram. His name is Naaman. He was a great man in the sight of his master, but he had leprosy. One day, a young girl who was captive from Israel and who served Naaman’s wife, said to her mistress, “if my master saw the prophet in Samaria, he would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went to the King of Israel, bringing his king’s letter, silver, gold, and other gifts. He also went to the palace in Israel. The King of Israel tore his robe and cried out, feeling threatened by the Aram’s King. But Elisha asked him to come. Naaman went to Elisha, but Elisha, without seeing him, sent a messenger to say to Naaman, “Go, wash seven times in the Jordan, and your body will be restored.” However, Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy” (2 Kings 5:11).
What do you think of him? If you were in his shoes, what would you do? God’s work sometimes goes simply. It is not necessary to lift up our own thought for God’s providence. We should remember that Jesus also used to say in his prayers, “My father if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). God works beyond our thoughts. We don’t know how God makes things happen. We should trust God, no matter what. Our assumptions and bias might blind us not to see God’s presence and God’s grace.
After the wise men went out of Herod’s palace, the star, they had seen at its rising in the east, went ahead of them until they arrived at the place Jesus was born. When they saw that the star stopped over the place, they were overwhelmed with joy. Finally, when they followed the direction of the star, they could see Jesus with God’s amazing grace. They found the king of the kings in a manger among the livestock, not the palace. It was an unexpected place. God’s grace may come to us sometimes in an incredible place and time. Therefore, we need to open our whole hearts and minds to our Lord and our neighbors so that we may experience God’s grace unexpectedly. I wonder where your king is. I hope our King Jesus Christ will be in the center of our lives. Thanks be to God.