Not Three, Not Two, but One King

by Rev. Jonathan C. Watt

Read Matthew 2.

It is a common picture this time of year: three kings, decked out in kingly robes, crowns and all, surrounding the baby Jesus in the manger to present their kingly gifts; three wise men on bent knee worshiping their Savior. But maybe this picture is not that accurate. Most modern translations use the word Magi to speak about these late visitors to Jesus’ cradle.

What kind of people were these “Magi”? What kind of a reaction might the first readers of Matthew’s Gospel have had to them? (Acts 13:6, 8; Dan. 2:1–12)

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Magi worked for kings and gave “magical” advice in exchange for money. We see something similar today in palm readers, psychics, and fortune-tellers. Most people view such people as hustlers, not as legitimate professionals. So these Magi were unusual, unexpected visitors to Jesus’ bedside.

The “Magi” might not have been “wise” men either. What indications of that do you see in these verses? (Matt. 2:2, 12)

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The Gospel writer highlights the ignorance of the Magi. For the most part, they do not seem to know what’s what. They fi rst go to the city where a “king” should have been born, only to be told he is not there, but elsewhere. If not for the warning in a dream, they would have returned to Herod with the information he needed to kill the child they found.

So why then does St. Matthew tell us about these visitors? What differences do you see between Herod’s reaction and the Magi’s reaction to Jesus? (Matt. 2:2–10; 16–18)

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What kind of king was Herod? Why was he so angry? (Matt. 2:16–18)

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King Herod was placed on the throne by the Roman emperor. He held his power through the might of the Roman army. He was a cruel king, not wanting to share his power with anyone. He was willing to kill to protect his power.

What title does Matthew give to Joseph, Jesus’ father? (Matt. 1:20)

Who else receives the same title? (Matt. 1:1; 12:23; 20:31)

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What kind of person would be called “Son of David”? (2 Sam. 7:4–17; Is. 9:6–7)

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Based on God’s promise to King David, his people were looking forward to a new king, better than David and different from other kings.

What kind of a king is described by the Old Testament prophets? (Micah 5:2–5; Is. 11:1–5; 53; Zech. 9:9)

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God’s faithful people longed to see a king who was more than an earthly king. He would be Shepherd, Teacher, and Savior from sin. How does Jesus fulfill these expectations? (John 21:15–19; 3:1–15; 12:12–19; Matt. 27:32–54)

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What were his parents told Jesus would do? Why did Jesus come? (Luke 1:26–33; Matt. 1:18–21)

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Jesus is the One True King. He is unlike any other king. He serves His people with His very life. Through His life, death, and resurrection, we have eternal life with Him in His kingdom.

How do we receive forgiveness? (Rom. 6:3–10; Matt. 28:19–20)

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St. Paul describes King Jesus, His kingdom, and those in His kingdom. What is that Kingdom (and its people) like? (Eph. 2:1–10; Col. 1:13–23; Phil. 2:1–11; 1 Cor. 1:26–31)

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