King of the Jews
EPIPHANY OF THE LORD – YEAR A
6-9 year olds
“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.”
This Sunday we hear about the wise men who come to visit Jesus. People tend to like the wise men because they are strange characters unlike anyone else in the Gospels, and they bring unusual gifts. We are fascinated!
The wise men are not from Israel. They have travelled from countries far away. so they are not Jewish. They do not yet know the One True God. We call them Gentiles.
So why are they travelling all this way to kneel before a child born king of the Jews? Why do they want to see the one whom the prophet says will shepherd God's people Israel? Something new is happening here.
Who is Jesus for? Is he only king of the Jews? Is he only for Israel? Whose king is he?
The phrase "king of the Jews" is not used again in Matthew's Gospel, until close to the end:
after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
Here are other people kneeling before Jesus, but these people are not bringing gifts.
Let's think about that third gift of the wise men. What can it tell us?
Myrrh comes from the sap of a tree. It is rare and expensive. In the Bible it is added to oil that is used for anointing things that are holy. It is also used to anoint someone's body after they have died as a sign of love and respect.
What a strange gift to present to Jesus. At the time of his birth, the wise men give him something for his death.
What do they know about Jesus, the king of the Jews? They know he will die, that he will give his life as a gift for all--Jews and Gentiles. For us.
The gift of myrrh is the gift that will never be used because we know that when the women come to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body, they do not find him there. Why? Because He is Risen! The gift of myrrh is not nearly as great as Jesus' gift to all.
We can never give Jesus anything as great as the gift of his life. So what can we do? Just before we receive the gift of Jesus' life in the Eucharist, we can do what the wise men do. We can bow low before the king, before our God, before the One who gives us his Risen life.