After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 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.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
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. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. –Matthew 2:1-12
When you read the gospel of Matthew, there’s one really important theme that keeps getting hammered on over and over again: that Jesus is the true King, the King of Israel, the King of all kings. That’s why Matthew puts this story about the wise men right after the Christmas story: so that, just in case we had missed it, we would know that this little baby is the King of the whole world.
Just think about it: these royal-looking wise men coming from a distant land, bearing kingly presents with them. When they first arrive, they come to Jerusalem, the capital (because they figure that’s where a king would be), and start asking to see the newborn king. The authorities in Jerusalem point them to an ancient Old Testament prophecy that said the long-promised King would come from Bethlehem. So the royal visitors march down to the royal city of Bethlehem to pay a royal visit to the royal baby. Everything about this story shouts, “This is him! This is the King!”
And this King, who had come in such an unexpected, upside-down way, was even more amazing than anybody at the time realized. People at the time were expecting a King who would rule Israel, like King David of old. But King Jesus had come to do far more than that; he had come to be the King of the whole world. People from every nation all over the earth would bow down to him; people from every language would sing his praise. And one day, even those who hated him will be forced to bow, and every person who has ever lived will proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”
That’s a big deal. That’s how great King Jesus is. So look again at these foreign wise men, with their strange language and their funny clothes, bowing down to the baby King. This is a picture of what Jesus had come to be: the King over every nation, the King above all kings.
And now here we are, 2,000 years later, on the other side of the world from Bethlehem, and we can see God’s promise coming true. King Jesus is worshipped and loved and obeyed here, and all around the world. He is still the King over every president and every king.
But there are some places, some nations, who still haven’t heard about him. They haven’t heard the news of how the great King has come to save them. They’re still lost in their sins, and Jesus has given us the job of taking the good news of his reign to them, so that they would join his kingdom party too, until his kingdom reaches around the whole world.