False faith and true faith
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Christ would be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is written through the prophet,6 ‘You Bethlehem, land of Judah,are in no way least among the princes of Judah;for out of you shall come a governorwho shall shepherd my people, Israel.’ ”7 Then Herod secretly called the wise men, and learned from them exactly what time the star appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and search diligently for the young child. When you have found him, bring me word, so that I also may come and worship him.”9 They, having heard the king, went their way; and behold, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them until it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 They came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Opening their treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country another way.
Herod and the Magi
Today’s text has us discussing the Wise Men and Herod. They have something in common, they want to worship Jesus. Yet, that is about all they have in common. Herod “The Great” was king and he was a ruthless paranoid king. He was known to have killed members of his own family due to his paranoia of anything threatening his rule. The Magi or “wise men” have their own little story. First off, notice that they are not given a number of size. We often think of three wise men yet the text does not give us a set number of men. The Magi were Gentiles who practiced divination and astrology. It is not told to us as to why they came seeking the King. They were most likely astonished by the miraculous star, as the practice of astrology is one of the ways of the Magi, and were able to link this phenomenon from Old Testament prophecy to this Jewish King perhaps (Numbers 24:17).
Notice how they came to “worship” this King. Herod, was very troubled out of his paranoia and assembled the Scribes to find this King, as we will see later, he will try to do to this king as he handled those in his own family whom he thought was a threat to his power. He sent the Magi off to find the child king so that, he too, might worship him. They were unaware of his true plans and they left following the Star that led them directly to Jesus. No ordinary phenomenon is this Star. God was using this bright light to navigate the Magi to the Christ. Rejoicing with exceedingly great joy that they found Him; they then bowed down and worshiped Him. After they worshiped Him they gave Him gifts and they were then warned by God in a dream to not return to Herod.
The Magi, pagan gentiles, were led by the Star and Scripture to the Christ. Where they worshiped Him and gave Him gifts of thanksgiving. Herod, an Edomite, remained at odds with Israel. Even with the Scribes telling him the prophecy of Scripture, he rejects the faith that the Magi were given, and let his fear be in something apart from the true God. He let his fear of losing his power reign over him and he, in bondage to his sin, lied about his intentions to worship this new King. Not only lied, but as we will soon see, he wanted this King dead.
The Gift of Faith to the World
There are two types of faith in this passage. True faith and false faith. Herod claims to believe yet he does not. He claims to want to worship Jesus but he wants Jesus to die. He seems pious yet is an unbeliever. The Magi were pagans who saw this bright light in the sky that they had never seen before and were eventually led to the Scriptures for answers, where they were given the gift of faith. One of these is natural to our fallen nature, the other is a gift only given by God.
Our sinful nature wants to seem so pious. It wants to be spiritual but not religious. It wants to seem holier than thou. Dressed up in fig leaves it parades around saying everything is fine with me there is no sin here. When it comes to worship, the sinful nature rejects God for it has no true fear, love, or trust in anything higher than the preservation of itself. It might even claim to believe in Jesus yet the Jesus it believes in is not the Jesus of Scripture. The Jesus, or god, it wants to believe in is really its own desires and lusts of its flesh and fallen reasoning with the super spiritual outer coating of “Jesus”. “My Jesus doesn’t judge”, “My Jesus is a Socialist”, “My Jesus loves everyone the way they are and doesn’t want them to change”, “My Jesus is okay with open sexual immorality” etc… What they all mean is “My Jesus isn’t the Biblical Jesus”.
Yet, true faith comes from the Words of the Biblical Jesus. Faith comes from Jesus, not in spite of Him. Faith comes from the Word and it brings life where there was death, freedom where there was bondage, light where there was darkness. The gift of faith is the gift of Jesus. It is the gift of forgiveness for all sins, even murder of family members, pride, the murder of innocents, and the attempt to murder Christ. If Herod wouldn’t have rejected the Word, he would have seen the marvelous forgiveness given to him.
He would have left everything and went with the Magi. He too would have rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. He would have worshipped, he would have; repented. Repentance is contrition and faith. He would have seen the error of his ways and seen the condemnation of God for his sin, He would have grasped the faith in this Jesus to take away his sin. Instead, being born again, he hardened his heart and rejected the Word because the cares if this world were greater to him.
“What was sown among the thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of this age and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” -Matthew 13:22
His covetousness of power and riches choked out the life that was given to Him. Instead of repentance, Herod wanted to be his own god. In order to keep his self proclaimed godhood he would first have to kill God. More on this in the next post. Subscribe below so you don’t miss the rest of the story!
As for you; rejoice, you have the King, for you have the gift of faith, you have God in the Word and Sacrament. You have forgiveness for all of your sins. You have life eternal. You have love because God loves you so much that He gave up the comforts of heaven, was born under the Law as a human, lived in suffering and humiliation His entire life yet without sin. Fulfilling all Righteousness, so that He could die for you, taking your sin upon Him, leaving it in the grave, and rose three days later to place His righteousness on you; by the gift of faith. May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. With your sins forgiven, go in peace.