More questions from Matthew Chapter 2
4. What title did the Magi use for Jesus and what is unique in the way they used it?
The Magi called Jesus the King of the Jews. It is evident that the Magi knew exactly who Jesus was. It would have been a diplomatic courtesy for dignitaries of another nation to come and pay their respects to a king’s firstborn son – the one who would succeed him when he died. However they didn’t come to the reigning king, Herod, and ask to see his son. Instead, they were asking people in Jerusalem. They most likely knew that Herod was not Jewish even though he reigned as their king. It is unique that they were looking for a king to worship. This was not a diplomatic formality; they came to worship.
The fact that they came to worship is telling of the fact that they knew who Jesus was. They would be quite aware that asking to see someone so that they could worship would be blasphemous to the Jewish population unless that person was indeed God. The Greek word they used for worship is the same one that is used over and over in the New Testament. There was no confusion whether they were simply paying respect or honoring Jesus in a human way.
Matt 4:9-10 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (KJV) Both Satan and Jesus understood the meaning of worship. In fact, when Satan asked Jesus to fall down, he was being redundant as the Greek word worship means to prostrate oneself. Jesus’ response reflected the central Jewish belief and custom. No one was to be worshiped other than God. Later, we find that Jesus accepted worship. John 9:38 He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him. (RSV) Jesus didn’t reject this worship and so confirmed His identity as our God.
As I looked up various verses in the Old Testament regarding worship, I found an interesting fact. There are very few verses that say that we should worship God. More often, we are commanded to fear and serve God. The verse that Jesus quoted when rebuking Satan is Deut 6:13 Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. (NIV) In practice, fearing the Lord and serving Him resulted in worship. Acts of worship are displayed abundantly throughout the Old Testament. Our command to worship is most often stated in a negative way. Ex 34:14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (NIV)
I think the reason that this occurs is that it is too easy for us to bow down to God and then get up and walk away feeling we have filled our obligation. In modern day application, it would mean going to church, singing some songs, praying and listening to a sermon. Then we walk out the doors to continue our life as we want. But God commands us to fear and serve Him. The difference is that worship can be simple outward conformity while fear combined with serving God requires inward heart conformity.
The nation of Israel struggled with this throughout their history. Ezek 14:3 "Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?” (NIV) The Israelites hedged their bets – they worshiped idols at the same time they continued to “worship” God with sacrifices. If God didn’t meet their needs, then the other gods might. They viewed God as some kind of genie that would take care of them as long a they followed the rules. Their biggest stumbling block was that they didn’t love and serve God, but that they loved and served themselves.
Is there any difference between them and us if we are not truly serving God but expecting Him to meet all our needs and so that we believe He is actually serving us? Even Christians who have the Holy Spirit living in us can set up idols in our hearts. We worship those idols when we give them our best instead of giving it to God.
Well, back to the Magi and the title they used for Jesus, King of the Jews. The title was only used in a few places in the Bible. When the Magi ask to find Him, when Pilate asked Him if He was indeed the King of the Jews, by the Roman soldiers when they mocked Jesus and lastly, the notice Pilate nailed to the cross. Jesus only acknowledged the title when Pilate asked Him and the Jews only mention of it is when they wanted Pilate to change the notice on the cross.
Jesus talked of His kingdom and the disciples were looking forward to it, however it wasn’t time for Jesus to be revealed as the King of the Jews. He had to come first as the Messiah, the anointed one. His first anointing was to be a sacrifice for our sins, not to be our physical reigning king. Before we can properly worship Jesus as our King, we must worship Him as our Savior. We must understand that He is our sin-bearer, the sacrifice that removes our sins. To do that we must recognize our sinfulness and God’s holiness, otherwise we will not have a reason to seek a Savior. The appropriate worship for Him as Savior is to let Him know we need to be saved by Him and accept His sacrifice for us. We need to ask for His forgiveness. Then, to worship Him as King, we need to repent of those sins and obey Him. Serving our King is the way we worship Him. If we don’t serve Him, then we don’t worship Him as King. If we don’t serve Him, then our brief moment of worship as Savior is meaningless and we can’t really claim that we are saved.
I made a distinction between worship as Savior and King for illustrative purposes. In all practicality, they should be done at the same time. A big problem with many churches is that they never speak of obedience and serving Jesus, only getting fire insurance from Him. They believe that they can accept Him as Savior then do whatever they want. They are exactly like the Israelites who thought that as long as they carried out the sacrificial system, they could do whatever else they wanted and God would take care of them. As a result, there are many attending churches who believe they can do what they want, believe what they want and will be saved. They won’t.
Where are you in your worship? Do you worship (serve) Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords – King of the Jews? Jesus said in Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?” (NIV) He went on to clearly state that whoever doesn’t put His words into practice will be like a house on a bad foundation and will be destroyed.