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Epiphany: The Light of Kings

Isaiah 60:3 called kings to the brightness of the rising of the Lord’s King. Psalm 72:11 said, “May all kings fall down before him.” Eph. 3:9-10 talks about bringing God’s age-old plan to light before rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Matthew 2:1-12 contrasts two kingly responses to Jesus’ birth. When the light of the world is born as the King of the Jews, the Wise Men respond straight out of the pages of Isaiah, bringing gold and frankincense. Herod responded with a murderous rage that left Rachel’s daughters weeping for their children.

Kings are drawn by the light to worship God’s anointed King, but rulers who love the darkness respond with hate. President Trump, Vice President Pence, the British royal family, and others who publicly worship Jesus fulfill (outwardly, at least) what the lectionary texts speak of. They walk in the footsteps of the Magi. But that’s not the whole story.

A couple weeks before Christmas, Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, was raided by the civil authorities, and their pastor and leaders and dozens of their members were arrested. Many of them were charged with “inciting subversion of state power.” In other words, they believe in and call people to follow a king greater than President Xi Jinping. The birth of Jesus still terrifies our Herod’s today.

And so this is the challenge for all kings: how will you respond to the light? Like the Magi, bringing gifts and worship, or like Herod, with deception and murder? China, like Herod, makes deceptive claims about worshiping Jesus. Our own rulers claim to honor Jesus, but the test comes in whether or not they come to Him in faith and allow Him to rule through them.

And so I want to use our texts today to tell our rulers what it means to truly come to the brightness of King Jesus’ light. What does a king who has seen the light of Jesus do?

First, an enlightened king seeks Jesus and worships Him, putting His faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. A king who does not trust and worship Jesus is walking and ruling in thick darkness.

Second, an enlightened king brings treasures to Jesus. Does the king enrich the Church? That’s what kings do when they come to the light. If your take on separation of church and state means that this must never happen, then you are walking in darkness.

Third, an enlightened king breaks down false divisions and pursues unity in Christ. All ethnic or nationalistic pride is removed, because Jesus is king over all. An enlightened king would seek to end racism, ethnic strife, and caste systems, and wouldn’t allow the justice system to favor the rich and oppress the poor.

Fourth, an enlightened king would refuse to help Herod’s who harm Christ’s body, just like the Magi who refused to cooperate with Herod. An enlightened king won’t share the wealth of his kingdom with those who oppress Christians, since partnering with a kingdom that attacks Christ only leads to darkness.

Fifth, an enlightened king would rule according to Jesus’ standard of justice and righteousness. He wouldn’t be ashamed to apply Jesus’ lawbook to his own kingdom, not in a clunky copy and paste fashion, but with sober wisdom. If a nation’s laws aren’t grounded in the law of Christ, darkness will spread.

Sixth, an enlightened king will focus on justice for the poor, delivering the needy, crushing oppressors, and treating the blood of the weak as precious. It is impossible to read Psalm 72 and Matthew 2 without concluding that a ruler who cared anything for the light of Christ would fight to crush the evil oppression of abortion from our land. There are many weak and needy to defend, but none more obvious than this. An enlightened king would save babies from murderous slaughter.

A king who ruled like that would reflect the light of Jesus. His rule would be like rain falling on the mown grass, like showers that refresh the earth. The righteous would flourish in his days, and peace would abound. Kings and nations would honor him, and glorifying God for the wisdom of his rule.

And the good news is that we have just such a king. Thanks be to God! Our light has come! King Jesus is ruling and reigning over the earth from His throne in heaven, and throughout history and to this day, the brightness of His light is drawing nations and kings to come and worship.

And this is our prayer: “May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!” And may we as Christ’s Church continue to make the wisdom of God known to all rulers and authorities, so that they might rejoice over Jesus and join us in worshiping Him.

Posted on Wednesday, January 09, 2019 by CJ Bowen