Matthew 2:1–12: Jesus Dethrones Illegitimate Kings
From his conception, Jesus was a stumbling block to those who came in contact with him. Judging by outward appearances, Joseph nearly divorced Mary because of the seemingly scandalous circumstances of her pregnancy, although Joseph changed his mind once God revealed to him the full story. Now, in Matthew 2, we discover that Jesus has been born, and we will see that he is still a stumbling block—although the stakes are rising. As wise men leave behind their country and their culture to worship the one born king of the Jews, the current king of Judea, Herod the Great, recognizes that Jesus’ own claims to the throne may be stronger than his. Rather than responding to the announcement of Jesus’ birth with faith, Herod plots and schemes to do away with Jesus. In the contest between a powerful king and a powerless baby, however, Herod’s plans will be thwarted until the day of his death. Matthew is continuing to prove to us Jesus’ kingship, but here he is also giving us a glimpse into the consequences of Jesus’ kingship: namely, that Jesus dethrones illegitimate kings.
1. What is the significance of the fact that Jesus was born in “Bethlehem of Judea” (v. 1a)? What is the significance of this fact for the reign of “Herod the king” (v. 1b)? Why do the wise men from the east come to Jerusalem in search of Jesus (v. 2)? What has led them there? What do they hope to find? How does Matthew portray this clash of two kingdoms—the earthly kingdom of Herod, and the heavenly kingdom of Jesus—from in just two short verses?
2. What is Herod’s response to the question of the wise men (v. 3)? Why are the people of Jerusalem troubled as well (v. 3)? Why does Herod need to assemble the full Sanhedrin to answer such a simple question from the Bible (v. 4)? What does Herod’s ignorance tell us about his faith? What does the apathy of the members of the Sanhedrin (in contrast to the eagerness of the wise men) tell us about their faith? Why is Herod unwilling to worship this new king?
3. What is the response of the wise men as they continue on their quest (v. 9–10)? Why do these Babylonian wise men have such joy to find the one born king of the Jews—a people their country had conquered only a few hundred years earlier? What do their gifts tell us about their devotion (v. 11)? What is the goal of their faith? What do we learn from the simplicity with which God thwarts the plots of Herod (v. 12)?
4. How much revelation have you been given in comparison with the wise men, who followed a star? How much revelation have you been given in comparison with the members of the Sanhedrin, who studied the Old Testament? What is your response to the revelation you have given in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament? Do you willingly surrender your own kingdom to the true kingship of Jesus? Where do you try to retain some of your power and authority? Why?