The Humility of a King

by Brett Kunkle

Incarnation. The word captures the essence of Christmas. Jesus, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7). God, become man. But still God. Still the Sovereign Lord of the universe. Still the King of Kings.

Indeed, Christmas carols are replete with references to Christ as king. “Angels We Have Heard on High” proclaims, “Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing; come, adore on bended knee Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.” This King rules the universe. This King is worthy to be worshipped.

In his gospel, Matthew begins by retracing Jesus’ royal lineage. In the second chapter, Matthew records the magi’s motivation to seek Jesus: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (v. 2). When they find Jesus, they present Him with gifts fit for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The Incarnation of Jesus is a Kingly affair.

But unexpectedly, this King is unlike earthly kings. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, spends the rest of his gospel demonstrating that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the prophesied “Ruler, who will shepherd [God’s] people Israel” (2:6). But in contrast to earthly kings, the rulership of Jesus is not about exercising power and authority to lord over men (20:25). This King is different…

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