The King Who Would Not Wear His Crown!
I John 4:7-11
My name is Melchior….
The name literally means “The King of Light” or “The King from the East”. You know me from the part I play in the drama of the first Christmas. Of course, I find it ironic that sometimes you remember me as a “Wise Man”—you know how your Bible refers to “the Wise Men from the East”—well, for while I may appreciate the compliment, I have done some things in my life which reveal a decided lack of wisdom. Also, I find it ironic that at other times you remember me as a king—you know how you sing the carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are”—for if I am a king, I am a king who will not wear his crown. You remember me as either or both, but neither title is of my deserving. Let me explain…
I can understand how you might call me a “king”. Royal blood flowed in my veins and royal power was at my fingertips. I inherited from my father a small but influential kingdom in the southeastern stretches of the Arabian desert near what was called then the Persian Empire, and what is called today Iran and Iraq. Thus my name Melchior—which means the “King of Light” or “King from the East” because the light of the sun rises in the East.
And I can understand how you might call me “wise”. I was the beneficiary of a splendid education—special!zing in the physical sciences and the literature of ancient writers. As you may be aware, the ancient world made little distinction between science and superstition. For example, the science of astronomy was blended imperceptibly with the superstition of astrology. Those that were considered to be the wisest men of that day were those who were expert in both. What you may not know, however, was that no one in Persia or Arabia could become king until that person had mastered the physical sciences and the wisdom literature.
So, as “the King from the East”—Melchior—I possessed both royal power and intellectual training, yet my privilege only reminded me of the emptiness I felt inside. On the outside, I had everything anyone could want, but on the inside I was dying by little pieces day after day. As you would say it, I had climbed to the top of the heap, only to discover that it is terribly lonely up there. As a result, I had spent a significant portion of my adult years desperately searching for something or someone bigger than I was—something or someone who could make sense out of my life and the world and give me a reason for living.
It was a search which yielded no reward until that day—or rather I should say, that night—when an extraordinarily bright star exploded in the western sky. All of my training in the science of the stars had not prepared me for a star so bright and so mobile. I consulted with some of my fellow astronomers and we all reached the same conclusion—the star signaled something of profound significance to the world, and movements must be tracked. In any case, we loaded provisions for the journey on the backs of camels, and we set off across the desert pursuing that star, headed precisely where we could not tell to find precisely what we could not know.
The journey was fraught with danger. Since we had to travel at night in order to track the wandering star—and the darkness of the desert can be fearsome indeed. However, that aspect of the journey I learned to handle; it was the darkness in my soul that truly frightened me. In fact, I frequently wondered if I would have sufficient inner strength to complete our mutual quest. I never shared that with the others—too much pride, I guess—I mean, kings are supposed to be in control, particularly of themselves. So I suffered in silence and pressed all the harder against both the doubt and the darkness.
But you know, when I think back to our arrival in Jerusalem, the capital city of Judea, my heart sinks. It sickens me even now as I think of it. I can only assume it was the dictates of royal protocol which compelled us to visit the reigning monarch of Judea. His name was Herod. He liked to refer to himself as Herod the Great. But I knew within minutes of being in his presence that he was anything but great. Behold the foolishness of the wise. I don’t know how I could have been quite so stupid, but I actually asked for Herod’s help in finding this new world leader whose birth had been heralded by the wandering star. May God forgive me, he was only too glad to help. Later on, I learned that a number of perfectly innocent little children were needlessly, heedlessly killed—and all because of my visit to Herod. You call me wise, but I ask you: How could I have been so foolish? That one incident offers tragic and telling evidence of just how lacking in wisdom I really was! Of course, Herod’s scribes and priests gave us more information about the new king’s birth; even to the location—a little town called Bethlehem just six miles away from Jerusalem. That last leg of our journey while the shortest in distance was the most powerful in its impact.
We were then led to, of all places, a stable. Think of it—a king born in a stable! How totally unexpected! To think that the great miracle of God would come into the world on a bed of straw. The humility and simplicity of it all was so startlingly unpredictable, yet so perfectly right. Looking back I realize it could not have been otherwise. A king desiring to draw the most common of people to himself would have to have been born in the most common of places—and there is no place more common than a stable.
When we went into the stable, seated on the straw was the young mother, and in her arms she was holding a…
And I must tell you that one look at that child in the stable and I knew that all the travel and the trouble, all the danger and the darkness, all the looking and the longing—all of it had been worthwhile. I knelt before the infant king and his mother, offering to Him the gift I had brought for him. It was gold—a whole chest of it—yet once I looked at that child’s face suddenly a gift which once seemed so bountiful now seemed meager indeed. Oh, it helped me no end to learn later on that it was my gift of gold—and what that gold could buy—which allowed the baby King and His family to escape from Herod and flee to the safety of Egypt.
I remember looking at the child that night. I remember kneeling before Him. I remember offering Him my gift. But what I remember best of all was that the child’s mother allowed me to pick him up and hold Him in my arms. In that moment, like I have never felt before or since—I felt excited yet terrified—overjoyed yet very sad. Perhaps I had already guessed what the world would do with one who would come to save it. So as I held this magnificent little one in my arms, I laughed and I cried.
I feel sure you know the rest of the story—how he grew this baby boy of Bethlehem and placed those baby hands now grown strong and powerful upon the sick and the suffering and healed them. I know you have heard how they took those hands at last and drove great nails through the palms and hanged Him on a tree. And then you know how he arose and appeared to His friends and lifted those hands over them in blessing and told them that theirs was a whole world to conquer in His name. All of that I know too, but I must tell you that what I remember best is the little baby whose palm was very soft and whose mother was very beautiful. And what I believe most is that all the tramping, marching armies the world can muster and all the insidious, invisible evil the Devil can propound will never crush the power and the might and the spirit of that little baby’s hand.
Am I a Wise Man? No. I have shown you just how foolish I really was. Am I a king? In name only. I do not wear my crown. You see on that long ago night as I knelt on that stable floor, rude and bare, before the king of all kings, the King of the world, the King of my life, as an act of homage to Him, I removed my crown from my head. I have never put it on again. I never will.
He, you see, is the only King.
He, you see, is King forever.