Last week was my sister’s birthday. I forgot. I normally do. Have you ever missed a birthday that you really shouldn’t have missed?
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”—Matthew 2:1-2
These are men from far away. It is most likely that these were not Jewish men—not a part of God’s chosen people. Yet, the irony is they are pointing out to the people of Jerusalem that the king of the Jews has been born, and the people of Jerusalem are completely unaware!
But look how they respond!
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.—Matthew 2:3
There was no air of excitement. No belated-birthday cards. Though the people were anticipating the coming Messiah, they were comfortable with the way things were. When new kings come along, things get messy, and so instead of being excited like they should be, they were disturbed.
Herod had been ruling for 35 years, and he was jealous! He didn’t want ANYONE to have the title of king but him.
So, he calls The leading priests forward to find out where the king is to be born, not so much so he can help his visitors out, but so that he can find this child and kill him (…murder was one of Herod’s favorite past times)! He tells the Wise men to report back to him so that he too can go worship the child. He has no intention of worship, but rather of violence.
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’” –Matthew 2:6
So they find out that the child will be born in Bethlehem.
I love road trips—the epitome of modern day adventures. I think the story of the wise men would make a pretty great road trip movie. They have this goal of finding this king. They don’t know who he will be, or where he will be, but they step out in faith. They follow this star as their GPS, and it keeps on showing up when they need it.
Though all of Jerusalem should be celebrating with them, worshiping with them, seeking out this child with them…the Wise men go alone.
This has been a long journey. We find out later in the chapter that the star first appeared to the Wise men 2 years ago. They have given up there time and energy to find this king, when Jesus’ own people hadn’t acknowledged him. Finally they find him.
He’s not in the stable we see in nativity scenes or Christmas pageants. They place the wise men there to condense the story, but Matthew clearly mentions a “house” rather than stable, and “child” rather than baby. Jesus was probably one or two at this time.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. –Matthew 2:9-12
I wonder what the Wise men were thinking when this king they were seeking for years is in the home of peasants, not recognized by anyone else as the king he truly is.
They fall down and worship him.
In a small village, in the home of a carpenter and his young wife, they bring extravagant gifts. What a stark contrast, laying these gifts before the child. Wrapped in these gifts was the identity of the holy child. Gold, because he is a king, frankincense, because he is divine, and myrrh—used to anoint a body for burial. From the very beginning, Christ’s life pointed towards the cross.
The Wise men gave their best to him.
Herod on the other hand, decided that he would kill all the baby boys two years and under in all of Bethlehem in order to wipe out this new born King, Jesus. (Spoiler alert: Jesus escapes)
The Wise men pursued Christ, bowed in worship and gave their best to the king.
Herod, in pride, destroyed others to hold up himself as king.
What are your pursuits? Who or what receives your worship? For what do you offer your best? Who is king in your life?