“4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:” Matt 2:4,5
When you read the passage above you can tell exactly how these religious leaders and experts of the law showed their faith on their Messiah. They knew the Savior they represent would be born in Bethlehem according to the Holy Scriptures. But what did they do? Did they go to worship the Messiah?
THE WISE MEN
Here’s the story. A delegation of Wise men from the East arrived at King Herod’s castle in Jerusalem. Elegant looking, these Magi possesses extraordinary skills and knowledge in astrology, dream interpretation, sacred writings, magic and religion. King’s special advisers could be their official title like those wise men during Daniel’s time in the Old Testament. Along with soldiers to protect them from bandits they had just trekked a thousand miles riding in camels, maybe horses. Remember Nehemiah, the king’s cupbearer traveling with bodyguard- soldiers when he inspected Jerusalem’s wall ? Maybe a little bit tired but the Magi unhesitatingly expressed their explicit purpose of visit, to worship the new born King!! I think if you’re born as a king, you should be living in a castle. So logically the Wise men went directly to Herod’s palace being guided by a strange star – their modern day GPS or the Waze app. Upon arrival at Herod’s palace they asked “where is the new born king of the Jews?” King Herod hearing his job being threatened got distressed. But I think he pretended to be cool. Okay, the Bible says “…he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him.” Maybe King Herod’s poker face hid his temper in the presence of his guests.
HEROD THE GREAT
Let me explain. Six persons got lucky to be named as Herod to make history in the New Testament. Wait. If you are looking for a biblical name for your unborn child be sure not to pick Herod. Don’t pick Judas either. Appointed by the Romans, King Herod the Great was not a Jew but from the lineage of Esau (Arabs) not Jacob (Israel). He was a famous master builder. He restored the Temple of Solomon and built many theaters, cities, palaces and fortresses. He ruled ruthlessly killing those suspected threats to his throne. He murdered his own wife and he killed also several sons. So yes, Herod played along with the Wise Men when he called the chief priests or the modern day pastors asking them where the Messiah was to be born. In unison the experts shouted “ In Bethlehem” plus they quoted the Bible reference text. That’s a place about 5 miles South of Jerusalem. Not too far, compared to the thousand miles trip by the Magi coming from either Persia or Babylon, the modern day Iran or Iraq.
WORSHIP AND GIFTS
Again what’s the sole purpose of their trip ?— v2 “to worship Him”.!! Did those religious experts intend to visit their real King ? Nope. Maybe they’re afraid of losing their high paying job. Herod treacherously met with the Magi secretly to decipher how old Jesus would be by then. Then he commissioned them to search the child, —“as soon you find him, report to me so so I can worship him too” The Wise men found the child Jesus on a house, no longer in a manger as depicted by many art works nowadays — “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. (v9)” When they came to the house and saw Mary with the child, they bowed down and worshipped him. They opened their treasures and presented him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Herod was furious, he massacred the innocent children 2 years and under.
Let’s go back to those religious professionals who stayed at the comfort of their job or home. They chose to worship King Herod, serving man instead of serving God. To us Herod can represent the comfort and convenience of materialism. When a Christian choose the god of mammon we’re a disgrace to the God we represent. Many religious leaders and pastors knows the Bible well, teaches well. But sadly they did not walk that humbling 5 miles trek to worship a suffering Messiah. Or not walking the talk. Knowledge of prophecy, revelation or tribulation, pre or post tribulation could be impressive but character and the fruit of the Spirit are the higher standards. I heard someone say that being vulnerable, unmasking our imposter self in our relationships are best tested when people come into our sacred homes. Maybe a good Herod could have prepared a banquet before he let go the Wise Men. The gift of hospitality sometimes no longer happen in the ministry, especially when our leaders neglect to show hospitality to strangers. (Heb 13:2). Okay just playing safe. Maybe we can start by inviting our church brethren into our homes.
On their visit to Jerusalem the Wise Men, considered to be Gentiles by Jewish standard sacrificed their time, talent and resources. They made huge effort traveling thousand of miles, several weeks on that dangerous, sandy stormy roads. Just for the purpose of worshipping the King and Savior. The Wise Men did not seem to be judgmental on how Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus look like as poor peasants. They just believed on the evidence in the sky, their research and their skill set. Nowadays we have the convenience of cars, air conditioned church, but how many miles or km will it take you to go to worship? What kind of effort, sacrifices or gifts you can offer to signify your love and worship?
Finally, consider Mary and Joseph- when God called them as instruments to give birth to the Messiah. “Let it be to me according to your word “ Lk 1:30 They gave their all and trusted God for provision, the gifts of the Magi to name a few. During the end term of Mary’s pregnancy, they traveled from Galilee, city of Nazareth to Bethlehem 240 miles most likely by walking. When Jesus was about 2 years old , they travelled from Bethlehem to Egypt (350 miles) as they escaped Herod’s massacre of the innocents. Then when Herod died they went back to Nazareth from Egypt , that is about 400 miles. (see Arthur Blessitt’s Miles Jesus and Mary walked, www.blessit.com). Even if they rode in a donkey or camel in that long dusty, sand-stormy road, still the means of transport today nice cars, paved roads is no match to their commitment. Yet for us this Christmas we may spend more time in the mall or shopping online as the reason for this season. We will never ran out of excuses of worshipping Him, going to church or serving God in missions when our heart is not fully yielded to Him.