|James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” – Matthew 2:2 (NIV)
It was an innocent enough question. But what ramifications! Who would have known?
As a child I simply accepted the story of the “three kings” who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ Child. But as an adult I now see not just the miracle of the star, the mysterious appearance of the Magi (who weren’t really kings, but literally magoi, “wise men”), and the lavish gifts.
I also see the mess they created when they made a stop in Jerusalem to ask for directions.
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” they asked the natives. “We saw his star in the East and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).
King Herod heard about it and sent for them. How were they to know Herod was a ruthless, power-hungry tyrant whose list of murder victims included his wife, three sons, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and uncle? Herod had no intention of worshiping the newborn king, as he told them.
After obtaining information they needed, the Magi left for Bethlehem, and what do you know – there was the star again. And it led them straight to the house where Jesus was.
That’s what confuses me: why they had to stop and ask in the first place, if they were following the star. One of my commentaries states that “the star which they saw in the east now reappeared to act as a guide from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.” (emphasis mine)
The story we hear every Christmas has the Magi following the star all the way from the East. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they saw it in their native country months earlier when Jesus was born, knew its significance, and headed west to pay homage to the newborn king.
That would explain why they had to stop and ask the natives about something they thought they should know.
What they didn’t know is that because of their questions, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children under the age of two who lived in Bethlehem and the surrounding territories.
Ever feel like you’re in the middle of a mess you didn’t create or that you innocently blundered into? That no matter what you do, you’ll be the bad guy?
Sin does two things: It separates us from God, and it produces evil in the world. The first of these was taken care of at Calvary.
The second, well, look around. Even the innocent are hurt by what sin does.
But this is the real story of Christmas: the forgiveness God extended to man when that baby grew up and offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. And the hope that He will redeem all the wrongs and make them right.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” Jesus said. “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).
And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men.” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.” (From “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Special-Tea: Read Matthew 2:1–18