The Wise Men

“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gift of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.”

Matthew 2:1-12

I can’t help but notice that it does not seem that the Wise Men visited the night Jesus was born, but later.

Notice this is the first time Jesus is referred to as “King of the Jews.” And how do the people of Jerusalem react? Not with joy, but with fear. They believed the Messiah would be a military leader to free them from Rome. But even in the prophecy the priests bring out he is referred to as a “shepherd.” I understand why Herod feared the Messiah, but why did the Jews?

Notice, also, that the first men to recognize Jesus were not even Jews, but men from the east! To me this is a powerful statement proclaiming that Jesus is for all people, not just for the Jews, and not just for those people born in to the right family. Everyone deserves the opportunity to worship Jesus! It also shows the importance of listening to your heart rather than listening to the rules. Israel’s most ardent rule followers, the Pharisees, didn’t recognize the Messiah even as He performed miracles and practically told them who He was. They rejected Him, killed Him. Yet these easterners who weren’t Jewish, who probably didn’t even worship the God of the Jews, recognized the Messiah and paid him homage.

How easy it is to be like the Pharisees. To get so worried about doing the right thing that you don’t even notice God speaking to you. To be so afraid of changing who you are that you reject God’s new plans for your life in favor of easy rule following. I know I need to be especially careful of that. How much more difficult to be like the Wise Men. To leave your comfort zone and to take a long journey just to meet Jesus! We should all try to be Wise Men, not Pharisees.

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