Herod the Great ruled Jerusalem and its surrounding villages with cruelty and deceit. His ruthless murders made him almost as famous as the magnificent building projects he instituted.
During his reign, an entourage of distinguished travelers from the East came to Jerusalem. Their entrance into the massive doors of the city must have created a sensation. Likely a large group, they were ostentatious in wealth and importance. News spread inside the walls. People lined the streets and strained for a glimpse.
The magi sought an audience with Herod at his luxurious palace. Gentiles, students of Jewish prophecy, star gazers and seekers, they entered for a face to face with the king. He welcomed them with cunning and grabbed the opportunity for information sharing, or perhaps information harvesting to serve his own devious purposes.
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” they asked the great king. “We have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.”
It was a singular request addressed to one king for the purpose of bestowing worship of Another. Did Herod’s neck swivel immediately toward the carved stone window? Did he need to restrain himself from leaning out to look upward into the night sky?
The question not only agitated King Herod, but perhaps already on edge by a large group of foreigners, it raised a ruckus all through Jerusalem. Another king, a King of the Jews, brought troublesome thoughts of conquer and captivity, of uncertainty and hardship.
The King called together all the chief priests and authorities on Jewish law. A pompous group of Sadducees, Pharisees along with various scholars gathered. Undoubtedly gossip preceded them. They spread their robes and settled in for the imperial news brief.
“Where is this Jewish king to be born?” King Herod asked.
As professionals, they knew exactly where the prophesied Messiah would be born.
“In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him.
Six miles separated them from Jesus the Savior.
Israel had waited for the promised Messiah for hundreds of years. History connected future with purpose and hope by the cord of His someday arrival. But rather than high tail it toward Bethlehem, temporary home to the little-King, the waiting religious crowd stayed where it was. While a group of joyful Gentile seekers had traveled days and hundreds of miles, another group, all head and no heart, was content to let others move down the six mile road to see the God of the Universe.
Still, the plot thickened.
“Go, find Him for me,” the sly king suggested to the magi.
My imagination crosses stories at this point, and Herod takes on a green face tilted with a thin smile.
“Bring back word so that I may go worship Him too,” but his oily response held no truth.
Talk about fake news.
“Jerusalem King seeks baby to worship,” would have been our headlines today.
Not a magnanimous soul to start with, Herod didn’t intend to bow the knee to the Messiah. He wanted to snuff out any potential threat.
When God declares His Sovereignty, He means it.
His purposes will not be thwarted.
The magnificent procession left. Led by the star to the Child, already a bit older and no longer in a manager. They found the Young Jesus in a house where the magi fell down and worshiped Christ.
Worship is an appropriate response when met with the King of Kings face to face.
To welcome a Savior acknowledges the need for a Lord.
The sojourners presented gifts befitting a king, gold, frankincense and myrrh. I present less tangible gifts before the Christ this year, but costly as well. I yield heart mind and soul. I lay down pains and sorrows, the hurts of the past year, and the wrongs I foolishly hug against me like a treasure.
Worship holds no tightly grasped gods of self or blame. And as those hard-to-let-go-of pieces fall to the ground before Jesus, my Ruler-Shepherd, my sorry gifts shine precious to Him.
The sacrifices of a swept clean soul are to Christ as the magi’s gold frankincense and myrrh.
Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.