By Elizabeth Prata
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
6‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR FROM YOU WILL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”
Characters: The Magi from the east, Herod, and the Scribes & Priests
Event: Finding the Christ Child
The Magi were likely some Alchemists/Astrologers/Science men etc. MacArthur describes them this way –
Because of their combined knowledge of science, agriculture, mathematics, history, and the occult, their religious and political influence continued to grow until they became the most prominent and powerful group of advisors in the Medo-Persian and subsequently the Babylonian empire. … We learn from the book of Daniel that the magi were among the highest-ranking officials in Babylon. Because the Lord gave Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-which none of the other court seers was able to do-Daniel was appointed as “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:48). (Source).
The Wise Men were monotheistic, that is, they believed there was only one God. Because of the influence of Daniel in those long ago centuries, knowledge about Yahweh still existed in their canon. We know Daniel was a sincere and learned worshiper of Yahweh, so it is likely he taught the wise men of Babylon all about our God.
That knowledge was retained, and it came down to the moment when the Wise Men of Jesus’ day saw the star.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2).
That is all we know about the Magi, but even with this scant information, we know that they knew there would be born a King of the Jews. Their journey from the east, (likely Babylon) was a journey of about 800-900 miles. They traveled by caravan. Having armed guards to protect them as was the custom of the day is probable, since they were carrying expensive items, especially the gold.
They made that difficult and dangerous months-long journey. The Magi had incomplete knowledge of the King of the Jews, Daniel was long gone 700 years before, and any remaining Hebrews in Babylon likely had probably long since apostatized.
What would spur influential Nobles like the Magi to seek out the Christ child with such single-minded purpose? We don’t know but we can surmise that their knowledge was incomplete. They were not known as strong worshipers of Yahweh but custom says they were Zoroastrians.
More astonishingly, not only did the Magi make the effort to journey to Jerusalem, (a HUGE undertaking), not only did they diligently seek the Child, and then trek to Bethlehem, they fell down and worshiped Him! They did not come to simply gather intel, they did not come simply to offer gifts. They weren’t rubberneckers or looky-loos. They came to WORSHIP HIM.
Let us contrast the diligence and humility of the Magi, pagans from a far-off land, to the Priests & Scribes, priests to the very Jews of whom Jesus had come to be king.
Imagine the scene. A caravan of Nobles along with their animals, tents, and guards, a HUGE retinue, arrives in Jerusalem. It would be akin to the Presidential Motorcade, with the cadre of motorcycles at the front, police cars with sirens, several black SUVs, and all the trailing cars. It’s a hubbub.
The Magi started asking around where is the King of the Jews, and finally got to Herod. Herod was troubled. I would be too if such a large company arrived at my door. But Herod, the Scribes, and Priests evidence no amazement. Worse, when they were asked where is the Christ child to be born, the Priests and Scribes answered immediately. The knew the scripture from Micah 5, and said ‘Bethlehem’. /Yawn/
It is not recorded that the Scribes and Priests said ‘we shall look into this as well.’ They did not ask why the Magi had arrived. Crickets. These Jerusalem men had full knowledge, revelation given to them by Yahweh Himself in the Old Testament. They spend their days studying, talking, interpreting. But when the moment came, in the form of a noticeable retinue of seekers from the east asking for the Messiah, they didn’t even walk the 5 miles to Bethlehem to check it out!
We think of others in the Bible who had incomplete knowledge, but still expended a great deal of effort to find God. The Ethiopian Eunuch, traveled all the way to Jerusalem to worship God. He was in charge of all the treasure of Queen Candace, but was humble enough to admit admitted his incomplete knowledge. He was willing to be taught.
Queen of Sheba of 1 Kings 10:1. Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon in relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with riddles. 2 So she came to Jerusalem with a very large entourage, with camels carrying balsam oil and a very large quantity of gold and precious stones.
She spoke with Solomon for a long time and was amazed. She concluded, “Blessed are your men, and blessed are these servants of yours who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom! 9 Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to put you on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loves Israel forever, He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:8-9).
Queen of Sheba was careful to question Solomon in relation to the name of the Lord, and also attributed Solomon’s success to God.
No wonder Jesus pronounced woes upon the Scribes and Priests! They had the most knowledge yet were the most apathetic.
Just because a person has head knowledge does not mean much. The rough fishermen whom Jesus called to be His disciples did not have as much knowledge as the Priests & Scribes. Yet they followed Him when called. Mary, though a young girl, was submissive, obedient, and humble. She knew she was a sinner in need of a Savior.
The difference is acting on the knowledge you DO have. Mary said yes. The Ethiopian Eunuch said please teach me. Sheba traveled to find out more. The Magi sought the Child so they could worship Him. Put your head knowledge into action in service to the Lord. Don’t rest in your head like the Scribes & Priests. Their apathy soon turned to hostility. There are only two responses to Christ: worship or rejection. Whatever knowledge you have, whether a seasoned theologian or a new convert-act on it. Act: pray, seek, question, learn, and above all, involve the heart: worship.