Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV)
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Matthew records what happened some time after Jesus’ birth (v. 1). Bethlehem of Judea was a small city located about five miles south of Jerusalem. At this time, Herod “the Great” reigned as the “king” of the Jews. He was put into office by the Romans in 40 BC and remained there until 4 AD. God led a group of men from the east into Israel to meet Jesus. These “wise men” were probably like what we would think of as ancient astronomers, and they saw something in the heavens that let them know the rightful ruler of Israel had arrived. When King Herod discovered these travelers had come into Judea to worship the newborn King, he “freaked out.” Herod wasn’t even a legitimate Jew. What if the authentic heir to the throne had arrived? Herod quickly went to the religious leaders of the day and asked them where the coming King was to be born. At this time, God’s people were waiting for their Messiah, or Anointed One, to come and deliver them from the Romans who dominated Israel. In response to Herod’s question, the religious leaders turned to Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah and told Herod that according to the book of Micah, written centuries before, the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem.
What’s so thought-provoking about all of this is that although King Herod and the religious leaders knew the Messiah had just been born in Bethlehem, they didn’t care. They weren’t interested in searching to see if Jesus was the One. They just carried on with everyday life, attending to their own needs. And to top it off, instead of seeking God, Herod only worried about losing his own throne! He cared more about protecting what he thought belonged to him, and the last thing he wanted to do was turn his goods over to the rightful owner. In fear of losing his power, Herod lied and told the wise men that he too wanted to worship this new king (v.8). In the end, Herod not only lost his throne, but he missed God as well. How often do we worry about what we will have to give up to worship Jesus rather than rejoice in all we will gain? Keep your hands open and always be willing to give to God what is technically his. Don’t be like Herod, willing to lose your soul to save your stuff! Let’s make sure we aren’t clinging to our agendas or our “thrones” and are instead willing to let Jesus be the rightful King of our lives today.