Part 5 of a series finishing on Christmas Eve, the night of his birth.
Often, the three Wise men are depicted kneeling before Jesus, in the company of angels, on the night of his birth. The Bible doesn’t say how many wise men came, traditionally it’s three, due to the three gifts. It’s unlikely they got to Bethlehem so quickly. They were from the East, perhaps from ancient Babylonia. They saw his star, came to Jerusalem, and inquired about the one born king of the Jews. All of this would have taken many days, perhaps weeks.
The Wise men, or Magi, have fascinating history. They were scholars, astronomers, and philosophers, even king makers. It’s likely they had the writings of Daniel; and throughout their generations passed down the knowledge of the coming king. It explains their reason for coming. They presented costly and appropriate gifts of royalty. The Wise men’s visit was miraculous and served notice to Jerusalem and the world that the Messiah had come. Their visit was a coronation.
Then there was the Wicked, King Herod. He descended from Esau and Ishmael, not from David; the throne wasn’t his. But he did have political skills and was a visionary architect and builder. He built Caesarea Maritime, the Temple Mount, the palace Herodium, the mountain fortress Masada, and the grand Tomb of the Patriarchs. He was also vicious and insecure. He had three of his sons and one wife put to death, all to hold on to his crown. He was a wicked man, so a wicked king.
Herod wanted the Magi to find Jesus so he could worship him. Of course, he really just wanted to kill him. The Magi out foxed Herod, and the whereabouts of the infant Messiah was kept hidden from Herod, the most powerful man in Palestine .
The Wise and the Wicked: the one was looking to kill, the others were looking to honor. The one protected his fragile empire, the others praised the coming Kingdom. Herod in his pride would have no rivals, the Magi in humility came to lift him up, high and exalted.
This Christmas, children will give milk and cookies to Santa. But what will God’s children give to Jesus? Will it be loving devotion? A heart felt desire to please him? I guess the answer depends on whether we are more like the wicked or the wise? This holiday season, let’s take a moment to answer this question:
What gift does the King of Kings most want from me?