Today’s Reading: Matthew 1-2.(Context: Geneology and birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Within two years there comes a visit from distinguished and learned men of the East, the “three wise men”, as we call them, who arrive to look upon and visit the King from heaven.)
The story of the Three Wise Men (their actual number is unknown to us) should shock us. It is one of the most surprising and uncharacteristic stories in the life of Jesus. Let us consider this: Men traveled halfway around the then known-world to visit a foreign King and Messiah, when the Messiah’s own people did not recognize Him.
Here we have them, a group of important, wealthy, and learned men expending great time, money, and energy to come to the small and politically insignificant country of Israel. I suppose in heaven we can ask them what convinced them to make the journey and how they could “follow” a star. Another story for another day.
What stands out to me is their arrival and reception, let’s take a look:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:1-3)
Clearly these men were widely accepted by the populous of Jerusalem, for whatever reason, be it their wealth, perhaps their names, or simply a wonderment about the strange visitors. Their message, though, was ignored, unheeded, and met with skepticism. I find this so amazing.
They describe who they are looking for and the Jewish leaders have no difficulty in identifying who they are looking for – the promised, long-expected, and often prayed for Messiah, the King of the Jews in the lineage of David. Here is where the shock comes in: “all Jerusalem [is alarmed] with [King Herod].”
The people weren’t “excited”, or “amazed”, they were “alarmed”, shocked, and perhaps angry. The Jews had been so blessed by God, having been given the blessings of Abraham, the great and detailed prophecies, the land, and the heritage. They, even they, rejected the Messiah, while outsiders received Him with great expectation and desire. Why?
Pride. I believe that the Jewish leaders, together with King Herod, rejected the message of the wise men in pride. The king rejected it because he didn’t want competition, his life being rattled with fear of opposition and the killing of even kindred to ensure his power was undisturbed. The Jewish religious leaders rejected the message of the wise men because it mean someone else, from the outside, had “figured it out”, and they weren’t going to stoop that low. They weren’t going to let a non-Jew find the Messiah.
Here is what should have happened: The Jewish leaders, upon hearing of the Messiah’s birth, should have gone and investigated the evidence, seen if this child was truly the Messiah according to the prophecies, and concluded their search in the worship of Jesus from Bethlehem.
The application is not far from us:
Do you quickly reject the teaching or exhortation of a younger man or woman?
Is a title or position worth more to retain in the light of possible humiliation and being proven wrong?
I have seen both of these not applied on a regular basis. Leaders, teachers, and older Christians rejecting youth out of sheer pride (We must overlook the messenger and center on the message). I have seen important people in the church love their title more than the truth.
Pride. It is a prison. Get out.
God help us all, for I am a culprit too.