When Herod the Great ruled Judea, these Magi, foreigners on a mission, reached Jerusalem and quickly discovered they were in the wrong place. Walking city streets, they acknowledged their plight to townsfolk they encountered, and asked for help. “Where is He?” “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his Star in the East….”
Then as now, news traveled fast. The wise men’s inquiry reached the ears of Herod. Although he had done much to build up the country, Herod was a cruel, power-hungry, ruthless man. He would do anything to protect his title, his authority, and the acclaim he had gained among not just his people but the Roman world. He would not be supplanted by a baby. The mere thought of a child born and destined to be king threw him into a jealous rage, though he veiled it. To learn more, he summoned the religious authorities of his day. In conference, Herod asked the identical question the wise men were asking – though with a far darker purpose. “Where Is He?” Where, according to the Scriptures, should the Anointed One of God be born?”
Enlightened by chief priests and scribes, the King secretly called the wise men to him and pumped them for as much information as he could glean. Only then did he answer their question, “Where Is He?” A wolf in sheep’s clothing, Herod directed them toward Bethlehem – but with a mandate: “Go,… make every effort to find …the little child. When you have found him, send news to me, that I, too, may come and worship him.”
The Magi must have sensed pretense, hypocrisy, and hostility disguised as concern in Herod’s words. They later recognized his plan as a dangerous plot to divert them from their goal and manipulate them as accessories to murder. For now, however, they wisely chose to avoid confrontation. Instead, they listened calmly, and then departed on the next leg of their journey, undistracted, still focused on their goal. What an example to follow….
Tune in tomorrow for Episode Three (Matthew 2:10).