Starting a Journey with Jesus, Day 4 (Matthew 2:1-6)
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea at the time of King Herod. That’s when Magi from the east showed up in Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and we have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was upset (and all Jerusalem with him). He called together all the chief priests and teachers of the Jewish people, and he questioned them about where the Messiah was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.‘” (Matthew 2:1-6)
Bethlehem was just a short distance south of Jerusalem,
further than five miles (not quite nine kilometers). Jesus was born in Bethlehem during King Herod’s reign. Herod was a great builder and loyal ally of the Romans. His building projects reflected his desire for greatness, and the shadows they cast also projected the great paranoia he had about being unseated as king.Magi came from the East to Jerusalem. They were a mix of scholar, mystic and astronomer all in one. Their journey to find the king took some effort. Directly east of Jerusalem is a wilderness and then a vast desert. Beyond the desert and further east is Babylonia, home of the stargazers and those who consult zodiac signs. The Magi traveled a long way in search of this mysterious king they have learned about.
Even today, people consult their zodiac or horoscope to see what the day will bring. The ones who invented the horoscope couldn’t find their answers in the stars, and they went seeking a greater authority, a king born on earth that they would worship. “Where is the one born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and we have come to worship him.”
King Herod, who occupied the throne in Jerusalem, was greatly disturbed. He himself was not fully Jewish (he came from the kingdom of Idumea southeast of Israel), and nothing about his reign was a fulfillment of ancient prophecy.
He called the experts, the chief priests and teachers of the law to ask them: “Where is the Christ (the king promised by Jewish prophecy) to be born?” “Bethlehem in Judea, as the prophet said” (Micah 5:2).
Among the many rulers the Jews had seen, a ruler who would be “shepherd of my people Israel” was coming, and Herod knew that he himself did not fulfill that prophecy.
Herod held on to his reign fearfully, using terror and intimidation to rule. The Magi unintentionally rattle him completely, showing up so they could worship the one born king of the Jews.
Herod represents worldly power. No matter how strong or terrible, it is unsettled by spiritual authority and spontaneous worship, sacrificial acts of devotion given without looking for a return or favor. That is what the Magi bring as they come to worship the baby born to be king.
Whether you are close or far from Jesus; religious, suspicious, superstitious or just curious, the distance isn’t what matters. The Magi crossed deserts and nations in search of the king. King Herod wouldn’t even travel six miles to see the baby. What are you willing to do to journey with Jesus?
Prayer: God, You are the true King, the real ruler of the world and also of the heart. Rule in me, reign over me, Shepherd, and lead me so I can serve You worthily. I worship You, Immanuel, King of Heaven, Yeshua Messiah. Like the Magi, I worship You. Let Your will be done in me today, from morning to night. Draw me to You so I also can worship and not war against You.
Travel tip: Praying this prayer may be difficult for some, especially if you aren’t religious or strong in your faith. Or maybe you are strong in your faith, but don’t identify yourself as a Christian. Either way, on this journey we are making an authentic pilgrimage, just as if we were actually standing in Bethlehem today among pilgrims in this bustling town. If you cannot bring yourself to worship, then at least imagine the spirituality and devotion of those who still journey to Bethlehem in order to get closer to the story and person of Jesus.
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