When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
The wise men arrived in Jerusalem, announcing that they were looking for a newborn king: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). The magi wanted to find Christ to worship Him.
Herod wanted to find Christ, too, but for an altogether different reason. Matthew 2:3 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” When Herod heard the news that a king of the Jews was coming, he was troubled. That word “troubled” in Greek means “stirred up.” Not only was he stirred up, but all of Jerusalem was stirred up as well.
When we see the magi portrayed in Christmas pageants, we usually see three of them. But did you know there is no reason to think there were only three? The reason we say three is that the Bible lists three gifts, but that does not mean there were only three magi. And how do we usually see them portrayed? We see the magi as old men with beards and funny-looking hats riding on broken-down camels, moving in slow motion to the tempo of the music: “We Three Kings Of Orient Are.” That is our idea of the magi. But the truth is because they were aristocrats and kingmakers, the magi probably rode in on swift Arabian horses or Persian steeds. And they would have traveled with soldiers and servants. When they entered Jerusalem, everybody knew somebody important had arrived. The kingmakers had come looking for a king to anoint.
No wonder Herod was scared. He was scared because he did not want his position taken. He was already on shaky ground with Caesar Augustus, who had appointed him as king. And not only that, the soldiers coming from the east with the magi meant an invasion was on the horizon. Maybe they were looking for the king who was about to overthrow Herod, and Herod could not afford a war. His soldiers were outside of Jerusalem, stationed throughout Israel conducting the census that Caesar Augustus had ordered. That is why Herod and the residents of Jerusalem were stirred up.
Matthew 2:4 says, “Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Herod was a non-Jew, but he knew about the promised Jewish Messiah, so he got together with the Jewish scribes and asked, “Where is this king supposed to be born?” They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea” (2:5). They explained that 700 years earlier, the prophet Micah said in Micah 5:2 that the Messiah would be born in the tiny village of Bethlehem, six miles south of Jerusalem. So Herod said to the magi, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him” (Matthew 2:8). Sure. Herod had an evil motive for wanting to find the Christ Child. But the magi were not aware of it at that time. So the magi followed the star to Bethlehem.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Wise Men Still Seek Him” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.lockman.org)