1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'”
7Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-8)
The king has come! Finally, it’s been 400 years since God last spoke to his people through the prophet Malachi. 400 years of silence. The Assyrians, Greeks, Romans have all conquered the land. God’s people are forgotten, they have been ruled over by foreign powers for centuries.
The king has come! And these strange characters from the east show up in town, stir up trouble. They want to come worship this child. But who worships kings? These men don’t quite get it, do they? Kings don’t get worshipped… God does. Good religious people certainly do not worship other people! The Romans worship their emperor, but the Jews refuse to. No wonder the city has been stirred up!
The king has come! It’s been a long time, but oh how we have longed for it. Longed to be free, longed for God to come near to us, longed for God to listen to us again. The promises of Malachi, that the ‘sun of righteousness would rise with healing in his wings’ are empty words. Bitter to taste.
But there is already a king of the Jews. The Romans ruled by setting up local rulers. Herod was a king, given his power by the Roman Empire. The Empire ruled everything-it went on forever! So what is there to do, obey the empire? Surrender to the king? Hope in your heart that God will save the day.
Another world away, in Bethlehem a young family have just started out. A newly wedded couple and their first son. What could be better? Imagine the busyness, Joseph working, Mary nursing this child. Suddenly this boy has become this new couple’s entire world! You know how it is, ever seen it? When new birth happens, it changes everything.
But not Jerusalem. Not the Empire.
Trouble is being stirred, the rulers and powers of this world are afraid. Because if news of this king, born of the line of David gets out it could be enough for the Jews to rise up against their roman oppressors. Herod would lose his throne, his world would come crashing down around him in a rush of nationalistic pride.
Because of these strange foreigners.
Herod’s self-ambition, the misguided religion of these mystics and a small baby boy. Did they know they were part of a story which was to change the world?