Matthew 2 (NRSV)
The Visit of the Wise Men
HERE is “We Three Kings,” with artwork of the wise men as well as pictures of Bethlehem.
In the time of King Herod,
This was the one known as Herod the Great. Herod was indeed great: in some ways great as a ruler, builder, and administrator; in other ways great in politics and cruelty. “He was wealthy, politically gifted, intensely loyal, an excellent administrator, and clever enough to remain in the good graces of successive Roman emperors. His famine relief was superb and his building projects (including the temple, the port at Caesarea Maritima, Herodium, and Masada) were admired even by his foes. But he loved power, inflicted incredibly heavy taxes on the people, and resented the fact that many Jews considered him a usurper. In his last years, suffering an illness that compounded his paranoia, he turned to cruelty and in fits of rage and jealousy killed close associates.”
–D. A. Carson
after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
Re: the wise men — they were more likely astronomers than kings.
Re: the child — It is a strange thing for a baby to be born a king. Usually they are princes for a long time before they are kings. D. A. Carson says, “His kingly status was not conferred on him later on; it was from birth.”
3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The idea that there were three wise men comes from the fact that there were three gifts. We may say that gold speaks of royalty, incense speaks of divinity, and myrrh speaks of death. Yet it is almost certain that the Magi did this unawares; they simply wanted to honor the King of the Jews.
12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
from “In the Bleak Midwinter”
by English poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.
The Escape to Egypt
13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
“The Flight into Egypt,” by John August Swanson. Love the skies! Click HERE.
from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw
I love the story of Joseph of Nazareth. All he wanted to know was the right thing to do. His girlfriend was pregnant, and it was not his baby. She said that an angel had appeared to her and told her that her child was from God. That explanation did not seem plausible, but she had never lied to him before; she had always been a model of purity. Now she was telling him that she was pregnant, and he faced a dilemma. If he believed her story, he might be cooperating with her evil. But if he denied her story and it was true, then he would be guilty of evil. What should he do?
At this point, an angel appeared with directions for Joseph. The angel told him to believe Mary and take her to be his wife. Angels do not usually visit humans, but at this crucial moment in history they entered our world in order to help righteous people differentiate the truth from a lie. We must be in communication with the One from outside of our world if we are ever to know what is right and what is wrong. It is no accident that modern America has nothing to say about ethics and truth because true ethics come from outside our space-time universe.
At two other times in Joseph’s life, he received supernatural guidance when his only concern was the protection of his wife and her child. Could it be that the purpose of theses stories is to let us know that there is no way we can be responsible for our family unless that we are in communication with heaven? At crucial points in each family’s existence, divine counsel and guidance are needed to protect each member of the family. God provided direction to Joseph, and he will do the same for you.
The Massacre of the Infants
16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they are no more.”
The Return from Egypt
19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”
21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazarene.”
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.