Matthew 2: 1-12
Scholars from the East
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the new-born King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signalled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”
When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:
It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land, no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.”
Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”
Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.
The wise men saw a star, and somehow, they got the message from God that this signals the birth of a great king. Their belief in this message is strong enough for them to make a long and difficult journey to present themselves and their gifts to Jesus, but near the end, they make an assumption that turns out to be very dangerous. They turn up at Herod’s palace, expecting to find the baby king there, born to royal parents, surrounded by wealth and luxury. But Jesus, the Son of God, is born into a poor family in a stable, surrounded by animals, and with only the local shepherds to visit him so far. They are not Jews, so they don’t associate him with the Messiah at this point – but Herod does, and he is terrified.
It’s a big reminder that Jesus was born as an ordinary child, without the advantages of the rich, and that he will always have the interests of the poor close to his heart. God gave his only son a tough start in life rather than giving him a position of comfort and influence, but it was the best start for the life he was going to lead, getting to know the ordinary people and reaching out to them first.
The star leads the wise men from a distant land to Jesus, so this is the moment that he is shown to the world. They are filled with joy at seeing him with his mother, and kneel to ‘pay homage’, submitting themselves to his rule. They clearly realise who he really is - even though they are from a different faith and culture. Although the promise of the Messiah is part of the Jewish faith, through Jesus, God is already reaching people beyond the Jews, and as he always will, if we are ready to see and follow his light.
Salesian Communications Worker
God our Father
You gave the wise men signs to guide them to Jesus.
You gave them faith to follow your signs.
Help us to see where you are guiding us in our own lives.
Give us the faith to trust in you
and to follow our own star, leading us to Jesus.