After a long and arduous journey which may have covered hundreds of miles on dusty caravan trails, the Wise Men must have rejoiced to think they were nearing the end of their quest. But their hearts must have sunk, when the star no longer lit up the sky guiding their way. They had gotten as far as Jerusalem, when the star left them.
Now what were they to do? I'm glad these Wise Men weren't paralyzed by the normal male resistance when it comes to stopping and asking for directions! Instead, they went to the ruler of the country, no doubt expecting to find a Jewish nation that was already celebrating this momentous birth. What they found instead was Herod. And when Herod heard of these Wise Men, "he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him." (Matthew 2:3) Why? Herod had spent his life orchestrating an endless bloodbath meant to consolidate his power. Now some pipsqueak of a baby was going to threaten him? No! Herod would never allow it, not if he could snuff out the child's life.
That's why Herod was quick to consult with the Jewish Sanhedrin, asking them whether they knew "where the Christ was to be born." (Matthew 2:4) They did, because they knew the prophecy of Micah. "You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are certainly not least among the rulers of Judah: because out of you will come a ruler, who will shepherd my people, Israel.” (Micah 5:2)
Armed with this information, the Wise Men could continue their journey. Matthew also informs us that once this detour for directions was completed, the star reappeared and guided the Magi to Bethlehem and the very house where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were now living. What a thrill it must have been for the Wise Men to kneel beside the cradle of the Real Star at Bethlehem! What a comfort for them to have heard Micah's promise that this Star, their King, was also their Shepherd! (See also Ezekiel 37:24-26)
What a comfort for us to know who the Real Star of Bethlehem was! To know that Jesus, our all-powerful King, is also our caring Good Shepherd, because of whom we shall “lack nothing." Because of Jesus our Shepherd, we won't need to be afraid even when we walk "through the valley of the shadow of death, for he is with (us.) His rod and his staff, they comfort (us)." Because of Jesus our Shepherd, we know that “goodness and mercy will pursue (us) all the days of (our) life, and (we) will live in the house of the Lord forever!" (Psalm 23) This is our confidence, because we know that Jesus is the caring King who promised, "I am the good shepherd. .I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:11)
Before this infant Shepherd-King, the Wise Men bowed and gave their gifts. Gold—a fitting gift for the King they came to worship! (Psalm 72:15) Frankincense--from the resin of a type of tree (Boswellia sacra) that was used as sweet-smelling incense. What could be more fitting for the worship of the one true God! (Leviticus 16:12-13) And myrrh--from the natural gum or resin of small trees (commiphora), used in preparing a body for burial. Some thirty-plus years later, myrrh and other spices were spread between the strips of cloth wrapped around the lifeless body of our Shepherd-King in his grave. (John 19:39). Then three days later, just as prophesied, our Shepherd-King rose from the dead! (Psalm 16:10)
This Shepherd-King, this Real Star of Bethlehem, still guides us, guards us, and whispers to us, “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be overwhelmed, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Privileged to Serve,
Rev. Glenn Schwanke