As long as the road would have seemed to Joseph & Mary, there were those on a quest who took even longer to arrive in Bethlehem.
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 newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”
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.
There are a lot of different interpretations of these verses.
Some say there were likely only three wise men, as could be assumed based on the number of gifts they gave. We know there were there gifts, hence the three wise men. However, I am guessing with the long hike they underwent, they had to have had extra supplies, camels and servants, so I would not have been only three camels carrying three men.
Some say they must have followed the star to Jerusalem, or even Nazareth, for two reasons:
1. Jesus was named at the temple in Jerusalem on His eighth day (Luke 2:21-38). Not sure the Carpenters would have returned to Bethlehem after heading there, so it is likely they stayed at a B&B/hotel or possibly with family at Jerusalem.
2. Herod was the appointed King over the whole of Israel. I believe the coming slaughter of the male babes2 and under may have had a larger scope….not just limited to Bethlehem, as it clearly includes ‘and surrounding districts’ in the passage (Matthew 2:16-18) So Jerusalem might have also fallen under the target range, as all infants were named at the temple.
So, I think Jerusalem was more likely if they arrived with a younger Jesus as a newborn to two month old. Mary would have had to wait a certain amount of time after giving birth before traveling (her purification period), so after three months away from home, they either were met by the Wise Men in Jerusalem, or were back in their home in Nazareth.
(Either way, in order for the Word to have written in a warning, they were within the danger zone. More on that tomorrow…)
Now, the star heralding Jesus’ arrival & birth has been traditionally called the star of Bethlehem, but was in fact not called that in the Word. Rather the ‘star in the eastern sky.’
I think God aligned the planets to ignite the passion in these wise men’s hearts to find Him, in the form of Jesus, through this star.
The argument over the when and where of this part of the story some times misses the point.
When God is calling, our response is what matters. It may take longer for many of us to hear, or see or sense Him reaching out to us.
Like the wise men, the first important part is to never stop seeking Him.
The second important part?
There is one more third element to the wise men: they brought gifts indicative of who they had come to worship.
They didn’t bring baby clothes, or infant toys to Jesus, although in the earthly side of things they would be most appropriate.
They brought Kingly gifts that recognized three major characteristics of the King they had come to worship.
Gold- to represent His Heavenly Kingship & acknowledge His royal claim to the throne of Israel.
Frankincense- to represent Jesus as our High Priest. This was an aroma offered up in worship at the temple, incense which was used at the time.
Myrrh- to represent both His Kingly Anointing, as it was used as anointing oil for kings in those days, and His impending Sacrifice, as myrrh was also used in the embalming process when one died.
These gifts were not only spot on in their recognition of who they were being given to, they were costly.
The gifts represent a great journey and effort of time, resources and money. Not just a nice present, they were major offerings being laid before Jesus.
We too need to be mindful of what we offer Jesus. We need to look past the physical baby to see the Holy God inside, and adjust our offerings accordingly.
The wise men knew only their best would do to offer the king.
The shepherds did the same, as all they had to offer was spreading the good news.
May we too never stop seeking Jesus, and offering Him our best in worship.
Note: image from the Nativity Story