Our caravan consisted of two fellow magi and enough servants to tend to our needs and our animals, and soldiers for security. Melchior was from Arabia, but had been in our court since I was a child. He was well advanced in years, and almost blind. I thought he was far too old to travel, but you couldn’t keep him from going. The other member of our party was a young man, newly admitted to the court, named Gaspar. He was brash and arrogant, and I feared would cause trouble before the journey was over.
We went directly to the Judean capital, Jerusalem. We knew the Roman Governor was the real ruler of the province, but still we went to the Hebrew King, Herod, because the newborn king was to be the "King of the Jews."
The Jews hated Herod because of his successful alliances with Rome, and because they didn’t consider him a true Jew. He was the child of Gentile converts to Judaism. Still he tried to curry the favor of the populace by rebuilding the Temple. He did a magnificent job. Rabbis often said: "He who has not seen the Temple has not seen a beautiful building!" But the people knew he was not building because of his orthodox faith; he made a small fortune off the construction!
We were warned to be careful when we met him and inquired about a new king. He had already killed one wife and two sons whom he thought were trying to take his throne. One saying in Jerusalem was: "It is better to be Herod’s dog than his son!" So when we asked where the new king had been born and Herod was troubled, we thought our lives may be over. Fortunately for us, this schemer devised a plot to use us to help him find the threat to his throne. Herod quickly inquired of his holy men where the king, the Messiah they called him, was to be born. "In Bethlehem," they told him. So he sent us on our way with instructions to return and report to him upon our success, so that he, too, may worship the new king.
Bethlehem was a village of about 4,000 people only 5 miles South West of Jerusalem. Compared to the hundreds of miles we had already traveled, it was a very short distance.
The star I had first seen reappeared in the early evening and seemed to guide us along our way, even to a stable that had been built in a small cave where we found people scurrying about in a beehive of activity.
The first thing to strike us odd was the shepherds. As we approached the cave, four shepherds walked out as though they were in a daze. I couldn’t believe they didn’t notice us, but they walked right past us. They wouldn’t have to recognize our faces and know our names to know we were men of wealth and power. Such commoners always bowed in the presence of people like us. But these shepherds walked by like we were as common as they.
Gaspar reached for his sword and said something about teaching them some manners, but Melchoir, moving with speed and agility that amazed me, grabbed his arm with strength I would have thought had fled him years ago, and said: "No. Not here. Not now."
We proceeded in with our gifts and beheld the newborn babe.