Summary: Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But myrrh is not the final gift. The final gift is the one that God has given to us: the death, the sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ and our death, our resurrection into new life … eternal life with Him … a joy past all telling.
At last … after traveling a thousand miles and enduring countless hardships and obstacles … the caravan reached the gates of Jerusalem. The city began to buzz as the news of their arrival spread … eventually reaching the courts and ears of King Herod.
A caravan of magi had travelled all the way from Persia to Jerusalem. Why? This was not a common occurrence or something you saw every day. What could this unexpected arrival of respected scientists, astrologers, philosophers, doctors, and legal authorities be doing here? “Perhaps,” Herod prays, “they’re just passing through.” And so he orders preparations to begin to receive them.
The Magi are equally confused. Everyone they asked about the new Jewish king not only looked blank but turned white as a sheet and ran off in terror. And so, the Magi head to Herod’s palace for answers and Herod anxiously invited them to his palace so he can get some answers too.
After a lavish meal, the usual exchange of platitudes, some hospitable entertainment, Herod and the Magi retire to more private accommodations so that they can get down to the business at hand: “Where is the one who has been born the king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (v. 2).
Their question is a stab into Herod’s already paranoid heart. He had already killed his wife, Marianne, two of his sons, his brother-in-law, his mother-in-law, and Marianne’s aged grandfather to protect his throne. And now these Magi are telling him that the reason that they are here is to honor some Jewish king that he had never heard of and knows nothing about! These men … these scholars … these Persian king-makers … have traveled a thousand miles led by a star right to his city. Not good! Not good at all! In fact, dreadful … disastrous!
The Magi are more than perplexed by Herod’s response. Not only was he surprised by the news but he seemed to be having a stroke at hearing what they thought was good news. In fact, the whole exchange seemed odd to the Magi. They had seen the signs in the Heaven portending the arrival of this king. A supernatural light had led them to this exact spot … and yet Herod and his religious scholars didn’t seem to know anything about it. Truth be told, these Jewish religious scholars didn’t need any signs. Their God had told them Himself that a great king would one day be born to rule over them and exactly where he would be born. In fact, when Herod called together his “wise” men and religious scholars to demand what they knew about all this, they didn’t have to look it up or debate it or pick through their collective memory. To a man they explained to Herod what the Prophet Micah had predicted … what the Jewish wisemen and religious scholars had known for over 700 years. They even quoted him the prophesy: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel” (Micah 5:2).
Hey, it’s one thing to literally get poisoned or stabbed in the back by family but to get overthrown by some complete unknown somebody somewhere out there was an even greater threat. Where do you start? Where do you look? Jerusalem? Bethlehem? Galilee? It would be like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Already somewhat disturbed by their earlier encounter with Herod, the Magi are understandably a lot more cautious and more than a little concerned when Herod calls them back for a second meeting. “Say, ah,” Herod begins, this time maintaining his composure. “Ah … can you tell me a little bit more about this star and the reason for your visit?” So, they go over the signs and the details of their journey again.
“Well, well,” Herod fumbles. ‘Yes … this is certainly ‘good’ news … good news indeed. Yes … we know all about Micah’s prophecy. We’ve been expecting the arrival of this ‘king’ from the House of David for a long time … well, for centuries, actually. If it’s all right with you fellows, ah … we’d love to join with you in welcoming this ‘King of the Jews” … where did you say this star stopped?”
None of this makes sense to the Magi. The King of the Jews comes and no one … not even the current reigning King of the Jews and his best religious scholars, astrologers, or scientists … seems to know anything about the heavenly proclamation of this long-anticipated birth. “Bethlehem is only six miles away,” they wonder, “but everyone we talk to seems to be in the dark. We had to ride a thousand miles to see this king and they don’t even know where he is. Herod has to ask us to find him for them. Something just ain’t right. Why didn’t they come with us to experience this amazing moment for themselves?”