When [King Herod] had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written.’
I find this simply astounding. The Jews had been waiting – no, longing! – for the Messiah for several hundred years. All that time God had been silent: no prophecies, no new Scriptures ... and the remainder of the world had no idea that anything significant was coming.
Now we see wise men coming from the east, travelling between 300 and 1000 miles, following a star that they somehow knew would lead them to the “King of the Jews” ... and the entire Jewish world had no idea that anything significant was happening right under their noses.
The Jewish chief priests and teachers of the law knew exactly where the Messiah was to be born, but they didn’t know when ... and they didn’t seem to be interested in finding out. The wise men – and through them King Herod – knew roughly when the Messiah was to be born, but they didn’t know where. How curious is that?
There are essentially three groups of people in this Scripture passage: the Jewish religious authorities and teachers, King Herod, and the wise men. The authorities/teachers were looking for the Messiah because they wanted a revolutionary who would overthrow the Roman government and restore the country to their control. King Herod, when he heard about this king of the Jews, was looking for the Messiah for precisely the opposite reason: he wanted to kill the revolutionary and secure his rule over the kingdom. But neither of these groups found the Messiah ... because they were both seeking Him for the wrong selfish reasons.
The third group, the wise men, were the only ones in this passage who found Him ... because they were seeking Him for the right reason: “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2). There was a fourth group of people (described in Luke 2:8-20), and they had also found the Messiah ... because they were seeking Him for the right reason: “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Luke 2:20).
What does this say to us? Even in our day there are multiple reasons proposed for seeking Jesus: as an insurance policy to avoid the consequences of our sins; as an avenue to obtain health, wealth, and prosperity; to gain a reputation as someone with upright moral character whom others will vouch for; and more. But when we seek Jesus Christ for our own personal gain we risk the same fate that King Herod and the Jewish chief priests and teachers of the law suffered: they failed to find Him.
Jesus is our Saviour. Jesus is our provider, and His Word promises to “supply all [our] need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Jesus is the one whose image God predestines us “to be conformed to” (Romans 8:29). But these are not reasons to seek Him, but rather blessings which we receive because we have found Him. We seek Him because He first sought us: He pursued us when we neither knew Him nor wanted Him; He became one of us and redeemed us – He paid the ultimate price to buy us back from our slavery to sin – because He loved us. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19).
May we not seek Him because of what He can give us, for that teaches us to live a self-centered life. May we instead seek Him for what we can give Him: our hearts, our lives, our love. When we begin with the right attitude and seek Him for the right reason, we have already made great progress toward being conformed to His image.
Word of God: speak!
Non nobis Domine+
by Fr. Dana Jackson