As it is the appropriate time to talk about both the first and second coming of Jesus Christ, let us examine Matthew 2:1-12, which discusses the arrival of the famous wise men of the East to see the Savior some months after his birth when he and his parents were in a house in the Bethlehem area. This passage reads, as follows: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.”
In this short passage we find three separate responses to Jesus Christ. Each of them is instructive, as they are precisely the sorts of responses we still find to the truths of the Bible. The response that everyone knows and that most people want to have is the response of the wise men. They came all the way from the Parthian empire bearing treasures and seeking the One who they had come to worship. There are some speculations about who these people were, but the most obvious part of their presence is their presence, having traveled hundreds of people to give Jesus Christ the treatment that he is due.
The other two responses are far less straightforward and far less praiseworthy. Herod’s response is pretty chilling, as he pretends interest in order to gain information about the savior in order to plot his demise because it threatens his own authority. Herod’s response is a reminder that there are many people who will pretend to be interested in Jesus Christ and the message of the Bible but are really more interested in their own authority and power. Such people lack firm biblical knowledge, and lack the obedience and faithfulness of the wise men, but who pretend to be in favor and sometimes that pretense is taken seriously because of their power and position.
To me, the most revealing and interesting response is that of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. When the Wise Men come and when Herod asks them where the Savior is to be born, they know the right answers, and can cite chapter and verse that Bethlehem is the place where the Savior is to be born, the City of David. And they are right, their citation is accurate and the wise men are given the right information for their journey to see Jesus Christ as a small child and to honor Him as He deserves. But it does not appear as if any of the Jewish leaders who knew the right answers and were able to look at the right part of the Bible to know the truth in an intellectual sense were interested in following the wise men to Bethlehem to worship the King. It is not enough to know the answers, and that ought to be a serious reminder to us about what response to God and God’s way matters the most.