Then Herod called the Magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
Interesting that there is a ton, a ton, of information in this gospel and in the readings for this day, yet I was struggling throughout the week to figure out what I wanted to say to you. Where was the Holy Spirit leading me, for He is always the Author?
Sometimes the Holy Spirit stays silent for a reason. He was waiting for today, for January 6, 2021, and what we have seen as a nation today. He told me, He said, Herod! King Herod, what a guy he was. Herod still lives in the world today.
If you study scripture you will soon notice that there are threads that run through scripture. Nothing is disconnected. You can talk about the swaddling clothes that Jesus was wrapped in when He was placed in in the manger and soon see that His body was similarly wrapped in linen cloths after His death, when He was buried. There’s a line that runs throughout scripture. Everything is interconnected.
Herod meets the three wise men. We call them Magi, Wise Men, Kings. We do not know what they were specifically, but we do know one thing in particular, they were scientists. They studied the skies and they tried to figure out the based on their study of the stars. They were people of facts and observation, so they knew there was a new King in Israel.
So, they said to each other, let’s hop on our camels, take some gifts, and go to find this King. They said to each other, Who better to talk to than the current king. They go to see Herod and Herod is troubled.
Herod was more than troubled, he was angry. Herod – a troubled and angry man. A man who cheated on his wife. A man who stole his brother’s wife. A man who was constantly looking over his shoulder for the person that was going to chop him down from the throne.
Herod calls the truthful people around him and he says, ‘Hey, where is this Messiah going to be born.’ Once he finds out he calls the Magi secretly, secretly because when we do evil those deeds must be in secret, kept under wraps. We cannot let people know what we are about when we are doing wrong, when we are doing evil.
Herod ascertains from the Magi the timing of the star’s rising and sends them on their merry way telling them, ‘Hey, come back and fill me in when you figure it all out.’
We know the Magi did not go back, they were warned in a dream, but Herod had this little snippet of information – when and where this King was born. Herod was going to do something about that. He was not going to sit on his hands.
Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem of Judea and had every firstborn son under two years old killed. He wiped out an entire city of infants because of his anger, because of his jealousy, because he had to hang on to what he thought was his.
Jump forward thirty years and Harold is still there. Along comes John the Baptist. John is standing down in the river and looking up he sees Herod passing by. He points to Herod and tells him exactly what he is. Well that not only ticked off Herod but also ticked off his stolen bride. Herod was going to get even and lo and behold, John is jailed and off goes his head. Off with his head and we will shut him up.
The line in scripture continues on. Jesus is arrested. He is taken before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin. They judge Him and send him off to Pilate. Pilate in his questioning finally figures out that Jesus is a Galilean. Hey, this guy is a Galilean. I can wash my hands of this Guy and send him to Herod. Herod was in Jerusalem at the time.
Jesus was taken to Herod. What did Herod do? This scene as portrayed in Jesus Christ Superstar captures it very well. Herod made a mockery of Jesus. He tried to turn Jesus into a clown for his entertainment. After the mockery was over Herod wrote Jesus off. He probably thought, ‘Maybe this was the kid that was supposed to be the king. Here he is before me in ropes and with the crown of thorns on his head. He is going to the cross.’ Send Him back.
Herod’s line goes on and does not stop there. Herod’s children and his children’s children, and all those in the world who are like Herod remain among us. They remain gnawing for power, make a mockery of Jesus as they burn and destroy, continue to look over their shoulders – jealous of anyone who might knock them off their self-established pedestal, and do anything they can to keep what they have.
Where must we be as Christians?
Our call is to be open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, to be open and willing to do God’s work in the world as the wise men, the scientists, the Magi did. The Magi were open to God and kept their eyes open, looking up to the star, and followed it until they found that place where Jesus was. We must go the same way.
Being men of God, keen observers, they knew what they saw in that poor infant, in that poor home, as they got down on their faces, flat on the floor, prostrated before the Child King. Then they open their treasures. Their treasures were not just the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but the real treasure was in the offering of their hearts to Jesus. They offered their hearts to the child Jesus and then they departed for their own country. They departed, not just by a different map, but by another way. Let us offer our hearts to the only King and go forward by another way.