Responding to Jesus
Matthew 2:1-12 (my version)
Some time after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, wise men from the East arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who was born King of the Jews? We saw his star rising and have come to honor him.”
When King Herod heard, he was frightened, along with many others in Jerusalem. He called together the chief priests and scribes, asking them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “The prophet wrote, ‘from you, Bethlehem, shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Herod secretly called for the wise men to learn the exact time the star appeared. “Search for the child in Bethlehem,” he told them. “When you find him, bring word so that I, too, can go and honor him.
The wise men turned toward Bethlehem and again saw the child’s star ahead of them. They followed it, and when it stopped over the place where the child was, they were overwhelmed with joy.
Entering the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they knelt down and honored him. Opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they took a different road home. They parted ways with Herod, geographically and spiritually.
* * *
Which character am I? How have I behaved yesterday? How will I behave tomorrow?
This is the question I ask myself more and more when I read Scripture. It seems to me that the thing Scripture does best is hold up a mirror reflecting humanity, sometimes at our best and more often, at our worst.
It is too easy to regularly cast ourselves as the heroine in the story, the righteous one. Perhaps it is instinct, a defense mechanism protecting us from the painful reality of our own flaws. We don’t have to work hard to fix a probem we can’t see. We don’t have to feel guilt or sorrow if we don’t recognize our own culpability.
So in this passage of Matthew, I wonder . . .
Am I Herod? Threatened by any change on the horizon that threatens my authority and power?
Am I like the chief priests and scribes? Fearful of losing my place of honor and prestige, my security? My balanced position as a trusted advisor to the King and a Scripture expert esteemed by the people?
Or am I a wise one? Curious about the new wonder appearing on the horizon, fearless enough to go out of my way to seek it out and discover what I don’t yet know, willing to offer my gifts to help bring about a new world that skeptics say is impossible?
A kingdom of peace?
Food for all people?
Affordable healthcare for every sick person?
Justice for all people, regardless of color?
Those things sound as impossible as a child born of a virgin and King who wins his Kingdom by allowing Himself to be crucified.
Am I brave enough? Will I risk appearing foolish and dare to walk a different road? One not sanctioned by the ruling authority or the majority?