We don’t know exactly when the wise men arrived in Bethlehem to see the Christ. They had followed the star to Jerusalem where they inquired, “Where is the One who has been born the King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2). You can almost see Herod strutting out of his throne room saying, “Here I am!”
He’s malignantly upset to find out it’s someone else they’re looking for. He learns from the Magi the exact time of the star’s appearing and later gives the order that all boys two years and younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem be put to death (v. 16). I think we’re to take this to mean twenty-four months rather than anything between twenty-four and thirty-five months as we use it when referring to a child’s age. Someone as insecure as Herod wouldn’t be so imprecise and leave things to chance—you can be sure he was confident that the Christ was not born more than two years before his order.
So it’s a toddler that the Magi see. Matthew refers to Him as a “child” (v. 10, as opposed to Luke referring to the “baby” the shepherds saw-Luke 2:12). The Savior of mankind is dressed in a diaper. The Lord of the universe has drool running down His cheek.
And give the wise men credit—they never get off track. They don’t worship the star though chances are there were many in their culture that did. Neither do they show any special reverence for the Scripture the chief priests and teachers of the law quoted to pinpoint where Christ would be born—even though it is seven hundred years old. They don’t worship Mary, though fertility cults were everywhere in the ancient world. “The bowed down and worshipped Him” and present Him their treasures (v. 11).
And although they gave their treasure, they also found it, didn’t they? Compare them to the chief priests and teachers of the law, who although they knew the Christ would be born at Bethlehem and that these men heralded His birth—they did nothing with that knowledge! Bethlehem is about five miles from Jerusalem. They could have taken the afternoon off and seen the Christ! Chances are they were too worried about what Herod’s reaction might be if he found out. There are a lot of people today who would follow Christ but they are afraid of what their friends or family might think.
Then there’s Herod. He’s so concerned about His power that He’s threatened by a child! He has his reasons—he’s not liked by the people of Israel, there’s a general political instability to the times, and children reigning through a co-regent is not unheard of. Add it all up and multiply it by insecurity and you have Herod’s mindset. There is some truth to Herod’s concern—God is after his surrender. But this requires too must trust for him. Like Herod, a lot of people don’t trust God enough to give Him their life.
Two thousand years have come and gone but the choices haven’t really changed. What are you doing with your treasure?