King Herod, the Magi and New Beginnings: Matthew 2
A kind aunt took me to the film A Hundred and One Dalmatians when I was a young child. It was my first ever visit to a cinema.
Although for me it will always be the most amazing film I have ever seen, I will never forget being completely horrified by Cruella Deville, who wanted to kill all the lovely puppies to make coats with their skins!
I share my thoughts about Ms Deville with you because I have similar thoughts whenever I read about cruel King Herod and his search to kill the baby Jesus as described in Matthew 2.
St Matthew describes how three wise men, also known as the Magi, came from the East looking for the King of the Jews as they had seen signs in the sky of his birth and wanted to visit and worship him.
When Herod discovered why the Maji were in town, he gathered together the chief priests and scribes and asked where the long awaited Messiah would be born. They told him that the prophet Micah had foretold the birth of a King of the Jews in Bethlehem.
Herod felt threatened by the possibility of another king’s arrival and invited the Magi to visit him so he could find out more. As they parted company, sly King Herod simpered words to the effect of, ‘be sure and let me know where the baby is on your return trip so that I, as the current King, can also go and worship him’.
Err, OK, then said the Magi !!!
We all know what happened next a star guided the Magi to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and they offered King Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then they quietly slipped out of town by an alternative route back home.
When Herod realised the Magi had outwitted him; he completely overreacted, to say the least, and demanded the death of every boy of two years and younger in the town of Bethlehem.
Joseph, in the meantime, had been told by an angel in a dream to slip quietly out of town – because Herod had entirely lost the plot.
Go to Egypt, the angel said. He did and stayed there until an angel told him again in a dream that Herod was now dead, and it was safe to come out of Egypt and back into Israel. Go to Galilee, the angel said.
Prophetic Truths from the Old Testament
Although this may sound like a farcical pantomime performance, it includes multiple Old Testament prophesies threaded throughout.
For instance, the prophet Micah said that the King of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem.
The prophet Hosea said the Messiah would come out of Egypt to the district of Galilee and settle in Nazareth.
The prophet Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would take on the world’s sins, but through his death and suffering, we would be healed. He would offer a fresh start for God’s chosen people.
Jewish people gradually began to see their ancient prophecies fulfilled through Jesus. Because of this, many chose to follow him. Each of his disciples was Jewish.
One of the most famous converts was St Paul, a Pharisee who persecuted Christians before he realised that Jesus really was the long-awaited Messiah.
The birth of Jesus provided a new beginning for the tribe of Israel, not only for them but for everyone else too.
St Paul put it like this in a letter to the new Christian community in Galatia, he said because of Jesus now;
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Through the birth of Jesus, multiple Old Testament truths were fulfilled, and a new beginning was made with Jesus at the helm.
What does this Mean for us Today?
I started this article by talking about cruelty to puppies and babies. The opposite of cruelty is, of course, kindness and it is the beating heart of Jesus’s ministry.
I would like to conclude with the advice St Paul gave to the newly formed Christian community in Colossae, as something you might like to ponder at the start of this new year regarding kindness,
Listen carefully because Paul is talking directly to all Christians today, too, when he says;
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
There is a transformational power in living out the kindness and compassion St Paul spoke of in our lives. It brings us closer to others and God, but ultimately it also nurtures eternal new beginnings within ourselves.