As I consider the fact that the royal visit of the magi to Jerusalem, I have to wonder about how little the Jewish nation was prepared to meet their Messiah. After all, Daniel had predicted the very day he would arrive upon the scene. If the very day of his arrival had been prophesied centuries earlier, why were the Jews so unprepared?
The magi were probably Jews like Daniel and Nehemiah who served the King of Persia in his royal court. Undoubtedly, they had obtained permission from the king to travel to Jerusalem to pay their respects to the new King of the Jews. When they arrived in Jerusalem, what they wished to know was where the new born King was. They thought he would have been in the king’s palace. They were likely well aware that Daniel’s Seventy Weeks Prophecy wasn’t complete, but they knew the Messiah would be born approximately 30 years prior to his presentation to the nation. David was thirty when he began to reign (2Samuel 5:4), and it was required in the Law for a Levite to be thirty before serving at the Tabernacle (Numbers 4:3). This would mean that Jesus was born on the 453rd anniversary of the repairing of the altar of sacrifice and the reinstitution of the daily sacrifice on the Feast of Trumpets about 456-457 BCE (Ezra 3:6). When the magi witnessed the rather rare conjunction of certain planets with Regulus, the star of the kings, in 2 BCE, they understood the birth was near. By the time they arrived in Jerusalem, they knew the Messiah was already born.
So, Why were the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem so in the dark and unaware of the greatest event in human history—the arrival of God in the form of a babe? It certainly wasn’t because they were uninformed about the coming of the Messiah, for they admitted to Herod and the magi that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. I believe it was expected of them to prepare themselves and the nation for Jesus’ arrival, but they didn’t. They became complacent, occupying themselves in other matters such as politics, worldly riches and meaningless ceremonial issues that had no foundation in the Scriptures. So, while the Jewish authorities competed for the most honorable positions in the nation, the most honorable and most awaited One of all history came into their community unnoticed by them. While they used the House of God to make themselves rich, the Owner of the House, whose inheritance they horded for themselves, arrived unawares. While the authorities developed an elaborate means of cleansing oneself as a means to appear holy, the Holiest of holies appeared among them, and they didn’t know!
It is a sad thing to see what the love of the world does to people. Yet, lest we judge these men too quickly, shouldn’t we first look at what we have done with what we have been given? Has the church become too political? It is difficult to fix our eyes upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2), if we are so consumed with which political party is in executive power and occupies the most seats in Congress. It is difficult to notice the Truth staring us in the face when we are so concerned about saying all the right things in order to please men.
In ancient Israel the only people who had God’s permission to make a living off the Temple—his House—were the Levites. This is why Jesus threw out the money changers in the Temple and those who bought and sold. They were unauthorized to profit off the Temple activities. How many in the church today profit off God’s word, manipulating it to produce doctrines of men that appeal to men’s curiosity? How many ministries exist solely to keep false doctrine before the eyes of the people, not to draw them to God, but to cause fear and judgment in order to support the modern money changers, making themselves rich off God’s heritage? Do they not know? Are they unaware of the Scriptures that say “Lord, Lord…” (Matthew 7:21-22; 25:11-12)? Oh! You can be sure they are aware, but they simply don’t take it to heart, just as the ancient Jewish authorities didn’t take the Scriptures seriously, due to their love for the things of this world. As they have done in the first century, so do we today.
Are we fixing our eyes upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2) when we preach the Law instead of Christ? Oh, but people will stumble and sin without the Law. People stumbled and sinned ever since the Law was given through Moses. The Law cannot save anyone from anything. It can only condemn. Notice what Hebrews 12:1-2 says concerning how we rid sin from our lives. It says we are able to lay aside the sin that so easily entangles us, if we fix our eyes upon Jesus. It is impossible to praise God and sin at the same time. If we are tempted, praying to and praising God saves us from sinning. Fixing one’s eyes upon Jesus and not concern over the Law keeps one from sinning. Ancient Jewish authorities were so concerned about breaking the Law that they endorsed a second law as a hedge to keep one from breaking the Law of God. Yet, all this effort didn’t keep them from crucifying the very Savior of mankind. As they have done in the first century, so do we today. They missed his coming and so do we. God help us!