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Christ’s First Advent, Part 4
Herod and the Magi
The arrival of the magi was quickly noised throughout Jerusalem.
Their strange errand created an excitement among the people, which penetrated
to the palace of King Herod. The wily Edomite was aroused at the intimation of
a possible rival. Countless murders had stained his pathway to the throne.
Being of alien blood, he was hated by the people over whom he ruled. His only
security was the favor of Rome. But this new Prince had a higher claim. He was
born to the kingdom.
Herod suspected the priests of plotting with the strangers to
excite a popular tumult and unseat him from the throne. He concealed his
mistrust, however, determined to thwart their schemes by superior cunning.
Summoning the chief priests and the scribes, he questioned them as to the
teaching of their sacred books in regard to the place of the Messiah’s birth.
This inquiry from the usurper of the throne, and made at the
request of strangers, stung the pride of the Jewish teachers. The indifference
with which they turned to the rolls of prophecy enraged the jealous tyrant. He
thought them trying to conceal their knowledge of the matter. With an authority
they dared not disregard, he commanded them to make close search, and to
declare the birthplace of their expected King. “So they said to him, ‘In
Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.” Matthew 2:5-6.
Herod now invited the magi to a private interview. A tempest of
wrath and fear was raging in his heart, but he preserved a calm exterior, and
received the strangers courteously. He inquired at what time the star had
appeared, and professed to hail with joy the intimation of the birth of Christ.
He bade his visitors, “Search carefully for the young Child, and when you have
found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” Verse 8. So saying, he dismissed them to go on their way to
Church Leaders Reject Christ
The priests and elders of Jerusalem were not as ignorant
concerning the birth of Christ as they pretended. The report of the angels’
visit to the shepherds had been brought to Jerusalem, but the rabbis had
treated it as unworthy of their notice. They themselves might have found Jesus,
and might have been ready to lead the magi to His birthplace; but instead of
this, the wise men came to call their attention to the birth of the Messiah.
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” they said; “For we have seen
His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” Matthew
Now pride and envy closed the door against the light. If the
reports brought by the shepherds and the wise men were credited, they would
place the priests and rabbis in a most unenviable position, disproving their
claim to be the exponents of the truth of God. These learned teachers would not
stoop to be instructed by those whom they termed heathen. It could not be, they
said, that God had passed them by, to communicate with ignorant shepherds or
uncircumcised Gentiles. They determined to show their contempt for the reports
that were exciting King Herod and all Jerusalem. They would not even go to
Bethlehem to see whether these things were so. And they led the people to
regard the interest in Jesus as a fanatical excitement. Here began the
rejection of Christ by the priests and rabbis. From this point their pride and
stubbornness grew into a settled hatred of the Saviour. While God was opening
the door to the Gentiles, the Jewish leaders were closing the door to
The Magi Find Jesus
The wise men departed alone from Jerusalem. The shadows of night
were falling as they left the gates, but to their great joy they again saw the
star, and were directed to Bethlehem. They had received no such intimation of
the lowly estate of Jesus as was given to the shepherds. After the long journey
they had been disappointed by the indifference of the Jewish leaders, and had
left Jerusalem less confident than when they entered the city. At Bethlehem they
found no royal guard stationed to protect the newborn King. None of the world’s
honored men were in attendance. Jesus was cradled in a manger. His parents,
uneducated peasants, were His only guardians. Could this be He of whom it was
written, that He should “raise up the tribes of Jacob,” and “restore the
preserved ones of Israel;” that He should be “a light to the Gentiles,” and for
“salvation to the ends of the earth”? Isaiah 49:6.
“When they were come into the house, they saw the young child
with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshiped Him.” Beneath the lowly
guise of Jesus, they recognized the presence of Divinity. They gave their
hearts to Him as their Saviour, and then poured out their gifts—“gold, and
frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11. What a faith
was theirs! It might have been said of the wise men from the East, as afterward
of the Roman centurion, “I have not found such great faith, not even in
Israel!” Matt. 8:10.
The Desire of Ages, pp. 61-64
Next part: Christ’s First Advent, Part
5: Dreams of Warning
All Scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version,
including those originally quoted by Ellen White from the King James
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