Imagine the amazement and consternation in Jerusalem when that delegation of foreign dignitaries appeared at Herod’s palace in search of the King of the Jews.” Even more puzzling was the fact that those Gentiles had brought gifts with them. From bitter experience, the Jews usually thought of the Gentile nations in terms of looting, pillaging and brutality. Yet here were these strangers bearing gifts and asking, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2).
The incident was unprecedented, but Jerusalem should not have been totally surprised by the goodwill of those gift-bearing Gentile visitors. After all, the Hebrew Scriptures from Genesis down through the prophets had foretold that one day all nations would worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In Isaiah 42:6,7 we read, “I, the Lord have called You [the Messiah] in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.”
In those days before Yeshua’s birth, hope abounded in Israel that soon the Messiah would come to rescue His people from the Roman invaders and to establish His kingdom. Today most Jewish people no longer hope for the personal Messiah that Isaiah described. Instead, they reinterpret Scripture, choosing to believe in a messianic age or “Utopia” in which God somehow will bring peace to all the earth. Even such a diluted version would, of necessity, include Gentiles as well as Jews in the worship of the one true God. Yet many Jewish people who hold to this messianic age theory piously cluck their tongues at the thought of proselytism and claim that they would never try to persuade non-Jews to turn to the God of Israel.
Nevertheless, God did include the Gentiles in His plan of salvation, and they must know that they are to be saved by faith in the Jewish Messiah. The magi (or wise men) were quite specific. They had come to see the one whose divine right it was to be King of the Jews. They were not looking for a ruler appointed by Rome. Yet because they were seeking a royal personage it seemed natural to them to begin at Herod’s palace. Their gifts, however, were not for Herod, who had been designated king of the Jews by the Roman senate; nor was their tribute for his throne, which Rome kept in power. Herod might have coveted the magi’s tribute for himself, but their veneration and loyalty belonged to another much greater than Herod. It belonged to Yeshua, God’s appointed King, the author and controller of creation, who alone could command a star to herald His birth.
Just as Herod felt threatened by the existence of a king other than himself, rabbinic Judaism leaves little room for other peoples to have a special relationship with God. It sees only the Jews as God’s chosen people and the Gentiles as being OK the way they are, not really needing to ally themselves with the “Jewish” God. Yet Genesis 12:1-3 clearly shows that God’s purpose for choosing Abraham was that through his seed He might bless all nations. Other Scriptures point out more specifically that this blessing will come through the Jewish Messiah, who will bring all people together.
In the Incarnation we see the beginning of this fulfillment. Here was God’s blessing for the nations: a Jewish infant—human, yet divine—born to suffer and die, rise again and reign over all the earth. Angels sang, “Peace on earth to men of good will.” The three wise men came to pay Him homage.
Those Gentile dignitaries who followed the Bethlehem star were guided by divine wisdom. They were seeking what the Jews as a nation did not see then, nor will allow themselves to see today. Ever since the adoration of the magi, many Gentiles have embraced Yeshua, the King of the Jews, but for the most part the Jewish people to whom He came were, and still are, oblivious to His arrival and the meaning of His presence. People of many nations have seen that Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, is the only Savior for everyone. Yet today He does not seem to mean much to most of my Jewish people, His kinsmen after the flesh, who, for the most part, have neither believed in Him nor acknowledged Him as Messiah and King; but even this is predicted in Scripture.
In Romans 11:25 Paul wrote that partial blindness had happened to Israel, so that the fullness of the Gentiles might come in. Only a few of us Jews have found and followed Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel, but since the days of the Apostles many Gentiles have found salvation in Him.
Yet at this season, even as Christians rejoice and celebrate the birth of King Messiah, the Jewish people who do not believe in Him feel uncomfortable. Just like Herod, who sensed the foundations of his kingdom creaking and crumbling at the appearance of the wise men, my Jewish people feel threatened by the birth of that Baby. They fear that if they allow Him into their hearts and lives, the religious structures that have kept us together as a people for thousands of years will crumble and fall into oblivion. They fail to realize that this messianic faith in Yeshua is Jewish in origin and in essence.
Yet the prophet proclaimed, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). While many Gentiles have come to the light of Yeshua and the Jewish people as an ethnic entity have not, many individual Jews have seen His star and have followed His light.
In that holy illumination we do recognize Him. We realize that He came for both Jews and Gentiles, and suddenly our world is filled with new light. We allow the star to guide us to Bethlehem. With the magi of old, we kneel at the manger and worship, and we are changed. No longer blind, we see. We become willing subjects of our Heavenly King, and we look forward to the day of His return when every knee will bow to Him and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.