Shouldn't It Be Common Knowledge?
Text: Matthew 2:1-23
The Wise Men did not have deep knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. Their ignorance is understandable and forgivable! They came to Jerusalem asking around for information concerning the birth of the King of the Jews. The Wise Men must have thought that the birth of their King of the Jews would be common knowledge among the populace! Their reasoning however did not pan out well! Many seemed to be even more ignorant than they were concerning the birth or the birthplace of the King of the Jews! The only king that the common people knew was Herod their Idumean King!
The Magi headed for the grand palace of Herod the King. Surely, the King of the Jews must be born in this fine palace. He certainly would deserve it! But when the Wise Men inquired at Herod’s palace about the birth of the King of the Jews, they found that Herod hadn’t a clue as to what they were talking about!
A HORNET’S NEST
The Wise Men may have been astute with reference to their areas of research, but they did not have very much wisdom when it came to the matter of reading characters like Herod! Matthew noted how Herod felt as he gave an audience to the Wise Men.
“When Herod the king heard this, he was
troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”
Herod was infamous for having a suspicious mind. A common saying in the streets declared that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than to be his son. (There is a play of words in this street saying. The word “pig” is “huos” in Greek. The word “son” is “huios.” Both words sound alike when pronounced quickly). Herod was notorious for his vindictiveness and cruelty! If Herod was troubled, Jerusalem also felt troubled, for the city never knew what kind of capricious wickedness Herod would perpetrate next! The Wise Men had stirred up a hornet’s nest without even knowing it!
Weren’t there people who had knowledge about the birth of “The King of the Jews”? The Wise Men must have been puzzled by the fact that even the king of Judea did not know about the birth of One whose destiny was to be the King of the Jews!
Herod had a group of Jews commonly called “Herodians” in his court. These Jews were very politically oriented. Of course they would be found in the court of Herod the King appointed by the Roman Emperor.
The king could also summon other religious experts to his royal court. He was after all the king of the land. Had he not built the Temple for the Jews? They would come if he were to summon them.
If there was a threat to his throne, Herod wanted to know all about it. He had worked too hard and spent too much time and energy to get to where he was. He wasn’t going to let an upstart wrest his throne away!
Herod immediately called his religious advisors together and posed to them the question that the Wise Men had raised up to him.
“And when he had gathered all the chief priests
and scribes of the people together, he inquired
of them where the Christ was to be born.”
Did the religious experts, “the chief priests and scribes” know anything about “The Christ”? What did they know about Him? Did the Scriptures speak of His birthplace? Herod wanted answers and quickly!
He did not have long to wait. Without hesitation, it would appear, the chief priests and scribes were able to cite chapter and verse concerning the birth of “The Christ”.
“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.'”
The religious leaders had this knowledge of the Messiah all along! However, their knowledge of the Christ was purely academic. Their knowledge was not mixed with faith. They did not seem to believe a word of this prophecy found in the book of Micah.
A CONTRAST BETWEEN FAITH AND UNBELIEF
When Matthew cited the Scriptures and applied them to the life of Jesus, he was careful to append these words, “That it might be fulfilled” (Cf. Matthew 1:22; 2:15, 17 etc). This was his way of applying his theology and his faith.
However, when the chief priests and scribes cited the ancient Scriptures, they did not add any remarks at all. They did not voice an opinion as to whether they believed the Scriptures or they didn’t! What a contrast between the two approaches!
HOW DO WE REGARD THE SCRIPTURES?
We may say the following things about Matthew’s regard for the Scriptures! Two things may be highlighted:
1. He regarded the Scriptures as containing God’s Promises.
2. God would always honour His own word by making sure that they would be fulfilled.
Obviously, a purely academic approach led nowhere! The scribes and the chief priests were classic examples! Let’s take time to re-examine our regard for the Scriptures!