The Characters of Christmas: Herod and the Magi

“(Herod) sent (the Magi) to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him'” (Matthew 2:8, NIV).

The Biblical writers of the Christmas narrative offer a sharp contrast between those who would honor the newborn Jesus and those who would oppose him. We see this most clearly evidenced in the actions of the wandering Magi and the maniacal King Herod. While each had heard of the new king’s birth, each held differing motivations in meeting him.

The Magi sought to worship Jesus, presenting him with three gifts, each symbolic of Jesus’ eventual fate. The extravagance of gold was a fitting gift for this king above all kings. The gift of frankincense would serve as a reminder of both the Temple and Jesus’ priestly office. Finally, the gift of myrrh, a perfume so strong that it was used to cover the stinch of death, would foretell of Jesus’ eventual sacrifice for mankind.

King Herod, in contrast to the Magi, wanted only to harm the infant Jesus. Herod’s expressed desire to “worship” the newborn king was a front for his desire to have Jesus put to death. In fact, Herod would be so threatened by the baby Jesus that he would order the execution of all the infants in the area surrounding Bethlehem. 

While we may see the extreme contrasts in the Christmas story, I think it’s important for each of us to examine our own motivations concerning Jesus. Certainly, no one today would want to harm Jesus. Still, how often do we worship him solely out of convenience? How often do we call out to him as a last ditch when-all-else-fails-attempt for intervention? How often do we crucify him over and over again with our sin?

May we be evermore like the Magi in the Christmas story. May we seek him out, and, when we find him, fall to our knees in worship. And may we give him the gift of our hearts!  

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