JACKSON, Miss. (BP) — “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him'” (Matthew 2:1-2).
Only men would have done what the Magi did. Only a group of buddies, men friends all on the same page, all of them sharing the same drives and curiosities and interests, only such a band of brothers, would have gone to such lengths simply to see a Baby.
It’s a man thing.
If that sounds condescending to the women in the audience, I apologize, but it’s the truth. Women talk about this all the time, how men do crazy things, disregarding the risk, seemingly not caring about the trouble they are causing for everyone who cares about them.
Women laugh about the typical male epitaph which reads, “What’s the worst that can happen?” or “Hey, guys — watch this.”
First, why did they do it?
The greatest puzzle of the Magi story to me is not the star they followed (was it a comet or an unusual alignment of stars or something never seen before?), not their origin (were they from Persia? or somewhere else?), and not even the religious significance (did this really fulfill Numbers 24:17? were they astrologers? what does it mean?), but simply why they did what they did.
Why would a small group of men, albeit wealthy ones, put their lives on hold and travel at considerable expense across uncharted territory for a great distance when they were uncertain where they were headed, how far it was, or what they would see when they got there? As I say, it was a man thing.
It simply was not logical. It didn’t make sense in a hundred ways.
After all, it was only a Baby. There could hardly have been any political considerations or international angles to their venture.
It was only a Baby. And babies do not know when you come to see them. They can’t respond with a thank you and be forever in your debt.
I’m recalling that someone asked Benjamin Franklin “what good” was the electricity he had managed to harness. He answered, “What good is a baby?”
When our twin granddaughters, Abigail and Erin, were born in 1996, my sister Patricia and her husband James traveled nearly 400 miles to see them. Why? Don’t all babies look alike? Why?
I wonder what these (ahem) “wise men” told their wives.
I can hear the spouses. “You’re going where to see what? We need you at home. Why don’t you just send a card?”
Would those women have laughed to learn that future generations would call them wise?
It made no sense to them and makes little sense to us today.
But I think I know.
They came for their own sake. Something inside them said, “I want to see, to be there, to know, to touch.”
It’s not enough to send a greeting card or letter. It’s not enough to read about it in the paper or watch it on television. Some things you want to experience in person and close up. You just have to be there.
It’s not sufficient explanation to say, “They wanted to see the King of the Jews.” The Jews were not much of a nation at that time and hadn’t been for a long time. Not important at all. There is no reason why anyone would travel five miles to see their new king.
Even if you were king of the Jews, you weren’t king of much. And He was just a baby and would not be a king at all for some time to come, if ever (humanly speaking).
I wonder what happened when the men returned home.
I can hear the wives: “Well, report in. What did you do? What did you see?”
And most of all, “Was it worth it?”
Wives are nothing if not practical.
The Magi would have answered, “We saw a Baby.”
“That’s all. Nothing else. Oh, His mother was there. And His father. We worshiped Him and left some gifts. But, other than the murderous tyrant King Herod putting a bounty on our heads, that’s all.”
Who remembers the nursery rhyme:
Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London to see the queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.
So much trouble for so little return.
This is the point exactly. The cat was being true to his nature. Chasing mice is what cats do. And the Magi were being true to themselves when they came to Bethlehem, sought out the King, bowed before Him, and worshiped Him with gifts.
So many things the Magi did not know.
They did not know that the gifts they brought, especially the gold, would be needed to finance the little family’s sudden trip to Egypt to escape the murderous rampage of Herod.
They did not know that some would remember their visit and report it to Matthew the apostle and that years later, he would add the strange little tale to his account of the life and ministry of this Jesus.
They had no way of knowing that 2,000 years after they had lived and died, you and I would still be discussing them, wondering about them, and admiring their resolve. We wish we had been with them.
We wish we were as wise as they.
And so many things we wonder.
I wonder if this little band of brothers ever did similar type stunts, sudden long excursions that made no sense to anyone and drove their wives crazy, and whether anything ever came from those ventures.
I wonder about men. What is it that drives them to take such risks, undertake such ventures, and in the process scaring everyone around them.
I wonder what bold thing God wants me to do which I have held back from because I was fearful and unwilling to take risks or to incur the wrath of some around me.
I wonder if when we get to Heaven we will find that the Heavenly Father did something through those eastern visitors to Bethlehem completely unknown to us and of great benefit to the little holy family.