The First Conflict
From the devotional Day by Day in the Gospel of Matthew by Chuck Gianotti.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”
Herod’s ruse, though quite clear to us as readers, must have been transparent to the religious leaders in the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” sort of way: “I want to worship the child-king also.” Always currying concessions from the obstinate Jewish leaders, this insecure Roman puppet was laying a trap.
The chief priests and scribes, themselves anxious in the face of the threat to their positions of prominence, saw an opportunity to take advantage of Herod’s obsessive insecurity. They readily tell him of Micah’s prophecy of the importance of Bethlehem of Judea as the birthplace of the God-promised leader of His people. Their ambivalence is borne out, though, by the most notable observation: there is no record in all of history, biblical or otherwise, that these religious leaders lifted even a foot to walk the five miles or so to Bethlehem to check out the rumor. Let Herod take care of the situation! This is truly amazing, if not pathetic. They preached and taught the Scripture but did not submit to Scripture.
Herod, guided by jealousy, consulted with the magi—the foreign scholars, as it were—to figure out the exact timetable they were following. “Go find him and let me know where he is so I can worship him as well.” This response seemed to indicate that he was joining in the anticipation of participating in the event as a worshiper. This subterfuge, though obvious to us readers, perhaps seemed benign to the magi, or at least did not arouse their suspicions. They seemed too preoccupied with their own excitement to recognize duplicity in others.
Oh, that it were true that every person, upon hearing the Good News of Christ, had as sincere a heart as the magi and genuinely desired to worship Christ as they did.