From the devotional Day by Day in the Gospel of Matthew by Chuck Gianotti.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived 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.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
Following the birth of Christ, the familiar story of the magi becomes prominent in Matthew’s rendition of the birth narrative. The author emphasizes Christ as the promised King and Messiah. The contrast with King Herod, the magi looking for the King of the Jews, and the star in the east, all stress the monarchial nature of the birth.
The magi, coming from the east, traveled a great distance and at great sacrifice to find the One signaled by the miraculous star. They had a sincere desire to find the Child and “worship Him.” They were from a class of men known for their wisdom and their study of the stars. So their extraordinary insight concerning the event in Bethlehem of Israel was nothing short of inspired. The concept of worshiping a human being (and a child, no less), was no ordinary thing.
King Herod, being controlled by the insecurity of his tentative standing with Rome, certainly took seriously the threatening news of a king being born. This Roman puppet consulted the Jewish chief priests and scribes for details about where the Messiah/Christ would be born, and the intrigue began to unfold. Clearly, Herod knew enough of popular Jewish prophecy to put the pieces together. The Jewish people had long anticipated a deliverer to free them from Roman domination. Certainly, the general populace was “troubled” by the prospect of political instability from a competitor to the throne who was not part of the Herodian dynasty. In time (about thirty years), many of them would rally around the grownup Jesus and excitedly welcome Him into Jerusalem that fateful Sunday before He was executed on a Roman cross.