Herod made inquiries as to where the Christ was to be born. The magi had come asking about a new born king of the Jews. This question put every psychic fiber of his being on red alert. Not only was Herod frightened, but the story tells us that all of Jerusalem was frightened too. From his scant knowledge of his religious tradition Herod’s mind started making connections. A king? A Christ? Perhaps both? Did he fear a rival king or the Anointed One of God? Herod ascertained where the Christ was to be born. For him it would seem that the Anointed One of God was the one to fear.
It is possible that Herod did not tell the chief priests and the scribes why he had this sudden interest in the birthplace of the Christ, since there is a suggestion of secrecy in the passage. There is no way, however, that such visitors could show up at the king’s residence without there being some talk and speculation about the purpose of their visit. Whatever the chief priests and scribes knew or thought, they showed no enthusiasm about the possible birth of the Messiah. They too were seized with fear – fear of upsetting the ruthless Herod and fear of what impact the coming of the Anointed One of God might have on their positions in the political, social and religious spheres. It was one thing to study and preach the promised Messiah, but a totally other thing to meet and accept that Anointed One.
We note that it was strangers, foreigners, pagans, astrologers who came with news about what was Jewish religious business. Where was God’s revelation directly to the chosen people? What right had these people who dabbled in magic to bring any news pertaining to their favored place in God’s plan?
The story demonstrates for us that those who thought they ‘knew’ God best no longer could see the star through windows shuttered with their own importance and their ritual laws and customs. Those not weighted with such chains caught a glimpse of something spectacular and followed the light in freedom. The story is God’s invitation to us all to let go of what binds us and blinds us. Fear not where God might pop up next, a stable, a shelter, an inn, a mountain top. Oh, and let’s not be alarmed at who it is who brings us the next revelation of God’s Anointed One among us.
Elizabeth Ferguson, O.P.