The Wise Men Never Met Baby Jesus
Hallmark Got It Wrong
There is a sentimental and moving play by Hallmark (Ahmal and the Night Visitors) that has the Wise Men arriving in Jerusalem the night of the birth of Jesus. It is sweet, moving and completely wrong according to the Biblical narrative. We know that the Babe was born in the stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger because there was no room at the inn.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Notice that the account does not imply that Joseph was poor. They simply arrived too late to get a room. Jesus, also known as the Bread of Life, was symbolically placed in a feeding trough. The only visitors that night were shepherds.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
The wise men arrived about two years later, having seen a sign in the sky that heralded the birth of the king. They went to the palace with their caravan and asked to see the new king of the Jews.They naturally went to the palace to find the king because the star was not guiding them at this point.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
So Herod then asked the wise men when they had seen the sign and instructed them to return to him and let him share in the good news. Notice that neither he nor the priests had any idea until the wise men arrived and asked their questions.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
When the wise men started to Bethlehem, the star returned to guide them.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
Notice that it stood over where the “young child”, not baby, was. As it turns out, the location was a house, not a stable.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
The wise men did not return to Herod and Joseph was warned to leave Bethlehem. Herod set out to destroy the new king, but to no avail.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.