O Come Let Us Adore Him
A Tale of the Three Wisemen
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him…” The star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:1–11
This was becoming very old indeed. This pompous routine, performed almost daily, year after year. Always the same (at least on the outside), but now, thankfully, it will never be quite the same again. Here we are, waiting in the wings of “Good Ol’ Phraates IV’s” throne room, for the announcement of our grand entrance.
Phraates is currently the High King of Parthia, or as it used to be known, Persia. We are checking each other’s robes, our ridiculous make-up. Making sure there are no creases, no smudges; making sure our head dresses are strait, and all the other fine details we spend two hours on the days we make public appearances. First, the great door on the north side will open, my two associates, Caspar and Balthazar will be called into the impressive court. After they enter, I will then wait another preposterous five minutes before my announcement.
Inside the court, everyone (with the exception of the king) will be asked to rise for the entrance of the, “Royal Seer, Chief Astrologer, High Priest,” and about a dozen other titles, which I will be introduced with (basically, I am the number two man in all Parthia next to the king). After my credentials are listed, I will slowly enter through the doorway; make my way through a small arch of a dozen Parthian royal guards. Once making my way past the final two guards, I then drop my head, before making a very exact 180 degree pivot, always making sure I never make eye contact with the king.
You may think this is quite the honour, but this pompous charade quickly turns to humiliation. After making my rehearsed pivot, the final two royal guards come around either side of me, give me a complete security check, patting every fold of my robes, making sure there is no dagger or vile of poison concealed on me, which I might be tempted to use against our Majesty. Once satisfied I intend no treachery, I am then escorted to the throne of the king. Upon reaching the foot of Phraates’ ivory and jeweled chair, I fold up my aging body, pressing my knees tightly against my chest, extending my arms fully and placing the tips of my fingers on the ground an inch from the king’s ornamented sandals. Phraates then rests his finely pedicured feet over top of my hands, and then signals for all the attendants in the room to take their seats. Only until everyone is seated may I raise my head to look at the king. At which point he touches my shoulder with his scepter, giving me permission to rise to one knee. From here I address my king, who also happens to be an old childhood friend, with a number of pretentious titles: “My Sovereign, My Majesty, My Worship, First-born Son of the Divine…” you get the point. After this circus of genuflecting is finished, the king touches my other shoulder with his scepter, now giving me permission to stand and taking my place at his right hand.
Here is what is a little funny: At the completion of this inane ceremony, Phraates the IV gives me a little sarcastic smirk, and I give him a sardonic eye role (after all we are still human). All of this, just to prove, I may be an important figure, but aghast, I am not the king. It has been the same way; the same pomp and pageantry nearly every day for thirty years.
Before I continue, let me fill you in on one more little secret — all of this is a big show! When it is all over, the king and I are escorted to our private chambers, where we take off our silly robes, wipe the mess off of our faces, put our feet up, have a bite to eat (of course elegantly served to us), and then we joke about the day’s preceding’s. Do you know what is the saddest thing about this is? This was my only concept of worship — ritual and manufactured reverence. But that all changed in the most unexpected way one starlit evening, in the most unbecoming of settings, and this is the story I need to tell…
We have a very fitting nickname for Caspar, “Nesher-Ha-Ayin,” or simply, “Eye of the Eagle.” His name was never more appropriate then when he spotted a peculiar astrological perturbation in the eastern sky one clear fall night. Quickly, he called Balthazar and me. First, he handed me his star-glass, seeking a second opinion. I saw nothing. Then I handed it to Balthazar, and nothing.
Caspar persisted, “No Look — keep focused. Look between Pleiades and Ursa Major!” Slowly Balthazar’s focus adjusted and he could faintly see a spec where one should not have been. I looked again and with great patience. My eyes are no longer as they once were, but finally I noticed it too. Coming to agreement, we stole away to the ancient scrolls. It took us nearly a week to find, but we eventually found something scribbled in a manuscript by a forgotten seer, a Babylonian-Hebrew named Daniel. This Daniel wrote of a constellation in just the place we were looking, and that it would signify the arrival of a long-promised Hebrew King.
I personally took the news to Phraates, and was elated when he suggested the three of us who found the star be his royal emissaries to pay tribute to the new Hebrew Sovereign. Our king fitted-us with an extravagant convoy, nearly 60 guards and servants, attending to us for the long journey. Phraates also provided, what at the time we believed were magnificent gifts: gold, frankincense, and of course the jewel of our economy, myrrh.
There is so much I must regretfully omit from my tale: Like the many adventures of our long journey; our losing the star along the way and trying to convince our caravan that we could still see it and knew exactly where we were going. And there was the disturbing audience we had with degenerate King Herod. But I must proceed to our fateful encounter with the most unexpected of kings.
To say our meeting with this Hebrew king was not what we expected, would be the greatest understatement of the ages. Thank goodness, upon leaving the Herodium — that is the name of King Herod’s — Aghh! I feel like spitting, just saying that name! Anyway, it is one of Herod’s fifteen palaces, which lies south of the city of Jerusalem).
Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, after we left the palace, and I am sure as a result of our many provocations to the divine, hoping we did not just embark on a fool’s errand, the star again appeared to us, and this time a touch brighter. Almost as if it were waiting for us, testing our very faith in the prophecy.
This final stage of our journey was the shortest of all. We discovered this, “Messiah” as Herod’s advisors named him, was to be born in the small, but ancient and royal village of Bethlehem — other than in reputation there was nothing royal about it. If ever a village looked common, it was Bethlehem. It reminded me of the hundred other villages we had already caravanned passed.
When we came to the outskirts of this village, we must have been quite the site, as the peasants began to empty from their humble structures fixing their gaze at our austere parade passing through their neglected town. It was right around this time that something strange began taking place within me.
Three moons earlier I left the marvelous city of Ctesiphon, as Melchior the Great Seer of Parthia. I saw myself as superior to all the people I had met coming across these strange lands. But as I looked at all these simple, dirty faces, standing in the doorways of the homes lining our path — faces of young and old, men and women. I was immediately reminded of how not very long ago, I gave the council, and authored an edict, commanding our military to completely destroy and exterminate every soul of a small Chaldean village, where there were rumours of two known traitors concealed. A village not all that different than this Bethlehem. As I was processing these emotions, A familiar command brought me back to attention.
Caspar, gave a loud cry, “Halt, carry out mandated procedures. We have reached our destination!” In an instant, servants and guards jumped into action, all carrying out their assigned roles, setting up a makes-shift camp right in the centre of the village. It took about three hours for all the necessities to be made. Caspar, Balthazar, and myself, were escorted into our tent, and with the help of our servants, we fitted ourselves into our finest regalia; gathered our valuable tributes; rehearsed our protocols and speeches, and waited until all the other details were ready before we presented ourselves to the child-king. So much happened so fast I never quite got a grasp of our surroundings. I assumed when the time came we would be taken into some dignified residence that I had failed to notice. This was not the case.
At the correct time our military guard called our attention. The time had arrived for our fateful presentation. We stepped out of the tent, made our way out of the village square and then down a very cramped residential quarter. Like scavengers, all the onlookers scurried up to their rooftops to get a glimpse of us mysterious magi.
About halfway up the street we came to a final halt. Our guard formed their archway, which was to be used for the purpose of our entrance. A moment later we heard our magnificent titles announced by our chief orator. First it was Balthazar, Caspar followed, and then I, as most important, was presented last.
I had gone through this procedure a thousand times in the great throne room of the king of Parthia, but now I was doing it in a remote village of a distant land for a child. When I began making my way through the guards, Melchior the Great suddenly became Melchior the Humble.
Out of nowhere my stomach began to swirl, and my knees began buckling. I made the mistake of taking a quick glance up to the faces on the rooftops — they were so ordinary. I thought again of the village I recently decimated and how it must have housed similar faces. Great shame unexpectedly flooded every ounce of my being; tears welled in my eyes. My head threw itself downward, daring not to look up again. I passed the final guards and made my rehearsed pivot — I still had not look-up to the child, nor could I, had I wanted too. Everything was spinning. With every ounce of strength I had left, I began to walk in the direction I knew the child was. By this point I could not conceal my dignity, and could hear the sobs rising in and out of my chest. Finally, we had come to the end of our travels.
My head was still bowed, all I could see were two dirty and unadorned sandals creeping out of the bottom folds of some course brown fabric. My legs gave way, and I fell to the ground without any power to do otherwise. I feared what my friends, my guards and my servants must be thinking of their distinguished sage? Then I noticed to my right and to my left, Caspar and Belshazzar were in no better state then I. It was then I felt a warm hand on my shoulder.
The hand belonged to the boy’s father (in Ctesiphon such an action would see the removal of a commoner’s hand), however this touch somehow gave me the strength to rise up to one knee. For the first time I looked up to see where I was, and to whom I was worshipping. There before us, a house just like all the other houses on the street; a simple man with strong calloused hands and a young maiden nestling a common, ordinary baby boy. A simple infant, just like one would expect to find in any dusty village.
Their eyes were filled with tears, and their faces displayed the warmest of smiles. I glanced back towards the roof tops, and then back to the young couple — their faces, their clothes, they were no different than anyone else’s on the street. I did not understand. Where did all my guilt, all of my shame come from? But where also did this great sense of joy and profound relief come from?
I looked again, this time towards the babe. He was so content, oblivious to the spectacle, just smiling at the funny foreigner with the colourful clothes. The father then grasped my other shoulder, and helped me to my feet. The father spoke, sharing words I will never forget, “This is our son Yeshua (Jesus); we were told he could bear no other name, because he will cast away man’s guilt and save them from their sins.”
Caspar and Balthazar soon rose to their feet. A sorry lot our guard was. I glanced back and noticed every one of them was bowed low with tears before this helpless little child and without any instruction to do so. Who was this king? Who could reduce the mightiest of men into a hapless mess?
We three kings stood there. We said nothing, because there was nothing we could say; periodically we laughed, we never stopped crying, and we worshipped. For the first time in our lives, we worshipped!
In time we managed to present our gifts; the gold, frankincense and myrrh. When we departed they seemed so costly, so precious, now they seemed like wasteful trinkets. But who knows what significance they may yet play in this King’s life?
Before we left, I stole one more glance at the child, and his name flooded my soul. “Yeshua,” I said to myself, and I prayed, and I have prayed every moment since, that this little king would have the power to save me, save me from my darkness. And if I am not mistaken, I believe he somehow began his saving work that very night with us visiting strangers.
After all of this, we still managed to make our way back home again. We arrived back in Ctesiphon as the same three wise men, yet definitely not the same wise men, if you get my understanding? And, here we are again, about to enter the throne room for the King of Parthia. In a moment we will bend our knees to this human king, we have no choice to do otherwise. But since we met our true King in Bethlehem, it is to Him whom we will forever bend our hearts, our souls, and our strength.
Come let us adore Him!