After Jesus was born in Bethlehem (in the West Bank) while Herod was king, diplomats from somewhere in the “-stans” came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where are you hiding the new Israeli king? A rogue satellite signal suggests that he’s here, and we’ve come to establish diplomatic relations.”
When King Herod heard this, he was outraged, and not just Herod, but all Jerusalem. He gathered his top advisors and asked, “What’s this about a new king? And where is he?”
They told him, “Probably in Bethlehem. That’s where the truth-tellers are saying: ‘Bethlehem in the West Bank, you’re not as insignificant as you think! That’s where the leader of the uprising will come from.'”
So Herod called for the diplomats, and found out what their intelligence said. And then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and find this prodigy, and then let me know, too, so I can also establish relations with him.”
Hearing this, they set out, following their satellite signal until its coordinates lined up with where the child was. And when they saw they were in the right place, trembling with excitement, they went in and found the child, with his mother, Mary. They followed their protocol for meeting with a great leader, and then presented gifts: money, medicine, and medical supplies. And, being warned in a secret cable, not to return to Herod, they left for their own country in secret.
The situation in the West Bank today is every bit as charged as it was when Jesus was growing up there. Imagine what kind of international chaos would break out if diplomats from the Taliban approached Prime Minister Netanyahu wanting to know where to find the new Palestinian rebel leader – because they had “reliable intelligence” unavailable to Israel.
That’s this story. And whose to say the Israelis wouldn’t send in the crack troops to take out all the Palestinian kids in Bethlehem if they thought it was a matter of national security?
Never mind that historians of that day, Josephus and the rest, never mention these actual events taking place. The story Matthew tells sets the stage for us to understand the issues Jesus came to address, and to help us understand why the movement Jesus started was so different from the regimes in power.
And why it was so feared by them. And why they used such brutal and excessive force to put it down.
Understand this story, and you’ll understand everything from the police response to OWS, to the pictures coming out of Egypt, to the modern Chinese response to dissidents.
Find that child, and you’ll have found the key to a whole new world.
[Hint: Which child in your neighborhood is the one they don’t want to make it to adulthood? That’s the one you’re looking for.]