The Star of Bethlehem - The Missed Sign

In Matthew 16:1-4, there is a passage about the Pharisees and Sadducees wanting conclusive evidence that Jesus was the Messiah –they demanded that He give them a sign from heaven. Jesus boldly told them that they routinely observed and reacted to heavenly signs related to the physical world –for example, observing the color of the sky to know when it was safe to travel on the sea.

Jesus went on to say that since they did not have faith the sign for them to watch for was one recorded in Jonah. Why did He say that they didn’t have faith? Because they were asking for a sign –a spiritual sign– that they had already been given and forgotten.

A sign had already shown in the heavens –the star of Bethlehem–; about thirty years earlier– and it was widely known about! The first to recognize it were the Magi (the “Three Kings”) who went to King Herod in Jerusalem asking the whereabouts of the Child King –the One they knew to be the Messiah –God’s Anointed One.

Herod acted interested –asking the Magi to report back when they found the Child so that he too could go and worship. But his lie was not convincing and the Magi did not return. To ensure success in finding this King that might take over his empire, Herod had the Scriptures searched to find out where the birth was to take place. The answer was found in the book of Micah –;prophesied so many years before.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)

Herod then ordered the death of every boy in and around Bethlehem that would have been born about the time that the sign appeared in the heavens. This was reported all over Israel; even the Pharisees and Sadducees heard about it!

The Pharisees and Sadducees –those of the time who were very religious, but had no faith– knew the Scriptures extremely well. Remember when He told them in John 5:39-40 “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”?

Since they knew the Scriptures, there was another sign that they should have seen; it’s the prophecy in Isaiah which describes Jesus’ birth.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

You might wonder what that reference to the sign of Jonah was about. Those religious zealots ignored the birth and earthly life of our Savior. But they could not ignore His death and resurrection because it was going to happen in just a few days. Not only that, but they too were going to experience their own death and subsequent appearance (resurrection) before the God’s great white throne where they will once again face our Lord. But, of course, that time it will be too late for them.

Today we can read about that sign in the heavens and realize that the Creator of this world came here to live with us. The Son of God was given to us; He was born as a child like us. This was all so that we can know Him and His Father personally. Unlike those Pharisees and Sadducees, we study the Scriptures diligently to know Him and His ways more. He is our eternal life and He is who we celebrate this Christmas season.