As the next scene of our movie appears on the screen, I would create a quick montage of several of the events of the early days of Jesus’ life. We would see Joseph, Mary, and a Rabbi standing over the baby. The Rabbi is holding a knife. Joseph speaks the words, “His name is Yeshua.” The Rabbi nods his head in affirmation and moves the knife toward the baby. The baby lets out a cry as we cut to the next quick scene in the montage. Joseph and Mary are at the Temple in Jerusalem. As they walk toward the sanctuary, Mary holds Jesus and Joseph holds a small wooden cage containing two doves. They look at each other and smile. Let’s freeze the film for brief moment.
In Jewish culture the firstborn male belonged to the Lord. Families were required to “redeem” their firstborn by bringing an offering to the Temple. For families with the means to afford it, this offering was usually a lamb, or sometimes even and lamb and a dove. But the Law made a provision for the working class. If the family could not afford a lamb, they could bring two doves instead. This quick “beat” tells us that Jesus was born into a family that worked hard to make ends meet. Roll it!
In the final quick shot, we cut to the Holy Family leaving the sanctuary of the Temple and walking out into the courtyard. An elderly couple approach them. This is Simeon and Anna. They look at the child and Simeon begins to weep.
We quickly cut to a scene in the rugged countryside of Judea. We see a large caravan. The people all have a more eastern look than the normal semitic appearance of the inhabitants of Israel. In front we see three distinguished looking men, appropriately attired for a journey but obviously of some means. We change our camera angle to see their point of view. in front of us are walls of Jerusalem. Let’s freeze our film again.
These are the “magi”. If we follow the original “script” we can exercise a lot of latitude in terms of how many of these foreigners we put in our scene. The earliest church tradition that attempted to provide a number said there were twelve. Around 500 AD, the tradition became popular that since there were three gifts, there must have been three wise men. Later, they were given the names Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthassar. The text only tells us that they were “from the east”. Literally, it says from “where the sun rises.” The word “magi”, can have various meanings. It was the word used to label a class of Persian priests. They were from the region of ancient Babylon and Media. With the rise of Zoroastrianism in this region, the word “magi” was used to identify Zoroastrian priests. Historically, the more intersting use of the word comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel. In the second chapter we are told that when the “magi” of Babylon could not tell King Nebuchadnezzar the content of his dream, he intended to have them all put to death. Daniel steps in and tells the king his dream and its meaning. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar put Daniel in charge of all the “magi”. It is highly probably that Daniel them that a day was coming when a child would be born in his homeland that would be the King of the Jews. It would also be highly probable that he would have taught them the prophecy of the “seventy weeks” that gave a specific timetable of when that King, or Messiah, would come. Along with the cosmic event that accompanied their trip to Israel (a journey of a thousand miles if from Babylon), this would explain how a group of non-Jewish philosphers and priests figured out what the corrupt religious establishment of Israel missed.
As we roll the movie again, we cut to a setting inside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The exotic caravan is entering the city and causing quite a stir among the crowds. They come to a stop and one of the three magi (lets call him Melchior for kicks!) asks the crowd that gathers around, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?” The question energizes the crowd. They obviously have no idea how to answer the question. The second magi, much younger than the first, speaks (we’ll use Gaspar for his name), “We have seen his star in the east.” The third, a black man of middle age (Balthassar), adds, “We have come to worship him!”
We quickly cut to the throne room of Herod’s palace in Jerusalem. We see the aged Herod, now about seventy, in a rage. He is screaming at his advisors, “King of the Jews? (beat) King of the Jews? (beat) I’M the King of the Jews!!!”
We fade to black.