For Jesus the time had come when he must go forth to his task.
"What a terrible thought to think that God has madethe entrance of the Redeemer dependent upon the 'Let it be with me' (Lk 1:38)of the handmaid of Nazareth; that this saying should be the termination of theold world, the beginning of the new, the fulfilment of all prophecies, theturning-point of all time, the first blaze of the morning star which is toannounce the rising of the sun of justice, which as far as human will was ableto accomplish, knit the bond that brought Heaven down upon earth and liftedhumanity up to God!" (Hettinger).
This idealism, being rooted inreligion, is not a mere sentiment.
It is extraordinary how seldom Jesus used the word Father in regard to God. Mark's gospel is the earliest gospel, and is therefore the nearest thing we will ever have to an actual report of all that Jesus said and did; and in Mark's gospel Jesus calls God Father only six times, and never outside the circle of the disciples. To Jesus the word Father was so sacred that he could hardly bear to use it; and he could never use it except amongst those who had grasped something of what it meant.
Right at the beginning there is John the Baptist's savage denunciation of them as a brood of vipers (Matt. 3:7-12). They complain that Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners (Matt. 9:11). They ascribe the power of Jesus, not to God, but to the prince of devils (Matt. 12:24). They plot to destroy him (Matt. 12:14). The disciples are warned against the leaven, the evil teaching, of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 16:12). They are like evil plants doomed to be rooted up (Matt. 15:13). They are quite unable to read the signs of the times (Matt. 16:3). They are the murderers of the prophets (Matt. 21:41). There is no chapter of condemnation in the whole New Testament like Matt. 23, which is condemnation not of what the Scribes and the Pharisees teach, but of what they are. He condemns them for falling so far short of their own teaching, and far below the ideal of what they ought to be.
Sometimes that purpose is not served; apostles do not emerge.
So the wise men found their way to Bethlehem. We need not think that the star literally moved like a guide across the sky. There is poetry here, and we must not turn lovely poetry into crude and lifeless prose. But over Bethlehem the star was shining. There is a lovely legend which tells how the star, its work of guidance completed, fell into the well at Bethlehem, and that it is still there and can still be seen sometimes by those whose hearts are pure.
Precise time-keeping throughout is imperative.
Two of the loveliest New Testament legends are connected with the flight into Egypt. The first is about the penitent thief. Legend calls the penitent thief Dismas, and tells that he did not meet Jesus for the first time when they both hung on their crosses on Calvary. The story runs like this. When Joseph and Mary were on their way to Egypt, they were waylaid by robbers. One of the robber chiefs wished to murder them at once and to steal their little store of goods. But something about the baby Jesus went straight to Dismas' heart, for Dismas was one of these robbers. He refused to allow any harm to come to Jesus or his parents. He looked at Jesus and said, "O most blessed of children, if ever there come a time for having mercy on me, then remember me, and forget not this hour". So, the legend says, Jesus and Dismas met again at Calvary, and Dismas on the cross found forgiveness and mercy for his soul.
Sometimes that essential note is missing.
The Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, and he sent and slew all the children in Bethlehem, and in all the districts near by. He slew every child of two years and under, reckoning from the time when he had made his inquiries from the wise men. Then the word which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "A voice was heard in Rama, weeping and much lamenting, Rachel weeping for her children, and she refused to be comforted, for they were no more."
PROCRASTINATION IS THE THIEF OF TIME - …
In due time Herod died, and when Herod died the whole kingdom over which he had ruled was split up. The Romans had trusted Herod, and they had allowed him to reign over a very considerable territory, but Herod well knew that none of his sons would be allowed a like power. So he had divided his kingdom into three, and in his will he had left a part to each of three of his sons. He had left Judaea to Archelaus; Galilee to Herod Antipas; and the region away to the northeast and beyond Jordan to Philip.