Leonard: The Star of Bethlehem
Just over 20 years ago I was home for the holidays of my senior year at Baylor University. I can hardly remember what four weeks off, sleeping in, and hanging out with long-lost high school friends was like, but I do vividly remember going to church one of those Sunday mornings. There was a guest speaker that morning and what he shared all but took my breath away.
He was a lawyer who had accidentally found himself as a guest speaker at churches around the world. His topic revolved around astronomy and astrology (pun intended), most notably, “The Star of Bethlehem.”
His story was pretty simple: It was early December one year and as he was putting up some Christmas lights he decided to go with the theme of the three wise men. Upon wanting to understand the specifics of the story (like a good lawyer) he decided to investigate a little further and turned to the Bible and, Matthew chapter 2:1-2, which says, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star rise in the east and have come to worship him.”
Shortly thereafter he was knee deep studying first century Jewish historians, scripture, getting to the know Johannes Kepler’s findings about the clock work solar system, and using computer software to illuminate the ancient skies. What he found is easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard.
As most of you know, the sun, moon and stars do not “stray” from their courses. No one knows this better than NASA, so he was sure to check all of his findings with them and, yes, they agreed with his entire presentation.
Genesis 1:14-15 says, “Then God said, ’Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and they shall serve as signs and for seasons, and for days and years; 15 and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so.”
According to those verses, the stars serve as signs. Specifically, he thought that the star that the magi followed might be a “sign” but wanted to look into it. What blew my mind was when he started using the software: He literally entered dates around the time he concluded Jesus was born (from his research of King Herod), then he typed in cities (Baghdad and Jerusalem), then the software showed what the constellations looked like at that time, from those cities.
Sure enough, Jupiter and Regulus were so close that they looked like one star, the brightest star anyone had ever seen at the time. This caught the Magi’s attention and somehow they knew it was time to head to Bethlehem and meet the Jewish Messiah (because they knew the prophecy from Micah 5:2 that Messiah would be born there).
On Dec. 25 of 2 BC Jupiter reached full stop (something called retrograde motion) in its travel through the fixed stars. Magi viewing from Jerusalem would have seen it stopped in the sky above the little town of Bethlehem. He had found the star!
But his presentation did not end there. His mind raced forward to the end of Matthew where Jesus’ crucifixion is recorded. As you may recall, the biblical account says in Matthew 27:45, “Now from noon until 3 p.m. darkness fell on the all the land.”
Was it cloudy or was something else, something more significant, going on? Finding the answer to this question would entail more study. He would have to determine the exact day of Jesus’ crucifixion and to do that he needed to follow more clues. We know it was “preparation day” (Matt. 26:62 and Mark 15:42) for the Jewish Passover and that that day had to be on a Friday.
Just like our birthdays are on the same day of the month every year, they are not on the same day of the week every year. After running back the Jewish calendar to find a day that fit, he landed on Nisan 14, which correlates to our April 3, 33 A.D.
I’m surprised he didn’t faint when he typed the date into his software. On that day, if you were in Jerusalem at the time Jesus was on the cross, there was a lunar eclipse that resulted in darkness and a blood red moon. Drop the mic!
Once again, on one of the most significant days ever, God gave a “sign” in the sky that was meant to let everyone know he was up to something.
What’s cool about this occurrence is that we have a nonbiblical mentioning of this from Phlegon Trallianus in his history entitled “Olympiades:” “In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (32-33A.D.) a failure of the Sun took place greater than any previously known, and night came on at the sixth hour of the day [noon], so that stars actually appeared in the sky; and a great earthquake took place in Bithynia and overthrew the greater part of Niceaea.”
In closing, don’t miss the grandeur of all of this: When God put the world into motion and the clock work stars/constellations began, he had already planned the dates of Jesus’ birth, crucifixion and resurrection.
He gave you and me signs, wanting to let us know that he loves us. And for those of you who, like me, due to the craziness we’ve all been experiencing over the last few months, have been studying Jesus’ “Olivet Discourse” in Matthew 24, looking into Revelation and talking about his second coming, that day is fixed too.
To learn more about “The Star of Bethlehem” simply type “The Star of Bethlehem” into YouTube’s search bar or go to http://www.bethlehemstar.com.
Scott Leonard is the area director for Search Vail Valley. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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