Sunday’s reading foretells the two kings from Bethlehem

in the beginning
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

If you visit a fast-food restaurant, you often will place your order with a teenager.

Young people frequently work at such places. These part-time jobs enable them to earn a bit of money, while still attending school.

Centuries ago, young people were often given the task of caring for the livestock. After all, most of them lived on farms. This was work that even young people could perform.

And this was the situation that the young boy David found himself in when the prophet Samuel came visiting in search of a new king.

The young David had been tending the sheep out in the pasture. But, eventually, he would become a great king of Israel, caring for his subjects as he had once cared for the sheep.

That is why the metaphor of a shepherd fits so well for the future leader of Israel foretold in Sunday’s first reading, Mi 5:1-4a: “He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord.”

This future leader shall originate from Bethlehem, the same town that David had come from. It is small and apparently insignificant, just as David had been small and apparently insignificant.

As the youngest of the sons of Jesse, he is nearly overlooked when the prophet visits in search of a new king (1 Sm 16:11-13).

It is only because God speaks to Samuel that David is identified as the eventual king. And again, David looks puny and weak when compared to the giant Goliath, with whom he engages in battle and whom he nevertheless defeats with his slingshot (1 Sm 17:41-51).

Bethlehem looks small and insignificant, especially compared to nearby Jerusalem, the great capital, only about five miles away.

Nonetheless, the prophecy assures it: “You, Bethlehem-  Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old.”

We see this prophecy fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Like David, he also was born in Bethlehem. Like David, he also became a shepherd, the good shepherd of his people. Belonging to the house of David, Jesus also ascends to the throne. 

He becomes Christ the King, a ruler far greater than David. His reign shall extend beyond that of King David. As the prophecy proclaims: “His greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.”

Through God’s power, great things come from what appears small and insignificant.

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