It all happened so fast that the entire camp seemed frozen, motionless—for about two seconds. Then pandemonium broke out. Apparently no one remembered the instructions that had been given, all but the special contingent of guards who surrounded the master. The captain of the guard pulled the prince into his tent, and the rest formed a circle around it, brandishing their spears.
The boy ducked under a wagon and covered himself with his dark cloak. In the dim light of sunset, he wasn’t noticed. He watched the pounding hooves and running feet of the bandits who had invaded the campsite, and listened to their terrifying yells. Their faces were covered, and they wielded wicked looking knives. Some carried torches which they were using to set fire to wagons and supplies.
“Shazaar! Where’s Shazaar! Get him!” It was the voice of the master. The boy could recognize it even in the midst of all the noise.
“I don’t know where he went, Sire. Don’t go out there! We’ll find him!”
The boy heard the words and swelled with happiness in spite of all that was going on around him. The master was worried about him. He’d always known that Prince Balthasar thought of him as more than just a slave. At least he hoped so. He knew that he would give anything for the privilege of serving the good, kind prince. He was happy to do the slightest task for him. And the prince seemed to reciprocate. Perhaps it was because Shazaar’s father, a slave himself, had died to save him.
“Shazaar!” came a hiss. “Is that you down there?”
It was one of the guards. Others were halting the progress of the bandits. Fighting was going on all around them.
“I’m here,” said Shazaar, as the guard, whose name was Amir, bent to look under the wagon.
“Come, the prince is concerned.”
A bandit with a flaming torch nearly tripped over the guard. Amir grabbed at his ankle and brought him down, but not before the evil looking man gave the torch a mighty fling toward the prince’s tent. It flew between two guards who both grabbed for it, but it struck the tent, which immediately caught fire.
“Get him! Help the master!” cried Shazaar.
But the guards were suddenly caught up in battle as the bandits turned and stormed the clearing. Other soldiers were bearing down upon the intruders, helping the guards, but in the meantime, the tent was engulfed in flames.
Shazaar raced toward it with Amir following. Together they entered, and saw the master on the ground. A heavy tent pole had hit him on the head, plus he was choking from the smoke.
Shazaar and Amir pulled him out and dragged him to the wagon. Amir stood in front of the wagon alertly, but the battle was nearly over. The prince’s soldiers were easily disabling the band of robbers who had foolishly thought they could overtake a part of the large caravan. If they’d been watching for some time, surely they had realized that there were plenty of guards and a contingent of soldiers. They must have been bold and brazen to think they could win.
“Master! Are you all right. What do you need?” He would run for water if he knew where to get some. Or for bandages, but the prince’s lavish tent was a burned and broken-down mess.
The master raised up and peered out from under the wagon. “I’m all right. “
“You’re bleeding!” Shazaar had no cloth even to wipe the man’s brow.
“I’m all right, I tell you. Everything was falling down around me. You shouldn’t have come running in like that. You could have been killed.”
Another voice came from above. A chuckle. “Balthasar, when are you going to learn? This servant boy, at least, has always known that he’s supposed to take care of you.”
“Gaspar, my friend,” The prince held out a hand and the man helped him up. “As you can see, I have yet another reason to be glad he’s around. He and his father have saved my life now.”
“Come on over to my tent. Let your men clean this up and be ready to move out at first light. I’ve had enough of these desert cliffs. It’s just too dangerous.”
“We are almost there. Another day or two. I daresay, Shazaar, you’re sorry you came on this trip. Dry, dirty travel for these many months. Wild animals and bandits— nearly getting yourself killed….”
“Adventure and the chance to see new places….” interrupted Gaspar. “We have been to quite a few great cities and seen interesting sights in spite of this awful wilderness. I can see it in his eyes. He’s quite glad to be here.”
The master went off to clean up and get some supper.
Long into the night, Shazaar helped sort through the useless supplies, pack up what was good, care for the animals, and clean out his master’s burned tent. When he finally laid down on a sleeping mat under the stars, he saw that the very bright one, the one they were all following, was still there. They could always trust it to be in the sky, leading them on.
He remembered the night they’d decided to actually do something about that star.
“There it is! Yet again!”
Shazaar had bolted to Prince Balthasar’s side. The master never seemed to notice that he was just a servant. He liked it that the boy was so interested in the sciences. And it was the boy who toted up the many scrolls and manuscripts from every part of the known world.
He always lingered, bringing in food and drink and making any excuse to stay in the chamber as the master’s best scholars searched for information.
What could this amazing new star mean?
Finally Prince Balthasar sent messages to other cities and met with other wise men and royal friends. And finally, finally, they had decided to come on this trip.
A new king. A baby was born. They didn’t know much else. Only that they felt they should worship this child. And Shazaar had been allowed to come!
It was only a couple of days later that the terrain finally changed and a city came into view. The city of Jerusalem with it’s curious mixture of Roman and Jewish customs and architecture.
The caravan’s arrival was greeted with great excitement and wonder. Over a hundred servants and guards and soldiers to meet the needs of these three great men. Only two were kings but Melchior was a great astrologer and magician. He worshiped many gods and had traveled extensively before this.
Gaspar was an interesting man, the king of a small province in India, he was as short and stout as the master was tall and rugged. They had become fast friends in their fascination with the star. Gaspar was always pouring over maps and charts and watching the night sky to make sure they were on track.
The Roman king of the region sent out messengers to the wealthy visitors, perplexed as to their mission.
But that night, in the richly decorated chamber that the master had been given, Shazaar found him disappointed, even disgusted.
He dismissed all the other servants and confided in Shazaar, as usual. “How could no one know of this new king? He’s not a baby any longer, surely. Yet only these Jewish slaves seemed to know anything. And they were terrified to speak. But they had to. They brought a new scroll that we don’t have. We studied their ancient writings but missed this one from the prophet Micah. In Bethlehem, it said.”
A tapping on the door. The guard came in, “I know the hour is late, My lord, but….”
The messenger behind was too excited to wait. He hurried past the guard and bowed low. “Sire, news!”
“It’s all right,” the prince said, and the guard left. “Tell me what you’ve discovered.”
“We found some shepherds! It seems several people there in Bethlehem know all about it. It’s a tiny hovel, really. But they remember a newborn baby—about two years ago. You won’t believe this, but angels appeared to some of them! We interviewed an inn keeper, too. He says the parents were just poor commoners. He didn’t see the angels though, and couldn’t understand what we meant by him being a king. The woman was with child but he had no room so the baby was born in the stable, apparently. It was all very confusing.”
“But where are they now!” asked the prince.
“Not far! They’re from Nazareth but they stayed. They didn’t want to travel with a newborn and then the man got work with the local carpenter. They’re still here!” The messenger was quite forgetting himself in his excitement, but the prince didn’t even notice. “Do you want to tell the Roman king—this Herod?”
“No! Do not tell anyone. I’ll speak with Melchior and Gaspar in the morning. Not a word.” He looked sternly at both the messenger and Shazaar.
The young man bowed. “Yes, Sire.”
“It’s here! It’s here! There’s the star!”
It was sunset yet again. The caravan was camped outside the small town. Only the three great men, along with several guards and—Shazaar—approached the house. Even so there was a crowd in the streets, curious, but keeping their distance as the guards frowned upon them.
The man of the house was outside, watching their progress toward his dwelling. A guard approached him, telling of their quest.
The man seemed relieved, and he motioned them into the house. “My name is Joseph, the son of Jacob, of Nazareth. I am honored. You are most welcome.”
The guards stood outside as the three men entered the little house. Shazaar stood at the door. He knew his master wouldn’t mind. The prince seemed overwhelmed as he gazed upon the child, who was being held in the arms of his mother.
“His name is Jesus,” said the father. The little boy stared at them with curious eyes, then gave the men a big smile.
The gifts were laid before him. The three bowed to the child. Shazaar somehow knew they were in the presence of someone who was much more than even a king. How he knew that, he wasn’t sure.
The men talked with Joseph for a long time, sharing stories. The little boy sat in their laps, played with the tassels on their robes, looked up into their faces. The mother listened to the talk silently, taking it all in.
“Thank you,” said Joseph, gesturing once again at the exquisite gifts of gold, frankincense, myrrh.
“You have given us far more.” It was Gaspar who spoke.
“Savior….” mused Prince Balthasar. “I don’t understand most of this….”
“Sire, read the Scriptures. Learn more of the God of Israel. He loves people of all nations…” Joseph seemed at a loss to explain.
“And this boy will take over as king? How can that happen? Will he start a rebellion? I could tell that this Herod won’t give up his throne easily.”
“We don’t understand it all. We only know that God has given him to us to care for and that he is the Savior we Jews have been waiting for.”
There was little talk on the way back to the campsite. There was just too much to take in, too much to try to understand.
“Shazaar! Send for the others!” The prince had awakened out of a sound sleep. Shazaar jumped from his mat to minister in whatever he way he could.
“A nightmare, master?”
“We must leave. I’ve been spoken to in a dream. We must not go back to Herod. We must go home another way. I had hoped to stay a while and to try to understand all this. Perhaps talk to some of those Jewish priests. But we must go.”
Shazaar hurried out to send messengers to the other sections of the caravan, and by first light they were ready to leave. Servants hurried back with food for the journey, bought at the marketplace from some sleepy shopowners who were already at their booths. It was then that the prince called for Shazaar.
“The battle was not going well. As you know, your father, my slave, joined me in the fighting—and was killed saving my life. I confess I’ve not treated you as other slaves since I brought you to the palace so long ago. You have a special place in my heart. Perhaps because you look so much like him. You have been a good and faithful servant. Now I have another task for you if you accept it.”
“I’ll do anything for you—” Of course he would obey. That’s what a slave did.
“Listen first and then decide for yourself. I will not force you to do this.”
“I want you to stay here. I want you to watch and learn. Send me word often. When you learn what this all means, come back. And if you do this, I give you my oath that when you return, I will free you.”
Some time later, with plenty of money hidden in his pockets and a bundle of new clothes and provisions, Shazaar watched as the caravan got under way.
“You’ll never see him again,” said Melchior from atop his camel. “You’re a fool, you know that, don’t you?”
Melchior perhaps hadn’t meant for Shazaar to hear, but the master looked back at the boy. He gave him a look that said he trusted Shazaar completely.
Shazaar smiled and then turned toward the little town. He would get a job. He would watch…and wait to see what would happen next. And soon he would see his master again.
Two Nights Later
Shazaar awoke suddenly. What was going on! Joseph was in the barn, loading his donkey with many packs! Not long after, Mary and the sleepy child joined him. They quietly left the barn and started down the dark street.
What were they doing? Where were they going?
Grabbing his own pack, he hurriedly rolled his mat, threw his belongings into the pack, and dashed out, following the little family as they headed out of town. The next day they joined a caravan heading south.
Egypt? They were going to Egypt? Well, he guessed that was where he would be going, too. He mingled with the tail end of the caravan, listening to the chatter of business men, common people, and other travelers.
He overheard someone say. “Herod’s in another of his tempers again.”
“What now?” asked another.
“Something about those high and mighty visitors that came. All that talk about a new king. He’s searching for him among all the babies up to two years old in the villages roundabout. Going to be trouble for sure.”
Shazaar, shocked, slowed his steps. The little family was in trouble. How had Joseph known? He knew now what they were doing. They were escaping out of Herod’s domain.
The boy hurried forward. He wanted to keep them in sight and know they were safe. He must.
Two years later
We’re heading back to Nazareth….
Shazaar had learned to read and write during the time in Egypt. He sent letters often, wanting his master to know he hadn’t run off with the money he had been given. That he was doing his task. But he couldn’t go home yet. He had to make sure the little family was safe. He continued to watch them from afar.
Twenty five years later
Mary grasped his shoulders tearfully, then gave him a hug. “You’ve been a good friend. Go with him. I’ll be glad to know he has a friend from home nearby.”
“Where is he going?”
“I don’t know. But I’ve known since his birth that he would leave, someday. He has work to do.”
“I won’t let him know right away that I’m following him– but I’ll watch out for him, I promise.”
Three years later
My dear master,
I am undone. After all the miracles and preaching, and even the raising of the dead, that I’ve told you of, I watched him die. They crucified him, that most horrible of deaths—but still, he forgave them, he said such strange things on the cross….but what does it matter…he’s gone. I suppose I’ll come home now. I don’t know what else to do.
I was about to send this when the most incredible thing happened. I believe it! I believe it! The women knew it first…then his disciples…then many of us have seen him—He’s alive! He’s risen…I will write more….
Forty Days Later
“My Lord and my God.” Shazaar bowed before Jesus. It was the first time he’d been able to talk alone with him since the resurrection.
“Shazaar, I have work for you. Go home now. Tell your master what you’ve seen and heard. It’s time. He is old and ill. He is close to the kingdom because of your letters. But you must go and tell him the rest—and tell everyone.”
“You’ve known all along?”
Jesus smiled. “No, not until recently. But I know the Father has used you to help me and my family all these years. And His plan for you is not over.”
Shazaar joined the disciples along with many other followers of Jesus. The Lord climbed a hill and faced them. He apparently wanted to teach them some more.
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all. …and I will be with you always….”
Suddenly, he started to rise! Right into the air.
They all looked up in astonishment as their Lord and Savior went up through the clouds out of their sight.
Three months later
He had traveled as fast as he could; by camel, by horse, with a caravan….He had plenty of money for the trip for he’d worked hard and become educated. But all he wanted now was to get home.
The old king took his hand.
“Just tired. I’ve been sick but I’m better now. I guess I’ve just been despondent that after all these years, I still don’t understand it all. But now you’re here! They told me you’d never come back. But I knew better. This Savior, I want him as my own but I’m not sure how. I’ve tried to be a good king and do righteously as the Scriptures say, but I know there’s more. I’ve believed what you’ve told me in your letters, but I’m not sure it’s enough.”
Shazaar told him all and the king bowed his head and called on God—in the name of Jesus.
“My sins are forgiven! I am his! Let us tell everyone of this great thing that’s come to pass. And we’ll start with Melchior and Gaspar who have pored over your letters as much as I have. I’ve had every one copied and sent them on over the years. And now, I promised you your freedom and you shall have it.”
“I have freedom. I have a new Lord and master now. And I mean to serve him with all my heart.”
This is a fictional story but tradition says that the names of the Wisemen were Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. We don’t know if that’s true or even if there were three. There might have been more. Historians aren’t even sure where they really came from.
What we do know is that God wanted these men to know him and spread the word in their own countries. He guided and protected them all the way.