After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2 NIV
Points to Ponder:
One of the most interesting ironies of Scripture concerns the point at which the Gospel of Christ was “expanded” beyond the Israelites of the New Testament to encompass Gentiles (individuals outside of the Jewish faith) as well. Although a number of Old Testament prophets had foretold time and again that God would spread His message beyond the nation of Israel, the disciples found themselves in heated debate after Christ’s ascension regarding how – or even if – a Gentile should be taken into the proverbial fold of believers (see Acts 10-11).
The irony is that an all-knowing God in His sovereignty had settled the matter long before the disciples debate ensued by grafting Ruth the Moabitess into the ancestral line of Christ (Ruth 4:18-22). As amazing as that irony is, though, there is another that gave me chill bumps when I first made the connection. Are you ready for this?
Glance back at those Wise Men in today’s passage. They were among the first people to seek out Christ after His birth. And they were Gentiles.
Admittedly, we know little about these guys. Matthew gives us only two verses with few details. He calls them magi, a Greek term that derives from Old Persian and often used in reference to Zoroastrian priests. Matthew also says the trio came from the East, a detail that supports the reference. They themselves state that they followed a star in their journey. Zoroastrians were well-known for having an adept knowledge of astrology, which lends further support to the Greek reference.
Some of the missing links to the story include the number of magi in the group. Traditionally, we assume there were three men because there were three gifts, but the group could easily have been larger. We don’t even know their names, although (again) tradition lists them as Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. How long was their visit? When did they leave? What return route did they take in order to avoid King Herod? What happened to them after their return?
Despite so many unanswered questions, this important fact we do know: according to Matthew’s account, the magi were the first people to worship the incarnate Son of God. Please don’t miss this turn of events. Think about the implications here: these wandering astrologers were most likely from another religion altogether. The following ideas summarize well the conclusion to be drawn from the visit paid to Christ by these wise men.
Matthew does not tell us that they converted or returned to follow Jesus, only that they came to pay him homage. And that, perhaps, is by design. Matthew stresses again and again in his scriptural account that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, One who came like another Moses to save Israel from oppression. While this claim will be debated and challenged by Christ’s own people, at both the beginning and end of His earthly ministry, it will be persons from another land – at His birth, the magi; at the cross, the Roman centurion* – who recognize him as the King of the Jews. – author unknown
– Copyright 2016, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All Rights Reserved.
*See Matthew 27:54.
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Focus for Reflection:
What will you do to actively seek out Jesus Christ in your world today?
Do the words of Matthew 2:1-2 in any way shape or reshape your outlook as you wait expectantly for Christ’s second coming?
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