One of the fondest memories that I have in my life is the day that Jan and I made a vow to each other that we would dedicate the rest of our lives to driving each other crazy- that’s right, my wedding day. You see, I think that is the merit of true love because the romance is never enough to sustain the relationship. I think that if you can find the person that drives you crazy and pushes every button you have and you STILL can’t wait to spend every waking moment of the rest of your life with them, then you have found true love. There is never a better feeling then someone who is willing to put up with your own special brand of crazy for the rest of their life- that’s love right there. In all seriousness, my wedding day is one of my most treasured memories. Now, I’m not here to talk about our actual wedding, but a part of it that I was made aware of when the service began. Dr. Thomas R. Peake, my History advisor at King and my Pastor while I was in college performed the wedding. He announced, as he was welcoming everyone, that there were people at our wedding from Greece and China. I thought about that later and it impressed upon me just how special it made Jan and I feel that our wedding was so important people crossed oceans to come. You could say that even for as small a part as it played, our wedding was, in a minor way, world reaching.
Yesterday, we looked at the Kingdom Man that Joseph was for God and to Mary. Today, we turn our attention to the east as the Magi travel from a great distance to seek out the one that was called the “King of the Jews.” Matthew chapter 2 tells us that wise men from the east came seeking the one who was born king of the Jews (Mt. 2:1-2). Let me stop to clarify who these guys were. Our stories can get our of hand and can embellish what we don’t really know. These “wise men” were from the east. Many scholars believe that they were from Persia, perhaps Babylon. These men were Magi, a title given to what were then considered to be magicians (hence the word magi). They were likely from the cultural Persian religion known as Zoroastrianism. Today we would not call them magicians, we would know them as astronomers & astrologers. These men, knowing the stars and the night sky very well, were on a mission to follow this peculiar star they had never seen before and when they came to Jerusalem, they were seemingly on a mission to find the one this star had led them to. Also, the scripture never mentions how many there were. We assume three because of the number of gifts that were given (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). Regardless if there were 3 or 30 and whether they were from Persia or Babylon, the arrival of these Magi carry a significance many do not consider.
Matthew’s gospel was written for the Jewish audience. When he wrote these opening chapters, he was revealing a portion of what God had in store not only for them, but the whole world. In the second chapter, Matthew is letting the Jewish people in on three realities with the arrival of these Magi from the east. The first of these realities is that the birth of Jesus was not just an event meant for the Jews. Jesus’ birth ushered in the savior of all men, near and far. This was evident with the arrival of these Magi. These men had to walk for months to travel the 500 miles from Persia to Jerusalem, only to have to continue the walk to Bethlehem another 2 hours south. Their arrival and subsequent search for the messiah that they had heard, stories announced to all of the Jews that Jesus’ birth had worldwide impact.
Secondly, and perhaps the most important to us as Christians, the Magi’s trip to pay homage to the baby in a manger represents the gift that God sent to all of the world through Israel, a gift not just for the Jews, but for all man. The gospel message that Jesus brought with him at his birth, the message of hope and of salvation, the message of love that would save us from our sin, was meant for gentiles as well as Jews. This became evident when Peter brought the gospel to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and his family in Acts chapter 10. That was followed by the conversion and subsequent ministry of Paul throughout his three missionary journeys establishing the gentile churches all across the Mediterranean. The Magi, who came bearing gifts to honor a savior, signaled the beginning of a salvation meant not just for the Jews, but for everyone.
Finally, the birth of Jesus overjoyed these gentile men. In verse 2 of the chapter 2 of Matthew, the Magi were genuinely excited about the prospect of seeing the Messiah. Unlike the chief priests (which were Pharisees) and of course, Herod, these Magi went around asking everybody where the baby was so that they may worship Him. How important is it that these Magi, these gentiles were so enamored by Christ? Two separate incidents point to the answer. First the gifts that were brought to Jesus, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, were fit for a king and for gentiles to present such tribute was not only unheard of, but was also prophetic in nature (check out what Psalms 72:10-11 says). The other incident that occurred was the direct disobedience of the local ruler. Herod had requested the Magi return to him and inform him of the location of the Christ child (Herod of course wanted to eliminate the competition). The Magi, after being warned in a dream, completely ignored the request of Herod and went home by a different route. The utter joy, excitement, and exhilaration of being in the presence of God was far more impressionable than the risk of making a local Roman official angry.
The Magi, the Persians, the gentiles that came to worship a baby, to worship a king, adds yet another piece of the work that God created when He sent His son to do a mighty work. We will continue to examine these outer pieces of the puzzle that ultimately points to the center piece of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach
*Research information credit: Holman New Testament Commentary by Stuart K. Weber*