2007-12-20 - The Magi
The Christmas Characters Series, Part 14
Matt 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him." ( NASB)
Who were the Magi? Not much is know for certain about them, but some level of educated guess can be made. They were "from the east", most likely from Persia. If this is true, then that would give us a hint of how they knew about the significance of the star. Daniel and his three companions probably educated the Persian elite religious scholars of the day on Jewish tradition including the prophecy of the Messiah.
The word is literally translated "magician". This is not necessarily meaning the kind of magician that you and I might think of today. More likely one of an elite caste, or priesthood. These were the most seriously educated people in their society. They understood religion in multiple cultures, and politics. They could be both political and religious advisers. The more traditional translation of the word is "wise men". There may or may not have only been three wise men as the Christmas carole suggests, but their traveling group was probably a substantial number to ward off robbers and bands of thieves that roamed the deserts they would have had to cross to get to Israel.
The goal of their trip was to worship the new king and deliver gifts to him. Odd that Persian priests would look for a Jewish King? The prophecy by this time was six centuries old to the Persians, and here it is coming true before their eyes. They would certainly have believed that they were coming to see the one who would be the next King of the Jews. They may have made the assumption that Herod would be looking forward to the coming of the Messiah as well. They had to be warned not to return and tell Herod where the child was living. In the end that did not prevent another more terrible prophecy from coming true - the slaughter of the innocents (Matt 2:16-18). Estimates are that around 20-24 young male children under two years old where slain by soldiers sent by Herod who was trying to prevent the kingdom from being taken from him. Little did Herod understand that the child Herod intended to kill knew the number of hairs on Herod's head, and the number of days Herod would live from before time began.
If the Magi were from Persia, the trip would have taken months to complete, possibly more than a year just to go one way. Their travel would have taken them through deserts filled with many dangers from sandstorms to organized gangs of thieves. This indicates the level of their sincerity and dedication in their quest to find Jesus - the child King they sought. I sure there were members of their traveling group that died during the trip.
There is a saying I'm familiar with - Wise men still seek Him. I have to agree that this is a true statement. Jesus is called "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). The definitive "the" is used to indicate a single source. There is one way to eternity, one eternal truth and one eternal life. Christianity is fairly unique in that it does not report that all roads lead to God. It is the will of God that all should be saved (1 Tim 2:3-6), but there will be a differentiation made for the sheep and the goats - one to everlasting life, and the other to eternal punishment (Matt 25:32-46).
The Magi knew enough to seek the Messiah. They knew that something unique and singular had happened. Did they understand this as a political king or as an eternal king? We are not told that. We are asked to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matt 24:9). What journeys are we willing to make for the King?
Grace & Peace,