Summary: As we look at Matthew 2 and the people known as the Magi, three phrases caught my attention this year as I was reading the Christmas story. "King of the Jews" "Overjoyed" "Presented Him with Gifts"
IN MATTHEW: MAGI
READ Matthew 2:1-12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 6 "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'" 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
As we look at Matthew 2 and the people known as the Magi, three phrases caught my attention this year as I was reading the Christmas story.
I. PHRASE ONE: “KING OF THE JEWS”
This first phrase in the story of the Magi catches my attention because it is at the center of what Christmas is all about. As we think about this phrase, “king of the Jews,” I want us to look briefly at these travelers and who they were looking for.
In the story of Matthew 2, the Magi are men from the east who are wise advisors to kings, astronomers and sometimes astrologers, and men dedicated to medicine and natural science. These sky gazing men look into the heavens and see a new star appear and it directs them towards Jerusalem. There are many questions surrounding the Magi. There are many questions surrounding the star. Based on what we know about such men in other parts of the Bible, they would have been experts at watching the sky. They would have been experts in religious things. To be honest, most of the answers we find about the magi are actually best guesses. Here are some best guesses…
… They were probably representatives of the wise men of Babylon who were in the East.
… They were probably aware of the promised Messiah from their former leader, Daniel (Book of Daniel), and from the earlier oracle of others in the Old Testament such as Balaam (Numbers 24).
… Some wise men may have turned from their paganism to the worship of the true God and so they were watching for the signal in the Heavens that God had done something amazing and had kept His promise.
… They most likely knew to start their journey because of an appearance of the light sent from God.
Again, these are best guesses. We know that these men watched the sky and they saw a God-sent star which led them to Jerusalem looking for a king. The Virgin Mary was pregnant with an extraordinary child. The child to be born was the Son of God. This promised child to be born was also a child born in the lineage of King David. There are Old Testament prophecies which state that this child would be a king!
There are several passages which identify the child to be born as a king:
* Psalm 2:6-9: “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill." 7 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
* Isaiah 9:6-7: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”