Summary: A sermon for Epiphany: the Magi inspire us to believe in Jesus' royal birth, to walk in his radiant light, and to present him with rightful treasures.
Ready to Open My Treasures
Ages ago, some pilgrims - we call them Wise Men or Magi - set out on a long and uncertain journey in search of the promised Messiah. Their quest was gloriously rewarded, thanks to that guiding star.
Whatever led you here this morning, I believe God is delighted we’re gathered, and I pray your search will be rewarded beyond your expectations.
Today we celebrate Epiphany. The word itself is not found in the Bible but it’s certainly a biblical concept as it means “manifestation". When you hear it used today it typically refers to an illuminating discovery.
It was in the fourth century when many Christians began to place a larger emphasis on commemorating the revealing of Jesus to the Magi. They appear to be the first Gentiles or non-Jewish people to worship him.
When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem they 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." (Matthew 2:2, NIV)
These Gentiles who came from a distant land to find and to worship Jesus have some important lessons to teach us. They are an example and can inspire us in some valuable ways.
1. They inspire us to believe in His royal birth.
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”
(Note: for helpful details about Magi, see the article in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible)
Magi were important men in the ancient empires of Persia and Media. They were highly educated in a wide range religious writings, philosophy, astronomy and other disciplines. They were the highest of the priestly class. They were not kings but served as wise counselors and advisors to kings, as Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar in such capacity.
In Persia the Magi held a dual office – priestly and political. Some composed the upper house of the council whose duties included choosing the king.
So this group entering Jerusalem may have been seen as king-makers. They were not just three wealthy travelers on their camels. In fact we don’t know if there were three of them, or two, or eight. It’s traditionally assumed there were three because of the three gifts given to Jesus, and because of a later (extra-biblical) legend giving them names; Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar
If they kept with traditional oriental stately splendor, it was probably a large entourage, including an armed escort sufficient to ensure their safety.
Herod’s fear is understandable. Israel was a small buffer state sitting between two powerful empires – Rome and Persia. Now these Wise Men are asking, “Where will we find him who has been born the king of God’s people?”
That may have been insult they directed at Herod. He had secured his position as king of the Jews from Augustus Caesar by scheming and bribery. Now a band of Persian “king-makers” has arrived in his capital city asking about one who is king of the Jews by birth-right. That had to be very troubling to Herod.