Summary: What do we learn about ourselves from the magi's search for Jesus?
OK all you Trekkies, you fans of everything Captain Kirk and Klingon, can you tell me when the first Star Trek episode aired? Was it in 1959, 1966, or 1971? If you answered 1966, you are correct - partially. 1966 was the year the crew of the Enterprise took off for the stars on prime time TV. But about two thousand years before that, another crew, piloting perhaps a caravan of camels, pursued a star that had heralded the birth of an amazing king. I’m talking about the magi of the Bible of course. Their star trek was no made-for-TV movie; it was a historical event – a search for a child that revealed the hearts of men. What does the magi’s search for Jesus reveal about us? Let’s find out as we take a closer look at the first ever star trek.
Who made up the cast of real life characters called the magi? Meet Captain Caspar from Qatar (show picture). No, we don’t really know whether that was one of the magi’s names though that’s what tradition suggests. And we’re not really sure that these men came from the Arabian Peninsula or somewhere near there like present-day Iraq, but it’s probable. About 600 years before Christ’s birth the Jews were exiled to this part of the world. During their 70 years there at least one Israelite rose to a position of power and influence. That individual was Daniel, the same Daniel who spent a night in the lions’ den. For 60 years Daniel held important Babylonian and Persian government posts, including Chairman of the Magi (Daniel 2:48). I can’t imagine Daniel studying the stars with his magi underlings without telling them about the true God who made the heavens and the earth. Daniel must have done more than that. He must have also told the magi about the promise God made to send a savior from sin through the Israelites. Why else would magi, 600 years later, care about the birth of a baby in Israel? Daniel’s bold witness is a reminder not to underestimate the impact of sharing our faith with our co-workers and friends. You never know how many generations of people will benefit!
So how did the magi, in what we presume was a faraway land, learn that the Savior had finally come? While angelic light had alerted shepherds outside of Bethlehem to the birth of Jesus, starlight would somehow communicate that news to the magi. Now many people think that the miraculous star was a constant companion as the magi made their way to Bethlehem. If so, why did the magi stop in Jerusalem for directions? It seems that, after announcing Jesus’ birth, the star disappeared for a time. But figuring that the King of the Jews would be born in the capital city of Jerusalem the magi headed there. You can understand their confusion then when no one in Jerusalem seemed to know anything about the birth of a king. Ironically it was the eventual enemies of Jesus: the chief priests and teachers of the law who pointed the magi in the right direction – to Bethlehem just 10 km away. But how did they know where to look for the Messiah when they didn’t even know he had been born? Simple. They checked the Bible. The teachers of the law knew that 700 years earlier the prophet Micah had written: “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” (Matthew 2:6).
Instructed by King Herod to make a careful search for the child, the magi set out for Bethlehem and were overjoyed when the star appeared again and directed them to the exact house where Jesus was. That house was probably not very grand considering Jesus’ step-father, Joseph, wasn’t wealthy. But we don’t hear about the magi snickering at the cheap sofa or the outdated wallpaper. Instead these men, who were used to receiving honor and respect, got down on their hands and knees and approached the Christ-child in humility. They capped their visit by offering Jesus gifts that were fit for a king. The magi’s search for Jesus revealed the hearts of true believers.
Does your approach to this morning’s worship service match that of the magi? Did you enter this building with humility, awed by the fact that Jesus, the Son of God and your Savior, was going to speak to you through your pastor? Did your lips widen into a grin as you considered how this same Jesus would be giving you his body and blood for your personalized forgiveness in the sacrament of Holy Communion? Or did you instead plop yourself down into your chair before blankly staring up at the skylight hoping that the service would be short so that you can “get on with life”?