Summary: When the Wise Men arrived at the house where Mary tended the Christ Child, what did they find? If we seek the same One they sought, we also may anticipate finding what they found.
WHAT THE MAGI FOUND
“After listening to the king, [the wise men] went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
Expecting a king, they found a humble family. Anticipating a palace, they found instead a humble house. Nevertheless, they were not undeterred in pursuing their noble purpose. They had travelled across a vast expanse of desert to worship, and worship they would! A consistent theme from our Advent studies this year is the fact that those who should have been prepared to worship missed God’s presentation of His Son. This is evident from the text today.
Christmas myths, rather than the Word of God, more frequently shape our understanding of the First Advent of the Master. The common assumption is that since the Christ was born in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph remained there, perhaps setting up housekeeping in a sheepcote. Consequently, the accounts provided by Matthew and by Luke are conflated so that what has become the traditional nativity scene pictures three Magi kneeling before a manger surrounded by a number of animals standing placidly in front of a baby in a manger. Usually, shepherds are added to the Nativity scene, I suppose, in an attempt to lend authenticity to the scene.
In point of fact, we do not know how many Magi were in the entourage. We may be reasonably certain that though Mary and Joseph may have continued in the Bethlehem area, they were not still in the sheepcote when the Magi arrived. The text specifically states that the Magi went “into the house,” where “they saw the child with Mary His mother” [MATTHEW 2:11]. The child that the Magi found was likely a toddler, perhaps as old as two-years-of-age. The shepherds had come and departed long before the Magi ever ventured onto the scene. It is extremely doubtful that either ox or ass ever stood around the child, and even the sheep were left in the fields when the shepherds came to see the child whose birth was announced by angels.
The Magi in their search troubled Herod and all Jerusalem with him. The king, a political appointee to the position he occupied, intended to hold onto power at all costs. Therefore, all threats to the throne had to be eliminated ruthlessly. Accordingly, Herod hatched a dastardly plan. He would feign interest in worshipping this child whom he considered to be a pretender to the throne until he could obtain intelligence of his whereabouts. Then, he would kill him.
So, he inquired about when the Magi had first seen the star they were following. He consulted with the scholars that attended the throne to discover where Messiah was to be born. Having learned that the King of Israel was to be born in Bethlehem, and that the Magi had been observing the star for two years, he urged them to go to Bethlehem to find the child and then report to him so he, also, could worship.
Warned in a dream not to return to Herod [MATTHEW 2:12], the Magi returned home by another route. When it became apparent that he had been deceived, Herod order the slaughter of all children two years and under in the entire region surround Bethlehem [MATTHEW 2:16-18]. Perhaps twenty children were murdered by Herod’s order; a tragedy of monstrous proportions.
Herod’s action is not at issue in this message; but rather God’s provision for mankind by sending His Son as a child. The Magi, astrologers from Persia, trekked across vast deserts to find one whose birth was heralded by stars shining brightly in the heavens. It was not customary for them to take note of the birth of every member of human royalty, but they had never encountered such a birth announcement as a new star. What did they seek? I am phrasing the issue in the form of a question that asks, “What did the Magi find when they entered the house?”
THE MAGI FOUND THE KING OF THE JEWS — The Magi found a child tended by Mary, His mother. However, the child they found had been identified by the celestial announcement as “King of the Jews” [MATTHEW 2:2]. Now, it is perhaps significant that the child was said to be a king, but the reign of this child would be unlike anything they might have imagined.
The Magi, to say nothing of Herod, and perhaps even of the vast majority of Jews, anticipated a physical reign. Superficially, that is the correct view. However, it fails to appreciate the prophecies God had provided. Let’s review the history of Israel.