Summary: Why did God reveal himself to the Magi - a priestly caste that practised astrology?
Saxlingham/ Thornage 04-01-04
We know the story of the Magi coming to worship Jesus very well. But have you ever stopped to wonder why God revealed Jesus to the Magi.
After all, in the eyes of the Jewish people to whom St. Matthew wrote his Gospel - they had two strikes against them.
1.1 The first strike against the Magi was that they were Gentiles – Persians to be precise. After all weren’t the Jews alone God’s chosen people.
1.2 But the second and more important strike was that they were astrologers. And astrology was expressly forbidden – on pain of death – in the OT. (see DT 18:9-14)
2. So why did God reveal himself to astrologers?
I can think of three reasons why God revealed Himself to the Magi.
2.1. Gospel for all nations
Firstly God revealed Jesus to the Magi to show us that the Gospel - that Jesus’ birth heralded - is for all nations.
It is not just to the select few righteous people in the world.
We don’t have to wait until we are living a “morally good life” before God seeks us out.
If moral perfection was God’s criteria, I doubt any of us would be sitting in church today.
God accepts us “warts and all” – and these Magi, I am sure, had big warts!!!
2. 2. The Magi sought Jesus
The second reason that I think God revealed Jesus to the Magi was that these Magi were SEEKING God.
The Magi sought Christ out to worship him.
Contrast that with the attitude of the Jewish leadership. King Herod sought Jesus out - to kill him. And the chief priests and scribes were - at best – ambivalent to Christ.
God honours a spirit within a person that SEEKS God.
And God reached out to the Magi – where they were – by a Star.
But that wasn’t a chance Star – God had ordained and it had been prophesied over a millenium earlier by Balaam the prophet when he said – referring to Jesus:
17 "I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near.
A Star will come out of Jacob;
a sceptre will rise out of Israel. (Nu. 24:17 NIV)
He will wipe out you Moabites and destroy those tribes who live in the desert. 18Israel will conquer Edom and capture the land of that enemy nation. (Nu. 24:17-19 CEV)
Interestingly Herod was an Edomite. Perhaps that might explain why Herod felt so threatened by Jesus.
3. The Attitude of the Magi
My third reason why God revealed Jesus to the Magi was that they had a number of right attitudes.
3.1 They obeyed the leadings of God
The first of these right attitudes was that they were obedient to the guidance of God. They weren’t too big to follow the star. As St. Matthew records them saying:
“We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Mt. 2:2)
They weren’t star agzers – they put their beliefs into action. And even though they didn’t know the destination they were prepared to step out in faith.
Following the leading of the Lord can be quite risky and it can be time consuming.
The Magi probably had to go from Persia to Jerusalem – a journey of a good 1000 miles – on foot and travelling with camels. It could well have taken several months. But they persevered over dangerous territory too – with bandits everywhere.
Would we be prepared to follow a star for so long?
3.2. Attitude 2 - They sought Jesus for the right reasons
The second right attitude that the Magi had was that they came “to worship him” (Mt. 2:2).
It’s quite a challenge isn’t it? Do I come to church to worship Jesus – or for some other reason?
3.3 Attitude 3 - They gave Jesus of the very best that they had.
The third right attitude that the Magi had was that they brought the very best they had.
They bought costly gifts to Jesus
Gold indicated Kingship. What is more fitting than gold for a King!
If Jesus is to be the King in my life, then I am challenged by the thought: What gold can I bring to Jesus today?
What do I hold onto as precious that I can give to the Lord?
Why did the Magi give frankincense to Jesus?
Frankincense was an ingredient used by the priests in temple worship to blend with the smell of the
sacrifices. Francincense was brought to symbolise worship.
If we wish to worship God, Jesus wants us to offer up our lives as a sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Rom 12:1).
What is the frankincense that we can offer Jesus today?