Summary: Contrast the attitudes of the Magi and the "Good and the Great" to Jesus, the Son of God
HB & GD 30-12-07
Epiphany Mt 2: 1-23
I’d like to look at the Epiphany story this morning
Story: The Readers’ Digest once asked this question: Have you ever imagined what would have happened if there had been three wise women instead of three wise men at the Epiphany?
They suggested that if there had been three wise women:
1. They would have asked for directions to the stable locally instead of going to King Herod.
2. They would have arrived on time and helped deliver the baby
3. They would have cleaned the stable and brought practical for the family to eat – like a casserole.
4. And there would have been peace on earth!”
1. Why did God reveal Jesus to the Magi?
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 and not the “Good and the Great” personified by King Herod
1.1 Who were the Magi
Very little is known about the Magi.
Matthew doesn’t even record how many of them there were.
All the Bible tells us is that they came from the East to Jerusalem.
It is generally accepted that “the Magi were a priestly caste from Persia once a mighty country where modern Iran and Iraq are now located.”
They were probably astrologers
In the second century, a church father named Tertullian suggested that these men were kings because the Old Testament had predicted that kings would come to worship the Christ.
Tertullian also concluded that there were three kings based on the number of gifts mentioned, gold, frankincense and myrrh.
In the sixth century, someone decided that their names were Melchior, Baltazar and Gaspar.
And the term Magi is the base from which our modern words “magician” and “magistrate” are derived.
The Magi, in the eyes of the Jewish people to whom St. Matthew wrote his Gospel , had two strikes against them.
1. 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. 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 the Magi were SEEKING God, as best they knew how.
The Magi sought Christ out to worship him.
God honours a spirit within a person that SEEKS God.
We won’t get everything right – but if we have a right heart God will honour us
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)
2.3. The Attitude of the Magi
My third reason why God revealed Jesus to the Magi was that they had a number of right attitudes.
2. 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 gazers – 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.