advent lettering

O Come All Ye Faithful

The Magi

Today's Reading

Matthew 2:1-23

Think back to a recent adventurous trip you may have taken. Maybe it was to a park to see a spectacular view that everyone has talked about. Or it was to go to a restaurant you saw on TV that is in some out of the way location. Or maybe it was to a flea market booth that is only open once a month. You had a particular vision in mind that you felt that you just had to see.

Now ask yourself, how long would you journey to see this? Are we talking about a day trip? Perhaps a weekend visit? Surely you wouldn’t go more than a day or so if that was the only thing you planned to do.

What if you only heard about this place as a rumor and hadn’t actually known anyone who had been there? I imagine that you would probably be less likely to hop in the car and travel any more than a few hours, and only then if you had the time.

When the scene opens up in Matthew 2, we see three men who gave up their daily lives for an unknown length of time to travel an unknown distance to an unknown land to find an unknown king. This level of unknown would cause any one of us to give up the trip, but they didn’t. They were compelled to discover this vision they had seen. They persevered until they came face to face with Jesus.

We know very little of the Magi that Matthew describes. We know they are from the east, perhaps having a Babylonian origin. That would make sense given the connections to Daniel’s time in Babylon and his work as an adviser in the land. Yet, Matthew doesn’t give us any lineage of these individuals. He just tells us that they showed up randomly in Jerusalem and began to ask a question.

What was the question? Well, they saw a star and asked what it was all about. Astrology was a common practice during this time, and the movement of the stars, according to this practice, foretold of various events, including the birth of kings. However, it must have been some incredible sight to have compelled them to travel to see a King of the Jews, a subdued race under Roman occupation.

When they arrived, their question caught the attention of Herod, who had been appointed King under Roman rule in order to continue to keep Israel under control. So scared about his political standing, Herod immediately tried to figure out what was going on and called all of his best minds together to have them pour over prophecies to determine where the new king would be born. One little town came up – Bethlehem.

Herod, being very conniving, pulled the Magi aside in a ruse to figure out exactly when the baby was born, so that he could snuff out any rivals to his house. The Magi, unaware of the political mess they had stepped into, explained the timing of the star, and Herod proceeded to tell them what the prophecies said and sent them on their way.

So let’s think about this. We have three men, going about their daily studies in the East, and they see a star telling about a coming King of the Jews. They set off for a journey that could have lasted months with no end in sight. They finally arrive at the capital of Israel and get pulled into a political debate they didn’t see coming. They then are told about a vague prophecy talking about a ruler who was a shepherd. And then they set out again.

How would you feel at this stage if you were in their shoes? This is the part of the journey where at least one of us would suggest that we cut our losses and go find a new place to eat. Or give up on the dream and just head back. Not these guys. They carried on.

Moving on from Jerusalem, the star appeared again (note that Herod’s information was actually not needed…God was going to get them there regardless) and led them directly to the house.

I imagine standing in front of the house, checking their notes, looking back and forth to each other, unable to hide their smiles, and then deciding who gets to knock on the door. And when they knock, they enter and see…a child.

Let’s take a moment to soak in the scene. The Magi, who come from palaces in the East, travel all the way to Israel to a small town on the outskirts of the capital to some small nondescript house and see a young child with a young mother. We might have thought we made a mistake. They didn’t. They found exactly what they had been seeking.

Overjoyed, they entered, bowed down, and worshiped the child. Don’t you love how Matthew includes this scene in his Gospel? The other writers do not, but Matthew, whose entire Gospel can be understood as the inauguration of King Jesus, makes sure to show how all of the world will come and bow at the feet of the Savior of Mankind. These Gentiles were strangers to the Kingdom, but God includes them in His story. Amazing!

As we think about these Magi, these strangers who risked life and limb to bring gifts to a king, let us ask ourselves if we have that same level of perseverance. Remember, they hadn’t seen Jesus. They didn’t know the Scriptures. They hadn’t heard about the angels coming to Zechariah, Mary, or Joseph, let alone had they been told of all that Jesus would do in His lifetime. Yet they persevered to see Him….and only see him just that one time.

What are you willing to give up to see Jesus? What are you willing to spend just a moment with Him? Or do we balance our level of devotion only compared to our level of inconvenience? Too often, the littlest things stop us on our journey of seeking the King. Nothing stopped these men, and we should heed their example.

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