Adventure - Day 3

The Wise Men See the Light

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”…After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11 NLT


Even though Herod plays a prominent role in the text we’re exploring today, we’re going to save talking about him until next week.  For now, let’s talk about the other main characters in this part of the story, the wise men, or magi.

First, the facts.  We don’t know how many wise men there were, even though three are often depicted in songs and drawings.  They are also at times portrayed as kings, but we’re not sure that was the case either.  Magi were often priestly type figures from ancient Persia who employed scientific (astrology), diplomatic (wisdom), and religious (magical incantations) methods to try and understand present and future life.

Whatever the case, they likely hailed from the region of the Babylonians, where the Israelites had spent much time in captivity.  So likely, some of the Jewish texts and teachings had been left for the Magi to peruse.

Many scholars believe that it was a widespread belief  in the ancient world that one day, men from Judea would seize power and rule the world.  So when the Magi saw a star, connected that to some prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures, they set out on a 900 mile journey to worship and give gifts to this new king.

So for months, they followed the light, called the star of Bethlehem.  We don’t know if it was an actual star, a supernatural phenomenon of some kind, or an angel (angels were occasionally referred to as stars), but for months, the Magi and their entourage followed the light.
 
What has always struck me with the Magi is their persistence, their confidence in what they would find when they got to where the light was leading them.  All of this came from those outside the Israelite story, even though it should have been the Israelites who connected the dots first.

These outsiders would, in many ways, mark the kind of example Jesus would set for us during His life on this earth; a life committed to helping all those created in the image of God come to see Him more clearly, Jews AND Gentiles.  

It makes me wonder, if God could use the Magi from a far away land to help others see Jesus, who else might Jesus be using today that I wouldn’t expect and may even miss because I’m not looking?  Maybe my neighbor who spends 4-5 hours a day sitting in his car, smoking cigars? My atheist friend who gave up on God because he couldn’t reconcile the difference between a God of love and those who professed to follow Him? The houseless couple who come to our food pantry every month and just want to share what they’ve learned about Jesus since last we met?
I believe God’s shining light is available for all of us to pursue, and that God can use the most unlikely sources to help us learn more about him. But if we’re closed off to the many ways God speaks, we may just miss him altogether.

JOURNAL
  1. What’s one way God showed up for you in the past that surprised you?
  2. How might you make yourself more open to receive God today, in all the many possible ways He may reveal Himself to you?
  3. The wisemen longed for a king of peace promised through the Hebrew Scriptures. What aspect of God do you long for, and to what lengths might you be willing to go to seek after Him today?

By Pastor Paddy McCoy

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