Their appearance attracted the passing attention of the crowds in the capital city, crowds quite accustomed to caravans arriving from different parts of the world, with their exotic personages and wares.
However, when they spoke, when they addressed their inquiry to the folk who welcomed them, the Magi sent a shock wave through Jerusalem. In one sentence, Matthew the evangelist paints a portrait jam-packed with depth and nuance that points us to the global impact of the birth of the Christ.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” - Matthew 2:1-2 NIV
From the earliest days, the visit of the Magi has been celebrated as a recognition, even in the Gospel account, of the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Kingdom reach of the Christ. But if we’ll take some time to reflect on this understated declaration, and to unpack it a bit, we can only marvel at the facets of God’s working to reach the nations.
Who were the Magi?
First, let’s look at who these folks were. Matthew says simply, ‘Magi from the east’. Some translations render it ‘wise men from the east’. The term reminds us of the counselors of the court of Babylon, sometimes called wise men, sometimes ‘magicians’ (whose root is magi).
Among their arts was astronomy especially as it applied in astrology. Their roots go back to Babel, they were of the class of pagan spiritual priests of the oldest of false religions. Over the centuries, even after the fall of the Babylonian empire, they continued to exercise their arts.
In Every Cultural Group – God Speaks our Language
Second, notice that which had launched their two-to-four-month odyssey from their homeland to Israel; they had seen a star which appeared with extraordinary qualities. One commentary notes, “The Lord gives revelations and enlightenment to men in circumstances most propitious to their understanding.” (La Bible Annotée - freely translated)
This echoes what Don Richardson underscored in the Kairos video, ‘A world prepared’; God has given points of contact; of preparedness for receptivity of his message in every cultural group. With the appearance of the star, unlike any other, God got the attention of these experts in astronomy. He spoke their language.
Impact of “Involuntary Going”
In the third place, hear their conviction and weigh its import: “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” This tells us that not only did they notice an astral phenomenon, but they seriously went about trying to understand what its significance was.
That they had concluded that it was the star of the newborn King of the Jews speaks to us of the impact of the ‘involuntary going’ of the Israelites into the Babylonian captivity and of the lasting impact of the Hebrew writings upon the peoples of the east.
Not only had their research led them to an interpretation of the significance of the star, but more, it had led them to believe in the one it was leading them to; they came to WORSHIP him.
God’s Heart for the Nations
Lastly, notice the contrast implied (and developed further in the text): Of all the studious people of the age - an age that was marked by a heightened expectation of Messiah - the first witnesses and worshippers of the Christ from those classes were Gentiles.
Here we see God’s heart for the nations at the heart of the Christmas event.
Let us come and worship the Christ!
Michael H. Gagnon has been serving in pastoral ministries in Quebec for over 40 years and has been involved in Simply Mobilizing since 2013. He serves as Quebec/French language coordinator on the National Coordination Team. He is married to Darlene (nee Brooke) and they presently are pastoring a French congregation in Matane, Quebec. They have 6 children and 19 grandchildren. Desiring to see the whole church mobilized to make disciples of Jesus everywhere, Michael is enthusiastically committed to the SM movement.