Saturday, February 03, 2024

Matthew 2:1-12; The Festival of the Epiphany; January 7, 2024;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” (Matthew 2:1–12, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Now this seems quite unlikely. What in the world would bring these rich men across the dangerous roads of the middle east to visit a baby, even if he is the King of the Jews? Not to mention that they are pagan magicians, astrologers. There is no indication that they are believers in YHWH, the God of the Jews. Yet they come guided by only a star. There had been no natal announcement from the current occupant of the throne in Jerusalem. And in fact, when they arrive, Harod is totally surprised and must ask his chief priest and scribes about it. The gifts they bring are not a trifle. Gold, Frankincense and Myrr. All rare and expensive. Herod lies about it, and sends them on their way to

And [Herod] sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”” (Matthew 2:8, ESV)

And the star reappears and hovers over the house where the baby is staying. They give their gifts and return home by an alternate route.

And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” (Matthew 2:12, ESV)

Of course, the Magi weren’t kings, despite the popular hymn, “We Three Kings.” In so many ways, it seems just too much.

So, did it really happen? Is the account accurate?

Well, given there is no proof external to Scripture, yes, it did happen, and the account is fully accurate. We who believe in the inerrancy of God’s Word must take it so.

There are several things I’d like to point out. Firstly, the effect of the Israelites in captivity in Babylon, namely, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Do you believe that their public witness to the reality of YHWH, the God of Israel went unnoticed? After Daniel was retrieved from the lions den unharmed, King Darius made a decree.

I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.” (Daniel 6:26, ESV)

And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego the same. After they were retrieved from the furnace,

Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”” (Daniel 3:29, ESV)

And those who accused Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego met with the fate they desired for them. Oh, and their accusers were likely predecessors of the Magi.

So, is it any wonder that Magi, from the East, whose predecessors had seen God at work, would hold YHWH, the God of Israel, in high regard and seek to honor the newborn king. Not to mention that the Magi were known for studying text from all religions. These kinds of trips by foreign dignitaries were common in the ancient world.

And even more important, when God breaks into the world in human flesh, what kinds of things would you expect to see? Given John’s statement at the end of his gospel,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, ESV)

Would it be strange to say, that many similar things happened that are not written, when Jesus, the Son of God became flesh?

So, what is important about this account? The Magi were pagan, worshipers of many gods. The things they practiced in were not always God pleasing. And yet, through the miracle of a star (in my opinion likely an angel, its actions belie a natural explanation, and angels are also called stars in other places in scripture), God summoned them to recognize Jesus as the King of the Jews. And even more than that. The fact that Matthew tells us they “Worshiped” him, tells us that they saw him as more than an earthly king.

God in the Flesh, Jesus Christ, born in the manger, visited by Magi a year later in a house, was sent for all people, not just the Jews.

The baby in the manger would do many miraculous things. Most important of which, was his death on the cross for sinners. He was born only for sinners in fact. He came for all sinners. The visit of the magi bears this out. God directed them to Jesus as the means of their salvation from sin and they worshipped him. It shows us that Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose again for sinners such as you and me.

Jesus isn’t only the king and savior of the Jews; he is the world’s savior. He died for pagans, magi, Jews, Chinese, Americans, Republicans and Democrats, for all. He provides the only way of salvation for all sinners, through faith in him and all that he has done.

So, we revel in this true account of Magi visiting the baby and bringing him gifts and worshipping him. (Even without external collaboration). It shows us very clearly who Jesus is. It shows us God’s plan for salvation includes pagan Magi from the East, and sinners like you and me.

Epiphany, when we recognize Magi from the East, who came to visit Jesus Christ, has been called Gentile Christmas. We rejoice in God’s plan of salvation that included us, gentiles as objects of God’s love. We rejoice in Jesus, King of the Jews, and Savior of the whole world. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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