1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and 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.’
- How many Magi were there? (3 gifts…)
- Were they Jews coming to see their new king? (No- gentiles from “the east”)
- What are Magi? (Not kings – astronomers/astrologers. Could have been women – men don’t ask for directions!!)
- Where did they go first? (Jerusalem – capital, where you find kings. Probably not to see Herod – He “heard about them”; called them in later)
- When did they get there? (After the birth and shepherds – before 2 years had elapsed)
- What did they want to do? (Worship the baby. They knew he was more than “King of the Jews” but God himself in human form. “Emmanuel: God with us”
Parallels with Moses…
- Pharaoh ordered boys under 2 to be killed. Pharaoh’s daughter took Moses in. Later Moses fled Egypt to save his life. He returned to Egypt. Saved his people and led them to their promised land.
- Jesus was taken to Egypt when Herod threatened his life. He later returned to Israel. There he became Saviour not just of Israel but of the World
3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
- Why was Herod disturbed, troubled, fearful, frightened? Why also “all Jerusalem with him”?
- Perhaps he feared the baby boy might threaten his place as King? But he was king by authority of Rome, following his father. He was born an Arab who adopted Judaism. He knew how to deal with threats to his role.
- Herod was genuinely paranoid –– murdering rivals, real or imagined. These included his wife, his mother, and three of his sons. As he neared death, he had a number of people arrested––leaving instructions to kill them as soon as he died––so people would shed tears at his death.
- His order for “The Massacre of the Innocents” – when he ordered that all boys under 2 years old be killed was (2:16-18) modelled after Pharaoh’s killing of Israelite babies (Exodus 2:1-10), and is very much in keeping with Herod’s character.
- Perhaps he feared the arrival of the divine ruler the prophets had predicted and who was the one the Magi had come to worship.
- Clearly, Herod recognised that the baby was more than a king who might threaten his role. He recognised Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, God’s chosen servant, the Saviour: 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.
- Perhaps the city was disturbed because the King was – who knew how he might react, this lying, erratic and even violent king!
Where was this King of the Jews?
4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: 6‘ “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”’
- Bethlehem: home town of the great King David – where Joseph was required to take his family for the census the Roman Emperor had demanded; the town where the Messiah was to be born – great David’s greater son!
- This and other prophecies had been available for over 700 years. They knew the prophecies were there when Herod asked for details. How had the priests and teachers of the law ignored this?
- How sad that these prophecies, all fulfilled in Jesus, have been ignored by so many ever since.
- Yet gentiles from the east had found him, and in contrast with Herod and all Jerusalem with him they found Jesus with gladness and without any fear!
- Even so Herod called in the Magi…
7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’
- Sounds too much like what we hear from too many political leaders!
9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
- Not your typical star! Clearly a supernatural phenomenon provided for their benefit.
11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’
14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’
16When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
Bellingen Uniting Church 6 January 2019
- We remember the birth of Jesus each year at a time we call Christmas.
- The birth of Jesus is so much more than a lovely story.
- It marks a time when God took on human form; we call it the incarnation. One name given him was Emmanuel – God with us.
- It was a real, historical event marked with great celebration from the heavenly hosts on high and by these wise men, the magi from the east.
- But it was also marked with great suffering when Herod issued his orders and all the boys under the age of 2 were hunted out and slaughtered.
- Some 30 years later Jesus himself was taken and slaughtered by being crucified
- But his death was so much more victorious, overpowered by his resurrection.
- Even in our times people reject the good news, the facts, the truths of Jesus’ birth, teaching, death, resurrection and inevitable return in kingly triumph.
- Even in our time there are people who respond with violence to Jesus; who would kill off Jesus Christ, his gospel, his followers and his church
- Even in our times people are disturbed, troubled, fearful, angry, defensive, threatened, hateful, frightened of Jesus – and so they miss the way, the truth and the life he offers.
- The Magi came looking for the King of the Jews – Jesus who now reigns as King of Kings and Lord of lords.
- And as for us, we follow the example of the wise men and seek out Jesus so that we too may bow down and worship him and present to him the gift of our lives in his service.