“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?’”Matthew 2:1
This is the season of the nativity scene. Have you seen one lately? Although traditionally depicting wise men, Matthew 1 indicates that the Magi were not there the night of Jesus’ birth. They arrived some time later. The text doesn’t reveal how many there were or anything about them, only that they came from the east to Jerusalem because of the star they had been watching. Upon their arrival, a very troubled and insecure Herod consulted with the chief priests and scribes and sent the Magi to Bethlehem, asking them to bring the baby back to him. His secret goal was to destroy this threat to his throne. Matthew describes how God used the star to guide them to the exact location of the child and warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
The book of Matthew was written for Jewish readers and is designed to help them see the preponderance of evidence supporting Christ as the true Messiah. The only gospel to recount this part of the story, Matthew shows how the shockwaves of this divine advent were felt in another cultureby men who traveled a great distance at great expense to find the baby.
“Magi” comes from the same root word as “magician,” and these stargazers were likely prominent, learned mystics from a number of possible locations including Persia or Arabia. Whoever they were, somehow these foreigners of an unknown spirituality acted on what little information they had and came to believe God’s promises made to the Jewish people long ago.
Contrast this with self-serving Herod who wanted the baby found and executed. What about the rest of Jerusalem? It says they were “troubled with him.” How about the Chief Priests and Scribes? They held in their hands God’s divine revelation. Of all these, only the Magi made the journey and were among the first people recorded in Scripture to fall down and worship the Christ child. Their worship was characterized by presenting gifts that likely became God’s provision for this young family when they fled from Herod to Egypt for safety.
How will you respond to Christ? God has taken the divine initiative—He sent His only Son to earth. Will you seek Him? Regardless of who you are or where you came from, you can find Christ today and have your life forever changed. As it says in Luke 11:10, “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds…”