Matthew 2:1-12 (4 BC)
How many Magi were there? We don’t know.
Were they kings? Most likely not.
Did they visit Jesus in the stable? No.
Was Jesus a baby when they visited him? Unlikely – he was probably a toddler by the time they met him.
(Note: when Herod wanted to make sure he killed Jesus, he ordered the murder of all boys aged two and under.)
Having got that out of the way, let’s focus on what is – in one sense – one of the most disappointing verses in the whole Bible – verse 3:
“…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.’ When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”
The Old Testament is crammed full of symbolism and prophecy about the coming of the Messiah who would save God’s people from their sins and reconcile them to him. King Herod’s paranoia was predictable if misguided. But “all Jerusalem” was, like him, “disturbed.
That was a tragedy.
No wonder John said in his gospel, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:10-11).
The entire culture, history and religion of the Jews was centred around God and his promises to them. And yet, when the promise was being fulfilled, it freaked them out…and not in a good way.
Why was Herod disturbed? He heard the word ‘king’ and smelled a threat.
Why was Jerusalem disturbed? That’s more complicated, but several factors would have been at play, including:
- The Messiah is…a baby? Then how do you know he’s the Messiah? We’re waiting for a SAVIOUR, not a baby. (Other people claiming to be the Messiah did so in adulthood, directly, while they were raising an army to fight occupying forces.)
- How can it really be the Messiah if it’s GENTILES who are telling us about it?
- Why would GENTILES want to worship him? The Messiah will be a Jew, sent to save the Jews.
As is so often the case with Bible stories in which people seem daft, foolish, rebellious or just really slow to learn, we’re not so different.
The reaction of Jerusalem really was tragic, wilfully missing the point on the greatest thing ever to happen to the human race due to a mixture of pride, complacency and prejudice. But that’s us, to a tee.
- What do I feel like I need the most?
- What does God say I need the most?
- Am I prepared to listen to those I don’t agree with, or who don’t mean anything to me personally?
- If God told you that Jesus was coming tonight, how would you feel about it?
Write down your answers, and pray to God to help you make those answers more aligned with Him and His glory. Then make a note in your diary to check back in six months and answer the questions again.
Let’s be full of joy and purpose at the presence of God in our lives, and not disturbed at the mere thought of him being close.