The richness of the story of the Magi could probably fill volumes. Magi were people who retained, studied, and added to ancient knowledge. In many respects, they were a combination of priest, counselor, academic. They would be the people who advised the rulers but were probably not kings themselves. Them not being kings is not to dismiss the significance of their pilgrimage to Judea. Due to their likely significance to their king, being sent by the king was a sign of respect and friendship to a king assigned by the heavens. They were ambassadors.
Matthew is making a not-so-subtle point. The leadership of foreign peoples, who probably did not worship or honor God, came to Jesus, calling him king. The equivalent leaders of the Jews—Herod and the priests—appeared completely clueless that a king was born. Those who “should” have been first to proclaim God’s anointed one had to be told by unbelievers.
Non-Jewish Christians(Gentiles) look to this story as Jesus being their savior, not just the savior of the Jews. This is true, and very much part of Matthew’s Gospel. For those of us “born” as Christians and/or raised in Christian households and/or who have been Christians for a long time, we ought to re-read this story as a cautionary tale. There is often a point where we become a combination of Herod and the priests. We become numb and/or blind to the story and life-changing nature of Jesus. It is the danger of becoming comfortable.
The Advent of Jesus’ birth shook the “should be”’s and the comfortable. The arrival of the wise men to a backwater town to visit some insignificant toddler disrupted the “proper” ways. When we are comfortable with the stories, it is time to reflect on our relationship with Christ.
- What do you think the Magi thought when they met with Herod and the priests?
- Do you think your non-Christian friends or family would see you like the Magi or Herod and the priests? Why?
- How does the story of the Magi inform you regarding those who do not yet follow Jesus?
- [KD] Why do you think the Magi visited Jesus as a baby/toddler, rather than waiting until he was an adult?