"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Matthew 2 -- The Magi

Matthew 2 begins with the Magi (sometimes referred to as "wise men") from the East traveling to find Jesus. I've seen this reenacted in countless Christmas plays, but never considered it too deeply until Saturday when I read this chapter slowly and with a more questioning, wondering mind.

Some questions that came to mind:

Why were these guys traveling to worship the King of the Jews? These were not Jews so why worship a Jewish king? Why was this Jewish king important?

Had you ever thought of this before? I know nowadays no Persian or Arab or Chinese or Indian would follow a star to worship a Jewish king. So why was this Jewish king different?

Why were they filled with joy when they found the child? Why did they gift baby Jesus with their gold, incense and myrrh?
Why would they find a star and know it was the one ("his star") that would lead them to Jesus? Did God speak to them through the stars? (Would God do such a thing?!) Did they have a vision that a star would appear to tell them the way to this special child?

It's interesting that their query troubled Herod and the people.
Then we see Herod calling the priests and leading teachers to ask them what the Law said about the Messiah's coming. They quoted from Micah 5:2 and verified the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. Why would this trouble Herod? Were the people troubled for the same reason as Herod? I tend to think not because the verse said Herod met secretly with the wise men after having gathered the priests and teachers and gotten answers about the Messiah's birth. Why did Herod want to kill the Jews' Messiah? Were the people troubled because they did not know their Messiah had been born yet these foreigners did? Did God actually give a sign to foreigners over them? Was this perhaps why the people were troubled when these Easterners showed up looking for their king?

A study note in my Bible suggested that the Magi (being non Jews) being part of this momentous occasion represented God's gift of salvation was for all people, not just the Jews. In Luke we know that Jesus' birth was announced to local shepherds (Jews) and now we know it was also "announced" to men from the East (non Jews) by the stars. God wants all people to know the way of salvation.

Dreams ...

Wisemen warned of Herod's evil intentions (vs. 12)
Joseph warned of Herod's evil plan (vs. 13)
Joseph told to go to Israel (vs. 19)
Joseph told to go to Nazareth (vs. 22)

Prophesies/OT references
vs. 6 which refers to Micah 5:2 -- born in Bethlehem
vs. 15 -- Hosea 11:1 -- out of Egypt have I called my Son
vs. 18 -- Jeremiah 31:15 -- Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are dead
vs. 23 -- general reference?? -- He shall be called a Nazarene

What caught your attention from this chapter? Any thoughts or questions on what I wrote? Talk to me! :)


Nocturnal Queen said...

I think Herod was troubled by Jesus because he probably thought that His kingdom would be an earthly one and he probably didn't want to give up his throne for anyone. Even the Messiah.

sanil said...

I've heard a lot of different ideas about who the Magi were. A few years ago my pastor gave a whole sermon centered around the idea that they were Jews who had gone east, so they were interested because it was their king. Last year the same pastor decided they were non-Jewish astrologers and said something pretty similar to what you said here. When I did my project on Mithras last semester I found out that Mithraic priests are thought to have been called Magi. ...I'm not sure why it matters at all, and it probably doesn't, just thought I'd chime in because I never cared who they were and thought it was strange when I heard several different theories spoken confidently as if it was a known, proven thing. So weird.

I like your thoughts on it, though. :) Thanks for sharing.

Qusay said...

I have no insight into the story, but I just wanted to say that one of my favorite passages is Matthew 5:5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth"


Wrestling said...

I love both of the Christmas stories. We usually get a combination of the two in nativity plays but the two are very different. This one is so dramatic! Exile to Egypt, brutal killing of infants... and the star guiding the wise men. I think it is interesting that they were probably Gentiles.

Susanne said...

Niki, yes, that makes tons of sense!

Sanil, yes, I never cared at all either who they were. It only dawned on me the other day when I was rereading this passage. I guess the discussion from "Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes" was still in my head. (The author of that book thinks the Magi were from Arabia if I remember correctly.) So that coupled with the fact that I was reading the passages slowly made me stop and think: "why would these guys want to worship 'the king of the Jews' anyway?" I just usually read kind of fast without delving into these things so maybe this study is good because it's forcing me to slow down, question & meditate a bit more. I'm so used to the typical fast-pace American thing. :)

Thanks for what you added. I'm so glad you did!

Qusay, thanks for sharing one of your favorite verses. We'll get to Mt. 5 shortly and maybe I'll touch on that verse....stay tuned and add to the discussion of why it's a favorite for you. :)

Sarah, yes, our Christmas plays are combined as well. Good point about this one being so dramatic. Indeed!

Thanks, all, for your wonderful comments. :)

Amber said...

'Why were these guys traveling to worship the King of the Jews?'

- I always believed it was because they were *Wise Men*. :) Unlike many of the people around Jesus, these men had some knowledge (what, exactly, we don't know), which told them how important Christ would be to the world. I don't think it was so much that He was a 'Jewish King', but that He was Jesus, if that makes any sense. Again, all the other 'whys' - because they knew. Maybe they had their own prophecies about the coming of the Saviour of the World. 'God speaking through stars'. Why not? Use what works. Burning bush, star, talking ass. You've got to work with the material available.

I think Herod was troubled because a Jewish King, to him, could only mean a rebellion. Someone trying to steal his power. Trouble.

'When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.'

Maybe, instead of the people being troubled because of Christ's coming, they were troubled because of Herod being troubled. He was king, and if the king is troubled, he can make everyone else troubled too.

I think the order of 'announcement' is important here. The shepherds, Jews, were led to Jesus first. The Magi came later. Matthew 2:11 - 'And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him' The Holy Family had moved out of the cave where Jesus was born and found a house. Anyway. God first came to the Jewish nation, and then to the Gentiles (represented here by the Magi). They prefigure the Church.

Susanne said...

Amber, great stuff you added! Hmmm...yes, I know God can use stars to guide people. I was just acting shocked. ;) I giggled when you wrote "Burning bush, star, talking ass. You've got to work with the material available." It's just soooo, so Amberish. :)

Have you heard the view that Jesus wasn't born in a cave or stable but perhaps the lower level of a house where animals are often kept? It's not important to this story, but just thought to ask.

I liked what you said about the order of telling, why the people may have been troubled AND that the wise men sought Jesus because he was Jesus!

I was hoping you would get to chime in on these posts, but never expected you to go back and read things from a month ago. But thanks for doing it. I learn a lot from you! :)

Amber said...


*grin* Ah, I missed the fake shock. ;)

'It's just soooo, so Amberish. :)'

As am I, so that works out well. :)

I've heard that, but I believe the consensus is still that the most likely birth place was a cave used to house livestock. Not that it really makes any difference, as you said.

I didn't intend to go that far back, but I saw the later posts and had to go start from the beginning. :) I'm intending to work my way through your Matthew study and offer my oh so very important thoughts. :) For your edification. ;p

Susanne said...

Awesome! I am looking forward to your comments. You know I almost delayed this study because I hated you were going to be gone the month of March. So it's great that you plan to read the Matthew posts and comment. I like getting your perspective as someone who grew up differently than I and has had different church experiences and teachings. Yay!