The Mystery of the Magi Matthew 2:1-18
It is a common misconception that the wise men visited Jesus at the stable on the night of His birth. In fact, the wise men came days, or even months later (some theologians even say years later while the family lived in Nazareth). That is why Matthew 2:11a says the wise men visited and worshiped Jesus in a house with his mother Mary, not at the stable. Joseph was likely working late!
We assume that there were three wise men because of the three gifts that were given: gold, incense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11b); however, the Bible does not say there were only three wise men. There could have been many more. Tradition also says that there were three and that their names were Gaspar/Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar/Balthazar, but since the Bible does not say, we have no way of knowing for sure.
We know that the magi were learned astrologers (wise men) from “the East,” most likely Persia, or modern-day Iran. This means the wise men traveled from 800 to over1000 miles to see the Christ child– a long and dangerous journey into a foreign land. Traveling by camel at that time it would have taken many months. These men were wealthy and would have traveled with an entourage of servants, soldiers and supplies. It is no wonder why Matthew states that “King Herod and all of Jerusalem was disturbed” by their arrival. Most likely, the magi knew of and studied the writings of the prophet Daniel, who in time past had been the chief of the court seers in Persia. Daniel 9:24-27 includes a prophecy which gives a timeline for the birth of the Messiah. Also, the magi may have been aware of the prophecy of Balaam (who was from the town of Pethor on the Euphrates River near Persia) in Numbers 24:17. Balaam’s prophecy specifically mentions a “star coming out of Jacob.”
The wise men were guided to look for the King of the Jews by a miraculous stellar event, the “Star of Bethlehem,” which they called “His star” (Matthew 2:2). This star could have even been a pillar of fire like God used to guide the children of Israel through the desert. The magi came to Jerusalem and asked concerning the birth of Christ, and they were directed to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:4–8). They followed God’s guidance joyfully (Matthew 2:10). When they arrived in Bethlehem, they gave costly gifts to Jesus and worshiped Him. God warned them in a dream against returning to Herod, so, in defiance of the king, they left Judea by another route (Matthew 2:12). Upon their leaving, an angel told the “holy family” to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:14-15) where they stayed until Herod died. Meanwhile Herod ordered the slaughter of all Jewish baby boys who were two years old and under in order to secure his place as “King of the Jews”.
It is most likely that Mary and Joseph used the three gifts that the Magi gave to travel to and live in the land of Egypt until Herod’s death. The symbols of the gifts are also evident: Gold: A gift for a king. Frankincense: priestly incense which represents prayer. Myrrh: A fragrant perfume, used in embalming bodies. The three gifts together also underline the Messiah as being our prophet, priest and king.
What does the word Epiphany mean?
1capitalized : January 6 traditionally observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi. 2 : an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being 3: an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure (a revealing scene or moment).
The Gathering enjoys celebrating Epiphany on the Sunday closest to January 6 to both remember the significance of the Magi coming to worship Christ and to recognize the importance of God’s New Year’s revelations in our own lives.
Leaving It Behind in 2018 Matthew 13:44-46, 19:29-30
Tonight at midnight we will end the year 2017 and begin a new year. What we choose to leave behind and what we choose to embrace will make all the difference in our lives. In our first lesson of Epiphany we can learn from the Wise Men in regards to what they left behind to follow the star in search of the promised Messiah.
The Magi were wealthy men who lived in luxury and great comfort. They were likely men who had at least some fame among those in their society and yet they left this all behind to follow that star. The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price that Jesus told his disciples are reminiscent of their actions. When you discover something of great value it prompts you to action. That action always includes leaving something behind to move ahead. To this action Jesus said:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
What is God telling you to leave behind as you move into this New Year? For some of you this question has become a sudden epiphany. An illuminating discovery revealed to you by the Holy Spirit. You know exactly what God is telling you to leave behind as you follow Him into the New Year. Will you do it? For others of you this is your call to search as the wise men did. Will you search out the truth of God’s word concerning the direction of your life? Will you follow as He reveals His truth to you?
How Far Will You Go? Proverbs 3:5-6, 2 Corinthians 4:18
We have no idea what trials the Magi encountered on their long journey, but we can be sure they had them. The scripture even indicates that the star wasn’t always in view or why would they have stopped to ask for directions? God reveals things to us but He also asks us to trust in Him with all of our heart and not to lean on our own understanding. Mary and Joseph certainly had dark times, but they discovered through the Magi—where God guides He provides. Will we choose to believe even when the “star” is not shining? Keep following on faith friends even into that dark night— for what is seen is temporal and what is unseen is eternal.
The message above was taught at The Gathering Church by Pastor Barry Bruce. We are located at 22427 Norwalk Blvd., Hawaiian Gardens, CA 90716 (562.429.2397) If you don’t have a church then come and visit some time. Our services are Sundays @ 9AM and 11AM You can also check us out at facebook.com/thegatheringchurch1 and at our ministry organization at thewayout.org