There are lots of things in Matthew 2 but I would like to focus on the Magi.
The Magi are from the east. We don’t know who they are exactly but there are two very plausible theories. First, the Magi may be descendants of Daniel who was taken to Babylon during the second Israel slavery. When Daniel convinced the king to release the Jews and allow them to return to Jerusalem we know he and some stayed behind. We also know that Babylon had a legitimate school of astronomy. Assuming those that remained behind had children who remained Jews this would explain why they cared about signs in the stars foretelling a Jewish king.
The second theory is that the Magi are descendants of Balaam. Balaam was a sorcerer whose story is found in the book of Numbers who is asked to curse Israel. However, by the power of God he cannot do so and can only speak blessings. He gives the prophecy of the star. Assuming he had descendants this event may have become the “family story”. It may have been passed down to his children and grand children who naturally would be very interested in the fulfillment of the prophecy. Of course, if is possible that both theories might be partially true.
But what is most important is what the Magi teach us!
The magi SEARCH – the magi do not passively wait for God to reveal himself. Rather they search the night sky for signs of him.
The magi STUDY – it would be pointless for the magi to search the night sky if they didn’t know what to look for. Thus the magi are clearly studying the scripture and astronomy to know the signs from God. We see that we can learn about God from the spiritual and natural world.
The magi GO – when seeing the sign the magi don’t just congratulate themselves. They don’t merely pray. They go, they undertake the journey to follow God where he leads them.
The magi SUFFER – the journey from the east to Jerusalem would have been many days, probably months. Weather would be the least of their worries. Money, supplies would be needed. Families left behind. Robbers, thieves, and wild animals would have been threats.
The magi are OPPOSED. Upon their arrival they seek out Herod to pay respect and find the child. Notice Herod pretends to side with them but secretly he conspires against them. This is how the world will treat the followers of God. We must be in the world but not of the world. We must be loving and share what we know of God but not naive.
The magi GIVE – traditionally the three gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh – represent the three aspects of Jesus. Gold because he is King. Incense because He is Priest and myrrh (which is perfume used for embalming) because He is human and will die for us. However, the three gifts also represent us. We are to give God our earthly treasure, our souls and our human lives.
The magi are CHANGED – they go back by a different route and everyone who encounters Christ is changed and cannot travel the same path again.
Tomorrow: Matthew 3