The “three wise men,” or Magi — part 4

Worshiping Jesus in Matthew 2:9-11

Although the star may have only appeared to move (Bethlehem was, after all, only six miles south of Jerusalem), the language of it going before them might remind Matthew’s audience of the pillar of fire in the wilderness (Ex 13:21-22). It was customary when looking for someone in a small town to simply ask around. Luke says that shepherds had spread word around Bethlehem about the child’s birth; although Mary and Joseph are now in a house (Matt 2:11), some local people may have known where to find them. A local midwife would probably know where any young babies were. However it happened, the Magi found the family.

Back in verse 2, the Magi had already publicly announced their mission: to “worship” or “pay homage to” the king of the Jews. Although I have described them as “pagans” because that is how they would appear to Matthew’s ancient Jewish audience, we do not know if all of these Magi believed in many gods. Most Persians in this period were polytheists, but some followed a Persian faith called Zoroastrianism, which affirmed one good god and an opposing evil power. In any case, the Magi were ready to pay homage to Jesus here—and rightly so. Others in this Gospel also fall before Jesus with requests or worship, especially after his resurrection (see 28:9, 17). These Magi did not know everything they needed, but they took seriously what they did know. We who know Jesus: do we worship him this seriously?

The Magi lavish on him their gifts: gold and costly spices from the east. Granted that the Magi probably had access to more wealth than most people do, their entire journey had been one costly in time and resources. Again we may ask: how seriously do we treat our worship and honor of Jesus?

In part theirs was a diplomatic mission from Iran in the heart of Central Asia, where the gospel has never yet flourished like it has in some other regions (except in regions like Armenia). Followers of Jesus did spread eastward in Asia in the following centuries. Yet Persian Christians suffered in many generations, partly because of the perception that Christianity was a western religion belonging to the Roman Empire. But after Judeans in Bethlehem, Asians came first. When Matthew’s Gospel keeps emphasizing the receptiveness of Gentiles, he is inviting his Jewish Christian audience to care about peoples besides themselves. This is important for Christians today to remember as well: his Gospel later declares that the good news must be preached among all peoples. Right from the start in Bethlehem, Jesus was for everyone

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