Yesterday I was involved in two Epiphany services and it got me thinking about those “Wise men” who journeyed to see the baby Jesus.
There are 12 verses in the second chapter of in the gospel of Matthew that talk about what happened with them but all we are told about them is “Magi from the east came“, they go to visit King Herod because they know that this is where a king should be found, get told by his advisers that a prophecy says the ‘King of the Jews will be born in Bethlehem’, they go and visit Jesus and then don’t go back to see Herod. From these 250-300 words, depending on translation, the Christian faith has made up a whole mythology about these “Magi” that is now believed.
Because they brought three gifts then it has been decided that there were only three of them. Because we want them to be kind and humble people we talk of what it cost them to travel from wherever to see this babe. All through I feel we have dumbed them down, turned them into something tame and weak. So these are my thoughts on the Magi.
So they must either have been astronomers or astrologers or both or employed people who looked at and read what was written in the stars. That is almost a given. But why did they go to visit a new born king? I think it was because the stars foretold how great this King was. Why go and visit a great king? To get great gifts from him. I believe these Magi had money, either of their own or were in a position to tax the people around where they lived. I think they came in a huge caravan of camels and servants and tents and gifts. Why do I think this? Because everything I’ve read about King Herod is that he was a despot and would not have let in three lowly travellers even if they did say they were off to worship the new king. I believe, from all I have read about Herod, that he would have either dismissed them or had them killed. But he welcomes them in. They must have been an impressive sight and he must have known he couldn’t silence them. I believe they came with gifts, not just the gold, frankincense and myrrh that are mention, but much more. I believe the Bible only mentions those three gifts because they are the significant ones. I do believe that the Bible misses many details out. Why say that they gave other things when Matthew wanted to make a point to his readers of who Jesus is?
But you know I think the most amazing thing that happens is when the Magi meet with Jesus. So picture a huge caravan of camels, of opulence, of power, coming to the house where Mary, Joseph and Jesus are staying. Here I believe it was the same house that Jesus was born in (as in he was born in the place where the animals lived) and that many of the wider family had no left after the census and Joseph was waiting for Mary to be strong enough so they could leave. Maybe even God had told him to stay and we just aren’t told that by any of the gospel writers.
So here they are in this little town when this cavalcade comes through. The town is in up roar. The Magi reach the house. They go in. There they see a normal couple. Remember Joseph was a tradesman and so wouldn’t be poor but wouldn’t be rich. Normal. But something happens to these wealthy, powerful men when they see Jesus.
Matthew says “ On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
What happened to make them bow down and worship this woman and child? What did they see? What happened? Something in meeting with Jesus caused them to change.
Now I’m sure Herod offered them something to come back and tell him when they had found the child but they don’t. They set off. I’m thinking they went quite quickly because Herod doesn’t chase after them but goes off to kill those poor toddlers in Bethlehem.
I just feel that on this day after Epiphany Sunday it would be good to just ponder what happened when the Magi saw Jesus that caused a change in them. And also how often we have preconceived ideas of what “King Jesus” is like but if we truly looked at Him then we would give him the gifts we had intended for another.