Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Epiphany of Our Lord: A Devotional Commentary

Matthew 2:1-12 Now after Jesus had been born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, look, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the King of the Jews who has been born? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to show reverence to Him." But when Herod the king had heard, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him, and when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he kept on inquiring of them where the Christ is born. And they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it stands written through the prophet: "'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, by no means are you the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you will come a Ruler Who indeed will shepherd My people, Israel.'" Then Herod, after he secretly called the Magi, ascertained from them the exact time when the star began to appear, and having sent them to Bethlehem, he said, "After y o u have gone, inquire accurately about the Child, and as soon as y o u should find Him, report to me in order that I also, after I have come, may show reverence to Him." When they had heard the king, they went; and look, the star which they saw when it rose was leading the way for them until, having come, it stood still above where the Child was; after seeing the star, they rejoiced with extremely great joy, and having come into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and falling down they showed reverence to Him, and having opened their treasures, they brought Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh; and being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed by another way to their own land.

Who were these Magi that came to see the Christ-child? Contrary to some Christmas carols, these men were not kings. They may have been servants of kings but they were not kings themselves. As Matthew shows they were also certainly not wise men. They were pagan Gentiles who were interested in sorcery and all kinds of false religion. They were not Jews. They were not Israelites. They were outsiders.

The Magi did not come to find the Christ-child because of their own purity and worthiness. They came to find the Christ-child because of their own interest in astrology. They saw a new star in the sky and believed that the appearance of a new star indicated the birth of an important person. God used the false beliefs that they held to guide them to the truth. There was nothing wise or holy about these men. The Magi bring gifts to Christ but these are just the gifts that a person would bring to any dignitary. The church has rightly seen great symbolism in the gifts--gold for Jesus' kingship, incense for His divinity, and myrrh for His suffering and death. But its unlikely that the Magi brought the gifts for this reason. They were bringing the common gifts you would bring to an earthly king. The Magi probably had heard about how paranoid Herod was but they were not wise enough to see that Herod had no intention of worshiping the Child but wanted Him dead. The Magi needed to receive a special revelation from the Holy Spirit in a dream.

No great Jewish theologian came to worship the Christ but only some pagan Gentile astrologers. The Magi could not by their own reason or strength come to Jesus Christ and worship Him but had to be drawn by the Holy Spirit.

The same is true with you. You cannot by your own reason or strength come to Christ. Coming to Christ is not something you do by walking up an aisle or saying a prayer. By faith you believe that Jesus died for your sins and faith is not of yourself--it is a gift worked in you by the Holy Spirit. You might be drawn into the church for all the wrong reasons but the Holy Spirit draws you in and feeds you with the Gospel and washes you in baptism. The Holy Spirit draws you to the Sacrament of the Altar where you bow in adoration before the Christ and receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.

No comments: