The Journey of the Magi

The following excerpt is a brief quotation taken from Chapter Three of The Christ Saturated Life titled, “Uncompromising Authority,” a chapter in which we look at the authority of Jesus from myriad angles. In this section we note the authority of Jesus as recognized by the Magi.

Jesus’ Authority – Acknowledged by the Magi

We just looked at the birth of Jesus and noted how he was born with a purpose, and that purpose was to die for the sins of all humanity. Now, we see that the authority of Jesus was known by foreign men from over 1,000 miles away at the time of his birth. The appearance of the Magi occurred probably a year and a half after the birth of Jesus. I apologize if I have wrecked childhood memories of the three kings in the nativity scenes and Christmas pageants (including my own), but it is clear that they appeared when Jesus was pushing 18 months to two years of age.

The Magi, often called kings or wise men today, were priests, most likely Zoroastrian priests from Persia (though some argue that they were Bedouin Arabs from the Jordanian desert), and typically associated with secret wisdom, magical exploits, and astrology. Consider the English terms magic, or magician.

These men were star-gazers. The idea that the Magi were actual kings was first floated by an early church father named Tertullian in his work, Against Marcion. Tertullian noted that the Magi were thought of as kings, without saying they actually were kings. We do not know how many there were, as Matthew gives us no numbers or names for the Magi. There may have been three, or even three hundred, and it is likely that they travelled with an entourage of hundreds including their flocks and families. What we do know is that they brought three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

While it is doubtful that they were actual kings, the Magi clearly saw Jesus as a king, referring to him as such when they asked Herod his whereabouts. They stated further that they had seen “his” star in the east, which indicates they had been looking for it. They had come searching for this new king in order to worship him, indicating that they knew him to be deserving of such honor even in his infancy and youth. The Magi knew enough about the coming Messiah, perhaps stemming from Daniel’s time and teaching when he was in Persia, that they were sufficiently informed and looking for a sign. They recognized that sign when it appeared, and they followed the sign as it led them to their destination in Bethlehem.

The fact that these men of power and influence came to worship Jesus cannot be ignored. The journey they made was long, laborious, and costly, yet it was important enough that they made it despite the difficulties inherent to the task. They did not come out of curiosity. They did not come to score points by rubbing elbows with a celebrity. They did not come to ask anything of the young king, or of his family. They came to worship him, and to present gifts. That is astonishing. Kings rise to power and fall from power throughout history having received no such visits, but there is something different, something special about this king. The Magi knew this to be so, and they recognized the distinction of this particular king.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon

Twitter – @DamonJGray
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Damon J. Gray

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