Read together Hymn #399 The Star Proclaims the King Is Here LSB
The star proclaims the king is here; But, Herod, why this senseless fear? For He who offers heav’nly birth Seeks not the kingdoms of this earth.
The eastern sages saw from far And followed on His guiding star; And, led by light, to light they trod And by their gifts confessed their God.
Epiphany Into the Bible Matthew 2:1-12 The Visit of the Magi Expectations Persevered
In today’s lesson we read about men from a far country, seeing a star, and traveling. What do we know about these men?
1. Matthew 2:1 calls them Magi. Magi were men that studied the stars. They were scholars who read books to gain knowledge.
2. Matthew 2:1 also said they were “from the east”. East could be anywhere but it probably was in present-day Iraq, where the civilization supported men such as the Magi.
3. Matthew 2:2 They came to Jerusalem seeking “one who has been born king of the Jews”.
4. Matthew 2:2 They “saw his star”
5. Matthew 2:2 They “have come to worship him”
This is what Scriptures tell us about these “magi”. Let’s explore a little more some of the implications of the facts. Implications:
1. The Magi were NOT Jews. Studying and reading the stars was a detestable practice for the Jews. (Read Deuteronomy 18:9-13) They would be considered Gentiles, a term at the time that refers to everyone that is NOT Jewish.
2. “from the east” means they traveled a long distance to come to Jerusalem. Present-day Iraq was known as Mesopotamia. It is about 600 miles from Jerusalem. A large desert is between the two places which means the travel routes would follow the perimeter of the desert, close to the mountains. And some mountains would have to be crossed. It is close to 600 miles from start to finish.
There is a sequence of events that happened.
A strange star appeared in the sky that interested the Magi
The Magi researched the star to determine the significance of the star
They decide to follow the star. There was preparation time to gather supplies for the long, hard trip and time to determine what gifts to bring the “king of the Jews”.
They travel towards Jerusalem. (If they traveled by camel it would have taken between 30-40 days.)
Why would the Magi travel to the city of Jerusalem? (Let students answer. Jerusalem was the site of the temple of God and the center of the Jewish faith. The baby they were trying to find was to be “king of the Jews))
Upon their arrival they start asking people “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” After the long journey, the magi might have been surprised to discover no one in Jerusalem knew about this baby. The magi saw the star but did anyone else see it? The Bible doesn’t say. We do know that God could cause the magi to see the star when no one else could see it. Think about the plagues before the Israelites left Egypt. After the third plague, the disasters only affected the Egyptians.
The Magi turn to King Herod for an answer. King Herod went to the chief priests and teachers of the law to find the answer. They went to the Holy Scriptures and found Micah 5:2. Read But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.”
Upon hearing this news, the Magi went outside and once more saw the star.
Read the last few words of Matthew 2:9. What does it say about the “king of the Jews”? (…where the child was). Jesus is no longer a baby. Time had lapsed between the appearance of the star when the Magi were in the east to the time of their arrival in Bethlehem.
Read the first couple of words in Matthew 2:11 “On coming to the house…”. Where was Jesus laid to rest after he was born? (Luke 2:7 in a manger because there was no room in the inn.) Since the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Magi, Mary and Joseph had moved into a home. The magi did NOT come on the birth day of Jesus.
Let’s pause a moment and exam what is happening. The Magi are living in the east of Jerusalem. They see a strange star and research to find out this was a special star to indicate the birth of the “king of the Jews”. They must have had some knowledge of God and the Israelites/Jews to have this information available to them. The Jews were NOT the Magi’s people and yet they felt compelled to gather supplies and gifts and make a long dangerous journey to the city of Jerusalem. WHY? (answers will vary)
Why? RE-read Matthew 2:2. The Magi “have come to worship him.” The Magi were determined to worship this “king of the Jews”. There was something very special about this child that God had placed in their hearts. The Magi persevered. They endured much hardship and possible dangers on the journey, crossing water, mountains, desert, and risked being attacked by bandits that hid in the mountains. They pressed on as they entered Jerusalem asking around to find this special child. They were determined to find the child in spite of any obstacle that stood in their way. The Magi expected to meet the “king of the Jews.”
Think about the opportunities you have to come to worship God. Every Lutheran church I know offers at least one opportunity to worship each Sunday. What obstacles do you allow to stop you from coming to worship God? (Let students ponder this question but they need not share.) Do you expect to meet Jesus in worship? (Again, give students time to ponder this question but not share their answers.)
Read Psalm 119:2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. The Magi expected to meet Jesus, King of the Jews. In Matthew 18:20 Jesus promises to be with you. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. At the beginning of each worship service the pastor calls on Jesus’ name when he says, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The congregation response with “Amen” – let it be so.
Why did God put the star in the sky for the Magi to see and put it in the Magi’s hearts to seek out this baby who was born to be “king of the Jews”? Here is a conflict of expectations. The Jews were God’s chosen people from the time of Abraham. God promised Abraham salvation would come through his family. However, the promise of a savior was given to Adam and Eve. ALL people are descendants from Adam and Eve. Jesus came not just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. (Read Romans 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too.)
By putting Jesus in the hearts of the Magi, God invited all Gentiles to gather in His name and to worship Him. What wonderful news this is for us! All people on earth are saved through the one act of Jesus Christ when he died on the cross and rose on the 3rd day. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Magi were the first Gentiles to experience this wonderful, life-changing news! God made sure through the Magi that all people would know Jesus came for them. Thanks be to God!
Bible Verse Psalm 119:2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.
Prayer Dear Heavenly Father, You placed a light in the sky to lead the Magi to your Son. Let your Holy Word be our light to lead us to you also. Make us to be the light of Jesus for those that do not yet know your Son and your great love. Amen