After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? (Matt 2:1-2a)
Oh! We heard about that two weeks ago – it’s all part of the Christmas story, isn’t it? Well, actually, no, although it often gets confused with it. Those Christmas card pictures of Jesus in a manger with shepherds and wise men gathered around are a bit of poetic licence. In the gospels, Luke tells us all about the birth of Jesus, with stable, shepherds and angels and Matthew tells us only that Jesus was born and then writes of the Magi
The Magi probably came a year or more after Jesus’ birth, when he was described as a ‘child’ living in a ‘house’ (Matt 2:11). The Christmas card, with everyone gathered around the baby, obscures the point. Jesus’ birth is revealed to those who are not Jews! Gentiles – despised by most Jews! And whilst many Jews failed to recognise their Messiah, Gentiles worshipped him!
Although God promised Abraham that “all the families on earth will be blessed through you”, Jews still thought of themselves as the only ones who could receive God’s blessing.
The earliest Christians were mostly Jews but, as more Gentiles became believers, Christian Jews struggled to know how to relate to them. Matthew probably wrote his gospel for these Jewish Christians and gives the Magi – the first Gentiles to acknowledge the Christ – a prominent place in his account. And from the fourth century, Christians have acknowledged God’s revelation to them by celebrating the feast of “Epiphany” on 6th January – last Friday.
Most of us are Gentiles who can be ever thankful that God sent his Son to bring us into a relationship with himself. To him be all glory and praise!