Thursday 06 January 2022

Bible Book:

On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (v. 11)

Matthew 2:1-12 Thursday 6 January 2022

Psalm 72


The story of the Magi (the 'wise men' who came to pay homage to the infant Jesus) is puzzling. We don’t know what their name means – were they royal advisers or more similar to magicians? We don’t know where they came from, beyond the broad phrase ‘from the East’. We assume that they are Gentiles, though there were Jewish communities in Babylon. We don’t even know how many Magi there were; the guess that there were three relates to the three gifts. Nor do astronomical records enable us to identify a special star close to possible times when Jesus was born.

Perhaps Matthew tells the story in this way to point us away from the practical details to the dynamic underlying the narrative. He may be harking back to the Old Testament tradition that when the 'Day of the Lord' dawns, the nations will come streaming to the mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 2:1 –5; 60:1–3). The pilgrimage of the Magi reveals that the Day of the Lord has come in Jesus.

The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were prized gifts and feature in the Old Testament. I Kings 10 recounts how the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon with  spices, gold and precious stones. Psalm 72 is even closer to Matthew’s text, describing God’s perfect king who will receive gifts of gold and incense from other rulers.

 In Jesus, 'the Day of the Lord' has arrived. God’s kingdom is here. This is underlined by the Magi's false move in seeking their goal in Jerusalem. There is terror in the city where there should be joy. For Matthew, the city is a place of bankrupt leadership (underlined by the horror of Herod's order to murder the little boys Matthew 2:16). The Magi worship where Jesus is found, not in the Temple. Jesus is king, replacing both Herod and the Temple. In him, God’s kingdom has come.


To Ponder:

  • The wise men expect to find Jesus in the king’s palace, but are proved very wrong. Do you think that today’s church looks for Jesus in the right places?
  • Victorian artist William Holman Hunt painted a picture entitled 'The Shadow of Death'. It shows Jesus, stretching after a day’s work in the carpenter’s shop, and casting  a cross-shaped shadow. Mary kneels by his feet, opening an ornate chest in which a gold crown is visible. Cross and crown together: what does this add to understanding the story of the Magi’s gifts?


Generous God, you give us rich gifts to enrich our lives. Help us to give our gifts back to Jesus in love and service to each other. Amen.


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