MATTHEW 2: 1-12 (MSG)
Scholars from the East
‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signalled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”
When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:
It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land,
no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.”
Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”
Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.’
I know there is no mention of camels, but I’m off to see a Christmas parade with “wise men” riding camels and I’m excited. I think the wise men - or scholars as they are called here were excited. They were certainly devoted to study the stars, disciplined to make a journey, and determined to make inquiries with local people. They bowed down and presented gifts.
Some suggest that is where we get the tradition of gift giving from. Others fixate on where they had come from. Where were they from? All it says is the East. I like the idea that they were Zoroastrians from Persia, or perhaps were from East Asia, China. There seems to be some archaeological and linguistic evidence to support both suggestions.
I’m fairly sure they were not from East Anglia or East Midlands Airport. They were not British, perhaps they don’t even like Brussel sprouts and watch the Queen’s Speech. They travelled a long way in obedience to worship the King. Some of our friends have travelled from other places to be able to follow King Jesus. The wise men did not inform King Herod of the location of Jesus. It could be called an act of civil disobedience. It would have taken conviction and bravery. Some people have travelled to the UK because they have taken a stand. Perhaps they have endorsed the view that girls should go to school, demonstrated against injustice, or maybe they have refused to shoot protestors when ordered to do so. Perhaps they took a photo when photography was banned, criticised the government, or even worse posted something on Facebook.
Jesus is for all people and calls all people to bow down to him.
- Do you have any friends who do not look like you?
- Do you have any friends who have disobeyed the government?
- How can you become a little less ‘British’ this Christmas?