January 5, 2020

First Week of Epiphany

Listen. In Matthew 2:1-12 we find a curious story where God announces the birth of Jesus the Messiah to people we would never expect. He encodes the message in the stars, where his own people could not read it. The people of Israel were prohibited from practicing astrology, searching for divine messages from the stars.

God sends Jesus’ birth announcement to people called the Magi, not Israel’s priests, rabbis or other religious leaders. The Magi were a powerful group of astrologers and scholars who advised kings and emperors for centuries. They came from Babylon (Iraq today) and are mentioned in the Old Testament. You can read about them in Daniel chapters 1 – 6. They were the royal advisers who were jealous of Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, and tried to get them killed. 

As you read through Matthew 2:1-12, compare the reactions of King Herod and the people of Jerusalem to the news of Jesus’ birth to the pagan Magis’ reaction to seeing Jesus. 

  • Herod is not the legitimate ruler of Israel, why is he disturbed by the news?
  • If the people of Jerusalem had been waiting centuries for their Messiah, why are they troubled by the news?
  • Why do you think the Magi react the way they do when they see Jesus? 

Now consider this final question: why do you think God announced Jesus’ birth to the Magi and not his own people? What does this story say about Jesus’ identity?

Respond. This story is not unlike Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, where the hero is not the person you would expect (see Luke 10:25-37). The Bible often challenges us by giving us a surprising outsider that we are called to imitate. This is meant to humble us. It is also meant to shake us out of our sleep and stop taking God for granted. The Magi are those kinds of heroes. We are called to imitate the Magi. We are to see what they saw in Jesus. 

If this story is true, how will you respond to Jesus following the example of the Magi? Be personal and specific in your responses.  Here are some possibilities …

  • How will you worship Jesus? 
  • How will you live now that you know that he is your king? What will you do? Not do?
  • How will you view church outsiders differently?
  • How are you moved to repent and ask God for forgiveness?

Share. What have you learned through this lesson that someone in your life needs to hear? Make a plan to share it with them.

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