#1 On Their Bucket List
“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? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
As you see, the world is still here…I guess according to the Mayan calendar I need to be wishing you a happy Mayan New Year. I guess the next long count calendar won’t be ending until the year 7137 A.D. or something like that. All kidding aside, what I do find interesting about the Mayans is for being a somewhat primitive people living in a jungle, it is reported that they had a vast knowledge of Mathematics and astronomy. But…What is often called Mayan ‘astronomy’ was actually what we call ‘astrology’, and this is something the Bible condemns. So what is astrology?
According to the — The New Columbia Encyclopedia
Astrology is a… form of divination based on the theory that the movement of the celestial bodies—the stars, the planets, the sun and the moon—influence human affairs and determine the course of events.”
In contrast, when the Bible refers to the celestial objects, sometimes it refers to them as showing us signs from God Almighty. But the Bible likewise prohibits worshipping the stars, planets, moons, comets or anything like that.
For example, we read in the Book of Job,
“ if I have regarded the sun in its radiance or the moon moving in splendour, 27 so that my heart was secretly enticed and my hand offered them a kiss of homage, 28 then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.”— Job 31:26–28
The Old Testament even decrees the death penalty for star worship in
Yet the Bible does make a surprising number of references to signs in the heavens in both the Old and New Testament. Even Jesus Himself made mention of the fact in Luke 21:25 that there would be signs given in the sun, moon, and stars before certain events occurred.
And that brings me to our lesson today. The Magi, in our opening story, were they practicing Astrology? A quick answer is simply, NO!
Astrology holds the stars exert forces on men and our affairs and that’s not what happened here. This story of the star which appeared is only seen here in Matthew, chapter 2. We’re told that “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked
‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’” Matthew 2:1-2
And that “…
the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9
I believe this is an example of the Bible giving us a sign in the heavens, from God, that something special had taken place. .
Now, scholars disagree about what type of star the magi saw. Some claim it was something supernatural from God. Others claim that the star was result of 3 or more heavenly bodies, probably Jupiter, a bright star named Regulus, and maybe more celestial bodies all lining up to form one bright light. I guess this happens about every 1000 years, and would likely have happened around the time of the birth of Christ. Their collective brightness would have lit up the night. And their apparent movement and alignment would have even answered the problem of a “star” appearing to move and then stop.
The text says that it
“stopped over the place where the child was.”
Now I’m not a great theologian or star gazer, and I really don’t care what that star was. But this much I know: There was a star, or at least something unnatural and bright. And it led those men to the place where Jesus was.
And I also know that this star was unlike any that the wise men had ever seen before. These men were men who studied the stars. They knew the stars by names and they knew which constellations had what stars.
But this star was different. This star didn’t belong. This star had a radiance all of its own and the Magi knew it had to be something special and it signified something special. There was something about this star that drew them… to worship a new and special king. Somehow they knew that’s why it appeared.
Who are these magi? The word, ‘magi,’ which is sometimes translated ‘wise men,’ is the root from which we get our word ‘magic.’ This doesn’t make them all magicians, in the present sense of the word.
Some of them were very educated and learned men who studied the physical world and were knowledgeable about many things, including the stars. Magi were often court astronomers who were consulted by the rulers of the day for guidance in affairs of state. This was also true in much earlier times. For example, during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, some 500 years earlier, King Nebuchadnezzar kept a stable of court magi. Nebuchadnezzar made the Jewish prophet Daniel Chief Magus of his court when Daniel was able to interpret a dream the other magi could not.
There were also different schools of magi as well, and some were more respected than others. We know something of one particularly prestigious school of magi from the writings of Philo. Philo was a Jewish philosopher and contemporary of Jesus who lived in the large Jewish community of Alexandria, Egypt. In his writings Philo praised an Eastern school of magi for their great learning and understanding of the natural world. This school may have descended from the Babylonian magi of Daniel’s day. Matthew does report that the Wise Men were from the East, and Babylon is east of Judea. It was at one time part of the Persian Empire, which ties in with Philo. So it is possible the Wise Men were from this prestigious Eastern school. This would account for Herod giving them an audience, and for his strong reaction to the news they brought.
Especially whey they asked,
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews” 2:2a
The motive of the Magi in coming to Jerusalem tells us a great deal more about them. They wanted to worship a new Jewish king. It can’t be proven from the text, but it is quite possible that some of the Magi were of Jewish descent, perhaps a Jewish remnant from Daniel’s day. This would help explain why the Jewish philosopher, Philo, admired them, and why they were watching the sky for things Jewish, and why they wanted to worship a Jewish king, and why they were taken so seriously by Herod and Jewish chief priests.
In my heart of hearts, I can’t help but believe that this was a lifelong dreams for these men. This past year my wife and I watched the movie, The Bucket List. In it couple of old guys made up a list of things they really, really wanted to do before they died, or kicked the bucket.
I can’t help but believe that finding and meeting the new king of the Jews, the King of kings, the much foretold Messiah, was on the top of their list for these men as well as a few which we read about in the NT. Those guys spared no time, expense or hardship to find and worship Him…… But there were others who had also waited to see this special one who was to be born.
Read: Luke 2:25-30 (click on the verse to read) The account of Simeon
Read: Luke 2:36-38 Anna
Have you ever wanted something so bad that it didn’t matter what it cost, or what you had to do if you only get the chance to see or get it. Maybe not.
But that’s how these people felt about wanting to meet baby Jesus. These magi traveled a great distance over land and mountains, deserts and rivers just to lay eyes on Jesus and have an up front personal opportunity to worship Him.
And I also can’t help but believe that they had a real skip in their step as they walked away knowing that their dream had been fulfilled.
Why, because I believe they knew who He really was and what He meant to the world, for them and for us. Just as Simeon and Anna said, they recognized baby Jesus as ‘the Messiah’, our salvation, our redeemer, the one who would bring light unto this dark world.
Without Him there would be no hope of heaven for anyone, anyone! Jesus is the greatest gift God has ever given to mankind.
I don’t believe that Jesus was literally born on December 25th, actually I don’t believe anyone living today knows the exact date He was born on. But December 25th has been the day that was been set aside for generation to remember and celebrate His birth. Just like it was for those Wise men, Simeon, and Anna who honored and worshipped Him that day and were filled with joy, I pray that you can find the same feelings of peace and joy knowing who came into the world to save us. God Himself took on flesh to live among us, and then died to save us. And so I say, may the peace of God fill your heart …
For, as the song goes… “Why did my Savior come to earth and to the humble go. Why did He choose a lowly birth? Because He loved me so.”
For more lessons click on the following link: http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?page_id=566