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.
Growing up, I had this completely unrealistic view of the Magi…
- They were majestic kings, who also happened to be the wisest men on the face of the earth.
- They wore expensive robes with shining crowns and rode on massive camels with crowds of servants attending to their every need.
- They were incredibly excited to come and worship the son of God right in His own home.
I’ve come to learn that the Magi were nothing like what I’d always believed. To put it simply, they were a brotherhood of self-serving, self-made semi-royalty who searched the prophecies of other nations and religions to discover whatever they could use to further their own agenda. They combined astrology with these prophecies to chase down future kings and politically maneuver ideal scenarios for their empire. Around the time of Jesus’ birth, they were widely known as “king makers” and were viewed with much apprehension by kings everywhere.
As Herod was growing older, the appearance of the Magi in Jerusalem was reason for near panic by the royal family. When Matthew wrote, “When King Herod heard [the Magi had arrived] he was disturbed,” he could just as easily have said, “When King Herod heard [the Magi had arrived] he began completely freaking out!” because the Magi meant the potential end to all his dreams for the future.
So, the Magi were in Jerusalem looking for the next king, undoubtedly hoping for a king who would rise up to aid them. They would quite likely have been familiar with the prophecy in Numbers 24:17, “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth.” They were looking for a king to crush the enemies that threatened their empire, their future.
But the Magi would never find the king they were expecting. They wouldn’t find a king riding before an army, holding a scepter, orchestrating victories and galvanizing a nation. They wouldn’t find a king sitting on a throne, holding court over his loyal subjects.
Instead, they found the son of an impoverished carpenter and his teenage wife, living in a humble house, scratching out a meager living.
But they were wise enough to recognize something special when they saw it. Their initial joy at finding the house could have quickly become disappointment at discovering what was inside it. But they fell to their knees and worshiped Jesus because when you come face to face with the Messiah, there’s nothing else you can do, whether He’s what you were expecting and hoping for or something far different and bigger than you’d imagined.
This Christmas, when you come face to face with the Messiah, odds are, He’ll be anything but what you expected.
- You might be looking for a Savior who will rescue you from your financial problems, but the Savior you find will want your heart before you discuss finances.
- You might be looking for a Messiah who will save you from your relationships, but the Messiah you find will want your priorities before you plan reconciliation.
- You might be looking for a Christ who will deliver you from your pain, but the Christ you find will want your body before you discover health.
I confess to not understanding the full depth of who God is, but I do know this:
God is much, much more than I’ve ever expected.
He will never fit in the plan I’ve designed for Him and He’ll never stay in the box I’ve built for Him.
This Christmas, prepare to meet a God you’ve never expected.