Monday, September 03, 2007

A Different Way

We began a study of the Gospel of Matthew in our Sunday School class yesterday, starting with the story of Jesus' birth, which was kinda weird since it's not "Christmas time." But, I think not being caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season actually allowed us to step back and see some things we might have missed.

We went through the genealogy, noting that three of the four women mentioned (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth) were Gentiles; Bathseba, who is not mentioned by name in some translations, may have been an Israelite (cf. 1 Chr 3:5). We also noted some interesting things such as:

  • Matthew's genealogy is ascending from Abraham to Jesus.
  • Luke's genealog is descending from Jesus to Adam.
  • Matthew's genealogy traces Jesus' "legal" heritage, i.e. His legal right to the throne of David via Joseph's lineage.
  • Lukes's genealogy traces Jesus' "royal" heritage, i.e. the bloodline through David via Mary's lineage. (The "Eli" mentioned is believed to be Mary's father.)
  • Beyond Zerubbabel to Joseph, we know nothing of the descendants listed.

We spent some time looking at the Magi. These guys (and we don't know that there were only three of them) show up, looking for "He who has been born King of the Jews...for we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." (Matt 2:2) Just a little side note here: the idea of three "wise men" or Magi comes from the three gifts--gold, frankincense and myrrh that are given to Jesus. According to Wikipedia, the bones of the "three"--named Melchior, Balthazar and Casper--are said to be in the Shrine of the Three Wise Men in Cologne, Germany. Personally, I'm not buying it, but I digress.

A couple of things in Matthew's Gospel stood out to me:

The purpose of their visit was "to worship." The Magi can be traced back to the time of Daniel when he was made ruler over the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:48). It's not a stretch to believe Daniel would have spoken to them about the coming Messiah, maybe even pointed them to this prophecy: "...A star shall come forth from Jacob, And a scepter shall rise from Israel..." (Numbers 24:17). This could explain their comment of seeing "His star."

So here it is, some 500+ years later, and these men are looking for sign of a new king that they know very little about. They DO know that something significant is connected with the "star" they have seen in Israel and because they believe this to be the king Daniel spoke of so long ago, they have come to see for themselves...and to worship.

They met Jesus and were changed.Matthew tells us that the Magi fell down and worship Jesus. When they got ready to leave, God spoke to them and warned them about Herod's evil intentions, so they "left for their own country by another way.

I think there's a little more there. I think they not only took a different route, but they returned home DIFFERENT--a "different way." They had encountered the Christ, and they would never be the same. Isn't that the right response? Notice how the priests and scribes responded when Herod asked, "Do you know what these guys are talking about?" They KNEW the prophecies concerning the Messiah. They knew exactly where the Messiah would be born (just a couple of miles down the road!!) and yet they didn't even bother to check things out.

I would have LOVED to have been in the Magi's caravan as they made their way home. They had traveled so far. They had arrived not knowing for sure what they would find--and they ended up meeting the Son of God, the Promised Messiah...and they were going home "different."

1 comment:

Baxter said...

Great post, Keith. Oh and another thought in regard to the gifts that were brought. It doesn't say there were three gifts either. It says they brought "gifts" OF gold, frankensense, and myhr. Anyway, loved the focus on worship!