Bible study lesson:
Q. Who were the Magi?
- The Magi were assumed to be originally a religious caste among the Persians. They were devoted to astrology, divination, interpretation of dreams and fortune telling.
- Nothing is known of number of magis and their land of origin. But it is assumed that they knew about the tradition of Israelite Messianic expectation.
- It is quite interesting that some scholars believe that the Magi did not come to see Jesus, when he was just born (as Nativity scenes depict), but he was about 2 years old.
- Compare this passage with Luke 2:7, Luke 2:21-39.
- We see that Joseph and Mary took the child to Jerusalem on 8th day, circumcised him. They presented him to the Lord (Luke 2:23), met Simeon, Anna and finished all customs required by the Law of the Lord. Then they returned to their home in Nazareth.
- It is quite probable that Magis went to Nazareth, led by the star (not to Bethlehem).
- The Magi overlook the command by King Herod to go to Bethlehem, they followed the star.
- Probably FIRST GPS OF ITS KIND!
It is also evident that immediately after the Magi left, Angel of the Lord urged Joseph to flee to Egypt at night! (Matthew 2:13-14), so it seems highly unlikely that Joseph would have got time to go to Jerusalem and finish all the rituals.
Q. What were the responses to the new of ‘Birth of King of the Jews’?
- Magi – They were excited to see this King of the Jews! On their arrival, they were overjoyed, and worshiped the child.
- Herod – was disturbed, afraid. He wanted to kill this child!
- Priests and Scribes – It is quite interesting that the chief priests and scribes (Teachers of the Law) were very passive and insensitive about the news. May be they were skeptical about “these gentiles from the east”, giving them news about coming Messiah. After all, how do they know? We are the teachers of the Law!
- Probably, from the birth of Jesus, the Pharisees and Scribes were not ready to accept the fact due to their stubbornness and pride.
- Birth of Jesus is associated with the Rise of Star. Star shows regal authority.
Q. How do you see God’s protection and plan in this passage? Visualize it.
- The Magi did not know the exact place of birth, they saw the star rising and came to Jerusalem to find the King of the Jews and worship him!
- King Herod found out that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, so he sent them to Bethlehem and asked them to see the child.
- However, Magi followed the star to Nazareth (house of Joseph).
- Joseph lived in Nazareth. But upon the decree from the Emperor Augustus for everyone to be enrolled in their hometown, he went with Mary to Bethlehem. Here Jesus was born.
- Bethlehem is a town 5 miles SW of Jerusalem. On 8th day, Jesus was circumcized and 40 days after his birth, he was presented in the temple.
- After all the customs, Joseph went back to him home in Nazareth. King Herod tried to seek and find Jesus in Bethlehem and killed all the infants. But Jesus was miraculously saved.
- It is amazing how God works through history and rescue his people.
- Even after Magi’s visit, Joseph fled to Egypt, warned by the Angel of God in dream and returned to Nazareth after death of King Herod. (4 B.C.)
Q. Jot down the amount of traveling Joseph and Mary did during first few years of birth of Jesus.
- Mary after her encounter with the Angel of the Lord, went to meet her cousin Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39)
- After 3 months, she came back to Nazareth. (Luke 1:56)
- Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered. (Luke 2: 4)
- They went to Jerusalem with to present Jesus in the temple. (Luke 2:22)
- After all the customs, they returned to Nazareth. (Luke 2:39)
- When Jesus was about 2 years old, they fled to Egypt. (Mat 2:14)
- After Herod’s death (4 years after Jesus’ birth), they returned to Nazareth. (Mat 2:21)
Now, that is lot of traveling, especially when most of the traveling were done by walking or riding donkey!
Q. How did the Magi react to the ‘King of the Jews’?
- It is quite intriguing to see Magi – gentiles come and worship the child. These were wise men. They were devoted to astrology and by no means Jews. They came a long way (again traveling!) to see this “King of the Jews”, and worship him.
- When the Magi came to the house, they did not see a palace. They saw a simple ordinary house, mother and a child (not with many servants).
- But they did not question their belief. They realized that this ‘Carpenter’s boy’ is to be the King of the Jews. They presented him with gifts and worshiped him.
- They returned to their country with this experience of their life time.
Visit of Magis always fascinates me. The purpose and reason of their visit, their place in the gospel, their participation and worship, so little do we know about these men. It reminds me that God often works in mysterious ways, his thoughts and plans are higher than ours.
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