Matthewby Mike Raiter
Matthew 2 opens shortly after Jesus' birth. Although Joseph's home and business are in Nazareth, the family are currently in Bethlehem. While there, wise men, or magi, visit Him. Matthew does not tell us how many came (in some Christian traditions there were as many as 12 magi!). They come from the East, perhaps Babylon.
The ″magi″ are important and influential members of the royal court, experts in science, mathematics, history, and astronomy. They have seen some new appearance in the sky which, they believe, heralds an event of cosmic significance, the birth of a great king. Perhaps they knew of Numbers 24:17, reading from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament: ″A star shall rise out of Jacob, a man shall spring out of Israel″. So they have come to Jerusalem. When they arrive, they bring news that the Jews have been waiting centuries to hear: the Messiah has come.
You would have expected God's people to rejoice, but we are told that their king, Herod, ″and all Jerusalem with him″ (v. 3), are troubled. How stunning! Gentiles travel thousands of miles at great cost to come and worship a foreign king, yet not one Jew would walk a few miles to greet their Messiah and Saviour.
Supernaturally, the star guides the magi to Jesus, and Isaiah's prophecy delivered 700 years ago is fulfilled: ″Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn . . . bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord″ (Isaiah 60:3, 6).
Twice in the gospel of Matthew Jesus is called the King of the Jews. Here at the beginning, and then later at His death when Herod's son, Antipas, conspires with the people to kill Jesus (Luke 13:31; 23:7-13; Acts 4:27). A sign was placed over the cross: ″The King of the Jews″ (Matthew 27:37). At both His birth and death, Jews were troubled while Gentiles believed: magi worshipped Christ at His birth, while a centurion confessed at His death, ″Surely he was the Son of God″ (Matthew 27:54).
Nothing has changed in 2,000 years. Some reject Jesus while others-and often the ones you would least expect-rejoice, worship, and offer Him the gift of their lives, the only appropriate gift for such a universal king.
Why do you think that the people of Jerusalem were so disturbed at the news of the birth of their King (v. 3)? Does anything in the history of Israel prepare us for this reaction?
Think about the people you live among. How do they respond to the good news of Jesus? Why do you think people today are often troubled by the gospel? What does the response of the wise men tell us about how and why some people come to Jesus?