Eddie and Sue Arthur

Why Make a Fuss About the Magi?

Just a thought? Why do we make such a big thing about Epiphany and the visit of the Magi Mary, Joseph and their young child?

Let’s face, it we know very little about them. We don’t know where they came from, and we don’t really know who or what they were. The Bible certainly never applies the word ‘wise’ to them. There is no indication that they really understood who Jesus was, beyond being born to be King of the Jews – which in the Roman Empire could have meant more or less anything. We are not toldĀ that they read Scripture or that they had faith in anything beyond stars and dreams and we haven’t a clue how many of them there were!

They do play an important role in the overall narrative of Scripture. In the immediate context, they provide the background to the family’s flight to Egypt (and subsequent fulfilment of prophecy (Matthew 2:15) – something which was always important to Matthew). It also gives a reason for Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, which would have been still current in people’s memory when Matthew wrote his Gospel. On a broader scale, Matthew is introducing to his Jewish audience the notion that the Messiah will have an impact beyond the confines of Judaism. In this he is looking back to Isaiah 6 and forward to the early church.

I’m not convinced that this passage has any direct implications for our personal discipleship. The line ‘wise men still seek him’ is true and a good reminder, but I don’t think it is something you can draw from the passage. It doesn’t say they were wise, and beyond this one incident, there is no indication that they continued to seek him!

Viewed in the overall context of Scripture, the Magi story is twelve verses in one Gospel. Mark, Luke and John don’t mention it. I’m really not sure why we set aside a day for this one passage; when there are other events which are more prominent in the Bible which don’t get this sort of attention.

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