GETTING THE MESSAGE/Worship Christ the King
The passage in Matthew 2:1-12 about the Magi coming to worship Christ when He was an infant is a fascinating story. In verse 2, they come to Jerusalem saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” The star rising and the interpretation by the Magi is mysterious. But we shouldn’t miss the main points.
The first being that the Lord God gave light to these Gentiles to come to Christ. Isaiah 42 speaks of the coming of Christ. There we read that the Lord, who “created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it,” promises a Savior to the world. He will be “a covenant for the people, a light for the Gentiles, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”
The Magi are a fulfillment of this promise. Their faith is evidence that their eyes have been opened to the glory of Christ. It’s plain to all in Jerusalem that they are not looking for just any king, but the promised King of Kings who will rule forever, the Messiah, the Christ.
They came from the east, probably meaning the area of the former Babylonian kingdom. The stories of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar were well known from the days when many Jews were captives in Babylon. Many Jews stayed in Babylon after Jerusalem was rebuilt five centuries before the arrival of the Magi to Jerusalem. So, the Magi, men who would have been counselors to kings or authorities, would have known of the promised Messiah or king of the Jews.
The amazing thing about their faith is how impractical it seemed. They traveled a very long distance. It was a very hazardous, expensive undertaking, and they didn’t stay long once they had seen the child who was the King. But the trip wasn’t a labor to them, nor was it a burden to give to Christ; they considered it a favor done to them, and they rejoiced in it.
You can examine your own faith in light of these wise men. It is a mark of Christ’s sheep that they hear Christ’s voice and are drawn to Him. It is also a mark of His people that they receive the orders for their life from heaven and they act upon what they know.
King Herod’s reaction to the coming of a foretold king is demonic (verses 7-8). He calls the Magi secretly, pretending to be a fellow worshipper of the promised king. His real purpose, seen in the subsequent passages, is to ascertain the age of the child so that he can dispose of this king as soon as possible.
This has application to our faith. Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. This means to devour faith in Christ. He would cut off your faith in whatever way he can, tribulation, temptation, or deception. The devil would take Christ from you by hook or crook, so consider that we battle not against flesh and blood. He sometimes appears as an angel of light.
In verses 11-12, we see the reaction of the Magi when they see the infant Christ. They fall to the ground and worship. They open their treasures and give gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These were appropriate gifts for a great king. The Queen of Sheba brought similar gifts to Solomon. But one greater than Solomon is here, and these wise men know it.
Scholars tell us that myrrh was the most expensive of the three gifts at the time. Myrrh was used as a gift of love to anoint one at a wedding or in death. It also was a symbol for the love of a king toward his people.
Psalm 45 is about the Lord as the divine king who loves His people. His robes are laced with myrrh. Song of Songs is about the love of Christ for His people, and their love for Him. In Chapter 5, the believer is asleep in bed, a sign she has neglected Christ. The Lord isn’t content with this spiritual state in one of His sheep, so He knocks on the door.
She makes excuses at first not to get up, but when she does and reaches for the latch to open the door, her hand comes back dripping with myrrh. Now she is spiritually awake. She opens the door, but he is gone. So, she seeks after him. When she meets with people who ask about him, she tells of his greatness and his love. Christ’s love drew her to him. And so it was with the Magi, and so it is with us.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.