Just a Few Thoughts, guys…
Did the wise men really bring gifts? The information that we get in Matthew 2:1-12 corresponds to what we know about Persian sages who closely watched the heavens for astrological phenomena. There were two astronomical events involving conjunctions of planets around the time of Jesus’ birth—the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces in 7 B.C.E. and the near-conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in Pisces in February 6 B.C.E. The star also could have been a special kind of comet. Whatever mystery we have here, there is no reason to doubt that there is solid history and science behind it. We should realize that even the wise men themselves could have discovered the prophesy of Micah, which indicates the birthplace of the Messiah: “But you, Bethlehem, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel (Micah 5:2-5).” What I find noteworthy is that Herod, a Jew, has to ask his advisors what his own scriptures say! (See Matt 2:3-4). We should remember that the Jews were held in the Babylonian captivity, taking their scriptures with them. Thus, the “wise men” (magi) of the Babylonians were aware of Jewish scriptures and were led to search for the new king of Israel. There is a prophecy about the star in Numbers 24:17, of which these Babylonian sages may have been aware:
“I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not nigh:
a star shall come forth out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab,
and break down all the sons of Sheth.”
Evil is searching diligently for the child in the person of Herod to destroy him, thinking him a threat. Herod was from an Edomite family, and was aware that this same oracle also fortells destruction of his family’s fortunes: “Edom shall be dispossessed (Num 24:17).” The scientists of the age are searching diligently for the child, thinking him a new king of the world. The faithful, simple shepherds are searching diligently for the child, thinking him their long-awaited Messiah. Just who is this tiny child that would cause such a fuss? Who is he? Indeed, he seems many things to many people—a king, a savior, a threat. Whether good or evil, this child will overturn the old and bring the new.
I am touched by the great movement of this birth story. First of all, Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethelehem to register for the census. Then they had to search for a place to have the child. Then, the characters mentioned above search for him. Then, they are warned about the threat of Herod and have to flee to Egypt—(this is also historically verifiable, for it is well known that there was a large Jewish community in Egypt). Have we found him yet? For once we find him, then we are given the same command that Mary and Joseph were given—“Rise, take the child and his mother….” (Matt 2:13) Wow. The command to Joseph—take them both—the child and his mother. Mary always goes with Jesus….