The Magi and the Messiah

The story is told of the semi-truck which got stuck under a bridge. Not paying attention to what he was doing, the driver of the truck had unknowingly driven his payload under an over overpass slightly too low for the trailer and its contents. The truck had slammed to a screeching halt as, sparks flying, the arches of the bridge ground into the roof of the cargo trailer, hopelessly wedging the truck under the overpass and immediately sending traffic into a snarl. Before long, a tow truck had arrived on the scene along with firetruck, police, and other emergency crews. Could they find a way to take apart the trailer or, perhaps, get a crane to lift the bridge just enough to yank out the load? A large crowd began to gather and a news helicopter could be seen circling overhead as the group charged with getting the truck free began to run out of ideas. Around this time, a small boy on his bike rode past, stopping to see the commotion. As he looked at the situation, he looked up at one of the bystanders and said, “Hey, why don't they just take the air out of the tires?”

Sometimes, it takes the perspective of an outsider to see something missed in a situation, often to the embarrassment of those embedded therein. We see this played out in Matthew 2:1-12 with the story of the Magi coming to worship Jesus. The Magi, in messianic anticipation and eventual adoration, are placed in opposition to the blindness and hostility of the insider Jewish people, especially Herod and his court. The Magi have seen and followed the star. The Jewish people have not. The Magi bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The Jewish leadership brings only conniving and, eventually, murder. This is a common theme throughout Matthew, and the gospels more generally: outsiders “get” Jesus. Insiders often do not. We find this in the inclusion of four Gentile women in Matthew's genealogy, in the prophetic declarations of favor for the Gentiles, in Jesus' inclusion of tax collectors, sinners, and the sick in His ministry (often amidst excluding the Jewish leaders of the day), and in the parables declaring the eventual destruction of the favored and the exaltation of the disfavored.

While some might be tempted to use this to make blanket statements about rich and poor, powerful and disempowered, Matthew seems more interested in saying something about Jesus's connection to Old Testament's messianic prophecy. Jesus is the one who brings not only righteousness to the Jews, but, hope for the Gentiles (Isaiah 11:10).  He is the Messiah who associates with the lowly and heals the broken-hearted (Isaiah 61:1-2). (Matthew might even be referencing Isaiah 60:6 and 11:10 with his account of the Magi.) 

So what does this mean for us? What does it matter if Matthew is connecting Jesus to Old Testament prophecy? One of the pronouncements concerning Jesus through the gospel writer is this: While the good news of the messiah is for everyone, it is only "good" for us if we choose to live in harmony with its message - the message being, "Jesus is King." While He offers all the chance to come and worship, the worship must be sincere and complete. Part of the message of the messiah is one of judgment for wrong doing. Those who persist in idolatrous ways will experience the justice of the coming King, regardless of tribe, nationality, upbringing, or socio-economic status. "Chosen-ness," as traditional social, cultural, even religious institutions might pronounce upon us, has no bearing in the kingdom of the Messiah.

As we look forward to a new year, remember the work of the Magi. Whether we come from nearby or far away - whether our story is one of lifelong immersion in the Body or a complete disregard for it, may we all choose daily, even minute by minute, to place Christ rightfully on the throne and offer Him the gifts fitting his rule.

Your District Administration

 

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