Advent 2 – Were There Three? Were They Kings?

Magi   Wise Men   Kings

Two   Three   Five   Fifteen

Caspar    Balthazar   Melchior

Jews    Gentiles

 

Were there THREE?

Some reason three because of three gifts –

In reality, this would have been a dangerous journey for three – especially three who were carrying gold, Frankincense and Myrrh..

Thieves / robbers plagued many roads

This forced merchants/commoners to travel in larger groups/ caravans for safety.

THESE were not merchants or commoners…

Prominent men of society..

It wouldn’t be out of line to speculate that they and their servants were escorted by a full military unit.

Three? It could have been more like 300 when all told.

If it were a large caravan… their arrival to Jerusalem would have caused a stir – 200-300 people of obvious importance would have been news …

Then to have these strangers see King Herod without a problem solidified the suspicion they were men of power and prominence.

This was not just three people taking a ride into the next town… it was an intentional journey of great distance – with great danger.

It was an expedition that required months of preparation and then months to travel to the destination….

Thus most scholars believe these wise men didn’t arrive to see Jesus until 2  years after his birth.

The song tells us the Kings from the Orient “traversed afar”.

How far was “afar”??

Well some believe they may have traveled                                                                about 1000 miles to get to Bethlehem.

That’s exactly the same distance as                                                                             from here to Atlanta, Georgia

You or I could make the journey                                                                                     in about 15 hours…                                                                                                              but then we have 4 lane highways,                                                                                        and can travel at 65- 95  mph.

These Magi didn’t have those advantages.                                                            Some scholars speculate it might have                                                                     taken them 2 to 3 months to make it                                                                       to Jerusalem.

If they were on camel,

A camel walks at 3 miles an hour –

And averages 25-30 miles a day…

and the camel was able to do 27                                                                                     miles a day…                                                                                                                                 it would have taken 37 days at best….

Even the text hints at that. Matthew 2:11 tells us

“when they were COME INTO THE HOUSE, they saw the young child with Mary his mother,and fell down, and worshipped him…”

Where was Jesus born?

In a barn, in a manger – a feeding trough.   They’re not there anymore.

Joseph and Mary have moved out of the barn,    and settled into a home in Bethlehem    and Joseph is plying his trade among                                    the Jews of that area.

And it was at that house where the wise men                                                     found Him, and they fell down and   worshipped Him and gave Him            their gifts of gold, frankincense  and myrrh.

Now these wise men had gone to a great deal of trouble.

And they’d traveled great distance.

And they’d spent a great deal of money to get to their destination.

So the question comes to my mind…

WHY WOULD THEY BOTHER?

Why did they go to find the Christ Child?

Astrologers just following a strange star?

Men who were educated in the Hebrew                                                               history and prophecies?

Curious?

They were Gentiles – why would they                                                                           care about a King of the Jews?

Well, they were Magi FROM THE EAST.

A few hundred years before this,                                                                                   there had been Jews who’d been taken   captive and forced   to live in a land in the      East.        A place called Babylon.

How many of you remember the story about                                                  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

How, about the story about Daniel and the Lion’s Den?

They lived most of their lives in Babylon…

IN THAT NATION IN THE EAST.

I’ve read that there is a possibility that the Magi                                                  may have been the descendants of those Jews in captivity, and that they had      become students of the prophecies                                                         of the Old Testament…                                                                                                   and of the Prophet Daniel.

That one prophecy could easily have led                                                                these Magi to look for a star that would lead them to find the ONE destined to hold the scepter of Israel.                                                                              The King of the Jews.

Whether Gentile or Jew –

These Magi were not INVITED by                                                                             an angel, like the shepherds were invited.

Their presence was not requested…

Here we see a parallel of how

Jews = chosen

Gentiles = Want to be part –                                                                                             and eventually are welcomed                                                                                            into the fold….

But they felt compelled… to seek out the                                                              child that had been prophesied.

ALSO – IN OTHER WORDS….

As positive Gentile characters in the Gospel narrative,

the magi tell us much about the evangelist’s views about the Gentiles and his universalistic perspective.

Many scholars make the general point that the magi who pay homage to the new-born Jewish messiah                                                                          represent the Gentile world; \

they therefore foreshadow the Gentiles who believe in Jesus in the time of the evangelist.

These are some of the reasons I believe the nativity  –                          crèche displays show the MAGI alongside the shepherds,                        angels and animals –

It provides a visual message that the Christ Child has come for                    ALL people, all creatures, all creation.