Why Did The Magi Bow?

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him’” (Mt. 2: 1-2).

Why is the visit from the magi even included in the Gospel account? And why were they so enthusiastic? After all, magi not only represent a pagan occupation, but worship pagan gods. Perhaps the answer lies in the history of their profession. Somehow in their foggy vigilance, they were told of the significance of this King and somehow knew to look for a sign.

Every profession has a hero, be it the pioneer or a pivotal personality within it. The magi would be no different. All theologians have their Luther, all doctors have their Hippocrates, all philosophers have their Aristotle, writers their Shakespeare, engineers their Edison, even ballplayers their Babe Ruth. The mystery of the magi’s devotion to Jesus and why it is essential to the gospel may be found in the hero of the magi caste–Daniel.

500 years prior to the magi’s arrival in Jerusalem, Daniel saved the lives of everyone in the magi profession. King Nebuchadnezzar decreed to have them all killed for failure to tell him both his dream and its meaning. Finding out about the King’s kill order, Daniel convinced the king’s guard to wait saying, “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:24b) until he could tell the king his dream and its meaning. God gave Daniel the ability to do just that, resulting not only in saving the lives of all the wise men, but also in causing the king to install Daniel as “Chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48b). Daniel became the champion of the magi.

Everyone ponders the details of their hero’s life, the particulars that made him their champion, characteristics to emulate, circumstances to inspire, facts to focus one’s own performance. Facts like, how did Daniel find out about the king’s dream? And what did the dream mean? This dream, the source of their death sentence, must have become a well of wisdom for these magi. God, through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, revealed the future (Dan. 2:28b). The dream showed the progression of the kingdoms of man through time, all ultimately being destroyed by the Kingdom of God, a stone cut without hands that crushed all other kingdoms (Dan. 2:45a). “In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed…it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever” (Dan. 2:44).

Jesus being born of a virgin, “cut out without hands” (Dan. 2:34) is, according to Gabriel’s words to Mary, “the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David [“born King of the Jews” (Mat. 2:2)]; and His kingdom will have no end” (Lk. 1:32-33). If the magi studied the circumstances of Daniel at all they would have known that the coming of Jesus spelled the end of the rule of man, the dawn of a new era. Jesus is the “Sunrise from on high” (Lk. 1:78b). As Nebuchadnezzar confessed after hearing the interpretation of his dream from Daniel, “Surely your God is…a Lord of kings” (Dan. 2:47). Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16).

“But the stone [Jesus] that struck the statue [kingdoms of man] became a great mountain [the kingdom of God] and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35c). May God’s kingdom on earth continue to expand, filling the whole earth, working through His people in places like CompassCare “to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (Lk. 1:79a). Christmas reminds us of the hope that drives CompassCare… that God’s rule will win, that injustice like abortion will be done away, that a woman will no longer feel like she must choose between her life or her baby’s, that the future is pro-life, and that the light of His kingdom is growing through the sacrifice of His people on behalf of those living in despair and darkness.

When a woman faces the signs of an unplanned pregnancy, her long decision-making journey is driven by thoughts of an unknown child and an uncertain future. But the details of whatever life-road we travel should all end the same as that of the magi, falling to the ground in worship of Jesus as Lord (Mt. 2:11).

Merry Christmas, for “unto us a Child is born.”

In Christ,

Rev. James R. Harden, M.Div.

P.S. Give a child the greatest gift of all this Christmas… a birthday.

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Hollie’s boyfriend was there for the ultrasound and seemed embarrassed as he watched the 8-week-old baby on the screen. He left the exam room after the ultrasound. Read more.

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