Christmas–8. The Magi

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 12 日 in Christmas

The Magi

  1. On the same night the shepherds in the fields aroung Bethlehem were visited by the angelic host, a bright star appeared in the eastern sky. It rose majestically over the tirm of the world and was seen by many, and marked by few. Three of the men who studied it were Gaspar, melchior and Balthasar. These were wise men, scholars who were referred to as the Magi and who were known in Persia as philosophers, scientists, astrologists and followers of Zoroastrianism, a creed which fought the worship of graven idols and believed there was but one God for all men. The Magi were excited about the star. It had two phases of interest for them. One was the physical—where did this star come from and why had it not appeared in the night sky before? The other was the symbolic: what message was the star trying to convey? The three wise men pondered these things and could come to no agreement on the first premise.

  1. One argued that it was not really a star, but a rare conjunction of two or more stars. This could not be so, a second said, because if it were, their paths, having converged, wuold soon part and they would be seen as separate stars. A third said that the star was really an unknown comet, appearing brilliantly in the eastern sky, and doomed quickly to pass from view. Whether it was several stars, or planets, in conjunction, or whether it was a fiery body without a visible tail, the star had special meaning. They were sure of this. They consulted some of the old astrological predictions, and found nothing that would fit the situation. They tried some of the old Greek and Persian tracts, but found nothing which might apply. It wasn’t until they went over the ancient Jewish scriptures that the wise men saw the true meaning of the big star. There was an old prophecy by Balaam which said: “I shall see him, but not now. I shall behold him, but not near. A star shall rise out of Jacob and a scepter shall spring from Israel.”

  1. The star then would mean that a savior of the Jews had been born. Oh no, said Balthasar, more than the Jews because Balaam, the prophet who uttered the words near the end of the forty years’ wandering, was not a Jew. He was gentile. In fact, the words, according to scripture, had been said in the Mountains of moab, on the edge of Persia—outside of Israel. If so, said Gaspar, then the fact that the star had been seen by Persians, and properly interpreted by them, would have exciting meaning for the entire world. At once, the three wise men determined to follow the star. If the protent was correct, and this star foretold the king of the Jews, then it was important to the Magi to see the king, to pay homage, and to bring gifts. The trip occupied several days. On the last night, the big star, as its zenith, seemed to be almost overhead. In the early evening, the three august personages went to Solomon’s temple and stood, as was required, in the outer Court of the Gentiles. They addressed one of the seven thousand Levitical priests, and asked: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? It was his star we saw in the East, and we came to offer homage to him.”

  1. The Magi appeared to be happy and expectant, but the Levitical priest did not share their joy. He summoned a ranking member of the Sanhedrin. The high priest asked questions, frowned, and said that he knew nothing of such a sign. However, as a mark of respect to the rich visitors, he detailed the beliefs of the Jews about the messiah, one of which mentioned the town of David: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, Are not the least of Judea’s principalities; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler,Who will shepherd my people Israel. This, said the wise men, would appear to be the most promising clue because, as they approached Jerusalem, the star was close overhead. Bethlehem, five miles south of the holy city, would be a good place to go. The high priest reported to the palace of King Herod and relayed the news. The sovereign was insane and he had been dying of a wasting disease for a year. Herod listened to the news on a couch and odered the high priest to summon the Magi. Herod asked many questions. He appeared to have an academic interest in the new king—if there was a new king—and he hoped that if the Persian philosophers found the baby, they would do him the courtesy of informing him, so that the king could offer his own tribute to the new majesty.

  1. The three wise men exchanged gifts with Herod and left. At once, the mad king called in the council of the nation—the high priests and the scribes—and he demanded that they interpret the symbolism of the new star, and do something about it at once. He assured them that if, for example, the star was over Bethlehem and some unknown infant was there, the stupid people of the streets would spread the news all over Judea and would spread the news all over Judea and would desert the temple and, worst of all, their lawful king, in favor of a squalling, whimpering infant. Some of the high priests favored sending spies to follow the Magi, but Herod was opposed to this. No, he said, I have asked them as a courtesy to return to me with whatever news they may have. I will deal with that situation later. Spread the news among the faithful that, when the messiah comes, he will come fully grown, on a cloud, attended by legions of trumpeting angels, and he will come directly to the earthly home of his Father—the temple. No one smiled, but some of the priests must have been tempted.

  1. While the Magi were making their questing journey for their homeland, Joseph, on the eighth day, had taken the infant to the synagogue in Bethlehem for circumcision. The rabbit asked the name to be given the baby and Joseph said Jeshua. It means “God is Savior” and “God Saves.” Christ is not a surname. It is a Greek version of the Hebrew “Mashiah” or “Messiah”—the Anointed. In his public ministry, the Savior was properly referred to as “Jesus, the Christ.” The ancient prophet Isaias had predicted that the name of the son of God would be Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” He also said that the messiah would be called the Prince of Peace, God the Mighty, Wonderful, Counselor and Father of the World to Come. The only name in which all of these meanins are embraced is Jeshua, or Jesus.

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