Or at least I was…until I was perhaps 2 years old, maybe before that, really. You were perfect as well. Everyone on Earth. We learn to be imperfect, it’s part of living on an imperfect Earth. Let’s look at the imperfection in relation to the visitation of the Magi.
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Today, January 6th, is the day of Epiphany in the Western Christian traditions (January 19th is Epiphany in the Eastern traditions and that will serve me well in another matter). Epiphany celebrates the Magi (wise men) seeking and finding Christ and witnessing his divinity. In a full reading of all the gospels, if we are to combine them all into a single cohesive story (which can be problematic), then this is actually the second witness to Christ’s divinity. The first witness we saw in Luke 2 where the shepherds came after a visitation by an angel. In Matthew we have the visitation of the wise men.
It is interesting to read about the wise men because of who they are. The word Magi in the original Greek is ma”goi, which can mean wise men, astrologers, magicians, or even sorcerers. So, after being visited by shepherds as the first witnesses, the second set of witnesses are certainly pagans/gentiles but on top of that would seem to be a group of turn of the millennium Miss Cleo’s. However, it would seem they got the birth and divinity of Christ correct. And just the same as we saw in Luke, these are not leaders, almost certainly not “kings” since we see in later verses how paranoid Herod was about a potential challenger to his throne, not priests or teachers, but they are non-YHWHist common folk.
These people claimed to have seen a star that they interpreted to mean the coming of a divine being; indeed it was such a coming. After consulting with the High Priests, Herod sent these Magi to Bethlehem to find the newborn King of the Jews. Herod of course told them to send word to him once they had found the King so that he could come worship Him (Christ). From what we see in early passages and also in later passages, Herod certainly did not want to come and worship Christ, but he wanted to come and likely kill the infant Christ. Of course, the Magi did find Christ and recognized his divinity, but decided to not report back to Herod after “being warned of God in a dream.” While not stated in the passage, it’s fairly safe to assume that the Magi were told by God that Herod intended to kill or otherwise harm the infant Jesus.
But what does all this mean to us?
Well, it’s that second set of witnesses to Christ’s divinity. That is substantial. It leaves little doubt based on the writings that Christ was divine. When we read in verse 4 the word “Christ” it is not talking specifically about Jesus Christ the person. It is a general term meaning Messiah or Anointed One and some of the newer Bible translations read as such. Not that this makes much difference, but Herod and the Priests did not know at that time they were looking for a specific person, just that generally the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem and the Magi had said that the savior had been born. Without the witness of divinity, then what is Jesus of Nazareth?
Without divinity, Jesus was simply another child born in Bethlehem. He then lived a life of modesty and did good things for a great many people before dying on a cross. I might say there have been many people who fit that general description. After all, crucifixion was a fairly common punishment in ancient times. But because of the divinity of Jesus as witness by the shepherds and then by the Magi, his life was much more. It was the life we have as an example to follow. His life then becomes the sacrifice that makes up for all of our sins and allows us be find our way into the Kingdom of Heaven. Without that sacrifice, there is not much we can do.
We must take this witness of divinity to heart. As I have written before, we must internalize that divinity and example of Christ and put it to work. We must take this witness of the true and pure divinity of Christ and go out and make ourselves as divine as possible so that people can witness the divinity that is within us all. This way we can show people around us what Jesus Christ was sent here to teach all of us. Jesus Christ came to give the example that leads us back to God the Father in Heaven. We have to make the change in order to get there. We need to be the example for those folks we see on a daily basis who might be looking for a church or just generally looking for something better.
This past weekend in Sunday School a nice young man asked a question about whether we were created in God’s physical image or His “spiritual” image. We discussed this in class and we all felt like the final answer was both. Even though as people we all look a little bit different, some short, some tall, some slim, some a bit round, we all look basically the same. Physical image of God. But what about that “spiritual” image of God? How could be possibly be in the spiritual image of God (or Jesus Christ) when He is perfect? Because we’re born perfect. Little children do not know the difference between rich and poor, tall and short, different skin colors, different nationalities, or anything else. Of course little children know who their parents are, but they do not know the difference between people. We learn that. We learn to discriminate against others. We learn those differences and those imperfections. The message of Christ and the witness of his divinity are there to get us closer to that perfection. We must use this Feast of the Epiphany to be that fraction of divinity for all those around us to witness. That is the best thing we can do as Christians.