Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We three Kings on Bethlehem's Plain... (Otherwise entitled: And now for something completely different)

We've all seen the scene...  Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, angels, shepherds, Magi.  Sometimes it's made of plastic, sometimes it's wooden.  Sometimes it's Lego and has cameos by Anakin Skywalker and a Geonosian warrior.

Last night, the church ladies had a rousing discussion about the nativity story. I brought the discussion to the kids this morning, and now I sit down to bring it to you.

The subject: The events surrounding Jesus's birth.

The question: “Where did the Magi visit Jesus?”

Most people know by now that we have no idea if there were three Magi or eight or two. We also know that the Magi were not actually included in the biblical picture of the manger scene, the one with a feeding trough and amazed shepherds.

But where do the Magi fit in? Where did they finally find Jesus?

We dissected Matthew 2 and Luke 2 to see what the time-line of events actually said. I was surprised to discover something new, despite many readings, over the last thirty-cough years, of these two accounts of Jesus's birth.

1. Day 1 - Jesus is born in Bethlehem - Matthew 2:1 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea...

2. Day 8 – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus go to Jerusalem for purification rites. - Luke 2:22 “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord...”

3. Day 33 to 41-ish – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus leave Jerusalem and go to Nazareth. - Luke 2:39 “When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.

(I'm not certain on the timing here, but it was within the second month. Mary had to stay for her own purification rites, according to the Law as found in Leviticus 12:1-4)

4. Anywhere from six months to two years later - The Magi arrive in to Jerusalem and enquire of Herod as to the whereabouts of the new king. - Matthew 2:1-3 “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

5. Herod enquires of his gurus, those who studied the Law and the Prophets, and determines that the king was born in Bethlehem. He tells the Magi to head that way and then come back. - Matthew 2:8, 9 “He sent them to Bethlehem... After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” It does NOT say that they went to Bethlehem, just that the teachers of the Law told Herod that prophecy said the child would be born there. The Magi, very wise men, indeed, followed the star, not Herod's advice.

 6. The Magi followed the star to “the house” where Jesus lived. - Matthew 2:10-11 “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Last that we heard, Jesus had moved to Nazareth. (See Point #3)

7. After the visit from the Magi, an angel warns Joseph of the danger to his son, and told him to flee to Egypt, which he did. Matthew 2:14 “So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.

8. Joseph is told he that can return to Israel and is warned to stay away from Archelaus, Herod's son, so he settles in Nazareth. Matthew 2:23 “...he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.

If I'm reading this correctly, the Magi left Jerusalem, maybe headed south because that's what Herod told them to do, and then, following the star, did an about-face and headed to Nazareth, where Jesus was living. What do you think? Am I missing something? Mis-reading the two accounts? Where did the Magi visit Jesus?

I'll tell you this:

Last night, the ladies and I decided that it didn't really matter where the Magi visited Jesus. He was born, the Magi went well out of their way to worship him, and we should do the same. That is the theme of the story of the Magi.


  1. Beautifully written (as usual). I totally agree with all points above. Isn't it so refreshing to sit with your young ones & study the birth of our Loving Savior! Ah!

  2. Love this post....Yes we should go out of our way to find Jesus...a special game of hide and seek...pursuing this amazing gift from God, like wise men :)