Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Matthew 2 - We Will Find Him

Epiphany Treasure Chest Cake
LINK: Matthew 2


12. Visitors arrive from eastern lands: 2:1-12

Remember that Matthew was writing to an audience that would have known the Old Testament prophecies, you will find many quoted throughout the book. The prophecy of the birth in Bethlehem in Micah 5:2 is quoted in this section. Bethlehem was 5 miles south of Jerusalem. Contrary to popular lore, the visit from the Magi did not occur at the birth of Christ because Mary and Joseph were in a house (2:11) and Jesus was now called a child (2:9, 11) rather than a newborn infant (2:12) in the original Greek.  

Who were the Magi?
The term is used in Herodotus (1. 101, 132) of a tribe of the Medes who had a priestly function in the Persian Empire; in other classical writers it is synonymous with priest. Complementing this, Daniel (1:202:275:15) applies the word to a class of ‘wise men’ or astrologers who interpret dreams and messages of the gods.  
Both Daniel and Herodotus may contribute to the understanding of the Magi of Matthew 2:1-12. Apparently the Magi were non-Jewish religious astrologers who, from astronomical observations, inferred the birth of a great Jewish king. After inquiring of Jewish authorities, they came to Bethlehem to do homage. Whether ‘the East’ from which they came is Arabia, Babylon or elsewhere is uncertain. . . 
For Matthew the Magi’s visit represents the Messiah’s relationship to the Gentile world and is also a fitting introduction to other prophetically significant events of Christ’s infancy. The story is in keeping with the ‘royal’ Messianic expectations of the Jews and with the character of Herod.  
Later Christian traditions regard the Magi as kings (because of Ps. 72:10Is. 49:760:3?) and number them at three (because of the gifts) or twelve. In the Christian calendar Epiphany, originally associated with Christ’s baptism, reflects the importance of the Magi’s visit for later Christendom.
Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996). New Bible dictionary (3rd ed.) (713). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
January 6 is EPIPHANY.  It is the REAL 12th Day of Christmas. Another name for this day is KINGS DAY! Much of Europe gives gifts on this day rather than December 25th. Here is a picture from 2007 of our Epiphany cake with the three purple candles to represent the three magi:



13. Escape to Egypt: 2:13-18

The wise men were warned by God not to return to tell Herod they had found the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:12), and an angel told Joseph to take the Child and flee to Egypt. The Greek word for "child" here indicates he was not an infant at this time because this is a different word from the word used in the birth account. We know that he was under two from 2:16. 

Giotto-innocents
The en:Massacre of the Innocents by en:Giotto. 1304-1306.
 en:Frescoen:Capella degli Scrovegnien:Paduaen:Italy. 
The "Massacre of the Innocents" as depicted by the painting (sorry if it is too graphic) is not recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus (A.D. 37 - c.100), but we do know that Herod put several of his children and some of his wives to death.  In fact:
"Emperor Augustus reportedly said it was better to be Herod’s sow than his son, for his sow had a better chance of surviving in a Jewish community. In the Greek language, as in English, there is only one letter difference between the words 'sow' (huos) and 'son' (huios)" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary).
What a cruel Jew! Herod was born about 73 B.C. and reigned in Judah as "king of the Jews" from 40-4 B.C. 

God's intervention saved this Savior from Herod's jealousy! Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1 and Jeremiah 31:5 as Old Testament prophecies of Jesus because his audience is the Jews. 

14. Return to Nazareth: 2:19-23

Herod died in 4 B.C. so an angel appeared to Joseph and told him to go back to the land of Israel. Herod's son, Archelaus ("Herod the Ethanarch"), ruled Judea, Samaria, and Indumea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 6. He had the worst reputation of all the sons and was known for his tyranny (some thought he was insane due to family intermarriages). The region of Galilee that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus went to was ruled by "Herod the tetrarch" or Antipas (Matthew 14:1; Luke 23:7-12) who was a much saner ruler than his brother, but we will see that he was not necessarily a nice guy. 

There is no specific prophecy that says "He will be a Nazarene," but many scholars believe that Matthew is referring to Isaiah 11:1 because the Hebrew word for "branch"(neá¹£eris similar to the consonants in Nazarene. 

Nazareth was in a hilly area of southern Galilee near the crossroads of the great caravan routes; connecting this small town with people from all over the world. The Roman garrison was also housed there. The people of Nazareth were known for their independence. Consequently, many Jews despised them (we will soon learn what Nathanael thought of Nazarenes in John 1:46). 

REFLECTION 

This chapter from The Promise by Michael Card has gone through my head all day:
Melchior sat brooding in his chamber, impatiently turning the yellowed parchment leaves of one of his obscure and valuable manuscripts. He was one of the chief magi of the Persian king. His reputation for wisdom and scholarship were well deserved, his grasp of the literature of all the world's religions was vast.

According to the laws of Persia, he had to be present at sacred functions to utter cryptic and sacred words known only to the elder and elite of his august group. Young "searchers" would come to him to seek out the deepest and most esoteric truths.

Melchior was a wise man. And yet . . .

As he slowly looked up, the parchment slipped from his long fingers and fell in a heap on the stone floor.

His servant, Aziel, spoke up, "Master, need I remind you to take care with the parchments?"

Melchior was silent.

Aziel collected the parchment leaves from the floor and returned them to their proper place on one of the long shelves that lined three walls of the room. Behind his heavy-lidded eyes Melchior was deep within himself, pacing up and down as it were. Searching. Wondering. The tormented habit of a lifetime. He was startled by a soft knocking on the door.

From outside, a youthful voice called, "Master Melchior, are you receiving visitors?"

"Come," he replied.

Into the room slipped a tall young man dressed in a turban and the long-flowing robes of the son of a vizier [a high-ranking political (and sometimes religious) advisor].

"Would it be better if I came back tomorrow?" the young man asked respectfully.

"No, Caspar. Come in," Melchior replied, his impatience hidden beneath a tired, conciliatory tone. "What would you like to discuss today" Zoroastrian doctrine perhaps? Astrology?"

"There is but one question on my mind today, Master. Tell me -- in your own heart, from your own experience -- what is wisdom?"

Studying the old master's face, Caspar went on. "I have seen that wisdom is not the same as knowledge. I know simple men who are wise and knowledgeable men who are fools. The one thing I do know about wisdom -- the only thing I know -- is that I desire it above all else. Beyond riches. Even beyond the love of a woman. And yet I don't really know what it is I desire, or why this desire consumes me the way it does."

Melchior was lost in reverie again. The young man's question had sent him on another journey inside himself. Caspar knew to wait in silence, for the old man was a long time in answering.

When he spoke again, Melchior's voice seems weaker, "Your question comes as an answer to me, young one." He was whispering, as much to himself as to Caspar. "Your dilemma has given me a key to unlock my own prison. All my life I have sought wisdom. I have pondered the material world and the stars. I have observed mankind and sought to follow the twists and turns of his mind. Today, as I approach four-score, I realized that all my study has taught me that I know nothing. I have done nothing. Like you, all I am left with is the hunger."

Caspar was dazed. "Then what shall we do with our burden, this intolerable hunger for wisdom?"

"What can we do but wait?" Melchior responded. "We will pray to God -- if a god exists, or if he listens or even cares."

Yet the tone of the old man's voice held little hope. And there was a heavy resignation in it which hinted to Caspar that they might never find their hearts' desire.

"Go, you have nothing more to learn from me," said Melchior sadly. "Come back if you find some answer. And I will come to you if I find one."

Caspar stepped out into the night. He looked up into the night. He looked up into a black sky, so much like the way he was feeling inside. Not a single star out tonight, he thought woefully.

The star first appeared, high in the western sky, four months later. It hung there next to Jupiter, the wandering star of the kind, in a constellation the magi called "the house of the Hebrews." Caspar ran, out of breath, straight to the house of Melchior.

Entering, he stared, dumbfounded. The furnishings, as well as the hundreds of manuscripts were gone. He wondered if Melchior had fallen out of favor with the king. There in the main study he found the magi at his window, gazing up into the early evening sky. His eyes were transfixed on the star.

"What does it mean, master?" asked Caspar.

"It is Jacob's star," Melchior whispered. "The Jews have a prophecy, uttered by a disreputable member of our own society -- Balaam was his name. It seems he was summoned by the king. . ."

"Yes, yes, I know the story," Caspar interrupted, barely able to control impatience. "But what does it . . ."

"A star will rise out of Jacob, a scepter out of Israel." Melchior pronounced the words slowly.

"What does it mean!"

"It means that I have been an arrogant fool, young one. I have boasted all my life of being a seeker of truth -- I, always me. When I saw that star I knew in an instant what it meant." Melchior sounded so forlorn that Caspar feared the star's meaning was something evil.

"That star is an invitation. You see, Wisdom is seeking us. And He has sent that star as an invitation to come to Him, yes Him."

Then the old man's entire frame shuddered, as a tear glided haltingly down his cheek and was lost in his beard. "All my life He has been seeking me. He is the one who has given to me and to you our hunger for Him. And now this star is a precious gift. I have sold all that I have for the journey and for gold to offer when I meet Him. I believe He must be a great King. Tonight I leave. I shall probably never return, never see you again, Caspar."

Behind the old man's words there was an awareness of his great age and the length of the journey. Evidently, he had accepted the fact that he would most likely die before he could return home again. At the same time his face shone with a peace that had never been there before, as if he had already found all that he had been looking for -- his deepest longing already filled.

Caspar slipped up close behind him. He reached out and placed a hand on Melchior's boney shoulder, realizing that this was the first time they had ever touched. Together they stood before the open window gazing up intently at the star that was so bright it cast their shadows back onto the cool stone floor.

When it seemed that Melchior already knew what Caspar was going to say, the young man whispered, "Tonight, we leave."

(The Promise: a celebration of Christ's birth by Michael Card, p. 32-36)


APPLICATION

"'That star is an invitation. You see, Wisdom is seeking us. 
And He has sent that star as an invitation to come to Him, yes Him.'"

APPLICATION

"'That star is an invitation. You see, Wisdom is seeking us. 
And He has sent that star as an invitation to come to Him, yes Him.'"

If you are reading this according to the schedule, I hope you have time to enjoy an Epiphany Celebration today. Bake a "Treasure Chest Cake" and light three candles in honor of the Magi (purple for royalty although we do not think they were kings). Read Matthew 2:1-11 and sing this verse of the song "What Child is This?”

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him:
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing,
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the Son of Mary.  

Then sing "We Three Kings" and talk about gifts you can bring to the King!

PRAYER

I pray the prayer below will be your prayer for the New Year!

Lord, we would be seekers of You. We would be the ones who embrace Your Wisdom. but it is You who have sought and found us. It is Your Wisdom that has embraced us. It is You who begin and finish it all. It is only You. 
"All who seek me find me," Your Word says. But are we not seekers because it is You who have first loved us? 

Then seek us, O Lord, until we are completely found. And draw us close with Your love until we find You forever. (The Promise, p. 37)