Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Three Wise Guys

In church this Sunday Pastor Lovejoy used a term I've heard in the past to describe the three eastern visitors to the Nativity. He was actually talking about the lack of representation that shepherds get in the nativity of the Good Shepherd Himself, they're rarely shown, meanwhile the "Three Wise Guys" get all the good press. 

Pastor Lovejoy has a good point, the angels announced Jesus' birth first to the shepherds who first visited Jesus, Mary, & Joseph, while the Three Wise Guys showed up who knows how much later. Every nativity scene shows one maybe two shepherds, and they were notified first! But the Three Wise Guys always get the grand entrance. Being from New York, the term "wise guys" might have a different connotation to me than west coast born and bred Pastor Lovejoy.
"Hey Joseph, nice manger you got here. Be a shame should sometin happin to it, ya know?"

Kind of a 'Guys and Dolls' nativity scene played by Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Morgan Freeman happening in my mind, well, at least that's MY impression of how The Three Wise Guys would announce their visitation. But what do we really know about these three kings... wise men... wise guys... 

First of all, there's really nothing in the Bible that says they're kings, and wise is too broad a term when talking about them. We do know that they're scholars. In Matthew 2:2 they're called magi, a word that comes from the original "magoi" which was a religious/scholarly sect that specialized in astronomy, astrology, and natural science. There were plenty of wise men all over southwest Asia, the magi were a specific group of wise men. The King James version translates this into wise men using the same word that was applied to the wise men led by Daniel. If these magi were descendants of the magicians led by Daniel then they were aware of messianic prophesy and were looking for the arrival of the Messiah. Considering Daniels 490 year prophesy found in Daniel 9:24-27 the magi would have a good idea when to start looking for the Messiah.

Tradition tells us their names are Gaspar, a Persian scholar, Melchior, an Indian scholar, and Balthasar an Arabian scholar. These names come to us from a Greek manuscript composed around 500 AD, and translated into Latin with the name Excerpta Latina Barbari. The Bible itself doesn't number the visitors, just the gifts, but since the plural is used, all we can be sure of is that there was more than one magi. The tradition that the visitors were kings may have come from Psalm 72:
8 May he also rule from sea to sea And from the River to the ends of the earth. 9 Let the nomads of the desert bow before him, And his enemies lick the dust. 10 Let the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. 11 And let all kings bow down before him, All nations serve him. (Psalm 72:8-11)

When did the visitors set out from their homes, when did they arrive? We don't know, all we know is that they arrived in Jerusalem after Jesus was born
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “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.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
When the magi first set out for Jerusalem is anyone's guess, as is their point of origin. Did they start out from their individual homes or were they together, like in a university, when they got the call? Did they get their notice from God to set out on their journey before Jesus birth? During? After? This notice from God, the Star, was it an actual star? A celestial event (like planetary allignment)? Or something more? 

The star is mentioned twice, in Matthew 2:2 and in Matthew 2:9. The first time they saw the star "...we saw His star in the east..." The ESV version puts it differently: "...we saw His star when it rose..." either way you'll notice they call it  "His star" The magi knew a relationship existed between Jesus and the star. The bible never mentioned Jesus having a relationship with a burning ball of gas, but He did have relationships with angels 
Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. (Matthew 4:11)
Could it be that the star they saw from the East was the angels heralding the birth of Christ to the shepherds? I've mentioned before that the bible does at times make connections between stars and angels and it seems to be the case here. The magi saw Jesus' star rising over Israel and they immediately traveled to the capitol, Jerusalem where they spoke with King Herrod who himself was familiar with Micah 5:2 and was wondering if the Messiah had been born about the time of the Star that the magi saw, so Herrod gave the magi the go-ahead to seek out the child they were looking for, no problem. Just let me know where you find him so I can come worship him too wink wink nudge nudge. 

The magi headed out from Jerusalem and again the Star appeared, but instead of popping up in the distance this time the star led them, it actually moved in front of them like the pillar of smoke and fire led the Hebrews out of Egypt, this star moved ahead of the magi to where Jesus was found.
After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way(Matthew 2:9-12)
I agree with Pastor Lovejoy that it was probably about two years after Jesus' birth that the magi finally caught up with Him and worshiped Him up close and personal. And the star - was it an angel? I can't wait to meet the magi and find out.

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