The Magi: The Men From the Land of Sunrise

“Where is the Infant King of the Jews? … We saw His Star as it arose and we come to do Him homage” (Matthew2: 1-12)

In a very broad sense, the Magi were regarded as wise men gifted with wisdom and knowledge; they were astrologers and/or astronomers, with the ability to read the stars and celestial signs. Their interest in the stars could have led them to recognise the uniqueness of this exceptional star that appeared in the sky. But it is certainly something more that moved them to action. Perhaps they were familiar with Balaam’s “prophecy of the sun” in Numbers 24: 17: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel.” Pope Benedict in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, says that nothing could have prompted them to action “unless they were people of inner unrest, people of hope, people on the lookout for the true star of salvation.” There was something more than mere inquisitiveness and intellectual curiosity that compelled these first non-Jews, these first Gentiles to visit the Infant King and to pay homage. St. Bede the Venerable describes them as follows:

The Magi were the ones who gave gifts to the Lord. The first is said to have been Melchior, an old man with white hair and long beard … who offered gold to the Lord as king. The second,Gaspar by name, young and beardless and ruddy complexioned, … honoured Him as God by his gift of incense, an oblation worthy of divinity. The third, black-skinned heavily bearded named Balthazar, by his gift of myrrh testified to the Son of Man who was to die.”

These depictions of the Magi are every significant. That their ages cut across youth, adult and the aged signifies that the Infant King is not only born for and should be adored by all men of all ages; that their identity portrays the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa also signifies that He is the King of the world, who has come not only to save the Jews but all humanity. In Him, there are no longer Jews nor Gentiles, male or female, for all are one in Christ (Galatians 3: 28). The Infant King has come to break all barriers of nationality, race, ethnic, sex and language differences. By taking the nature of man He has bridged the gap that separated us all. He is the King of all and Saviour of the world. The Magi are a metaphor for those who encounter Jesus, know Him, love Him, follow Him and worship Him as Lord. They represent those who still seek the Truth in sincerity of heart. The action of the Magi convey a simple message to our world today that in Christ, true knowledge and real faith have a perfect convergence.

As Christians, we seek Jesus, who we claim to know? When we find Him, do we love Him? How far have we followed him? Do we worship and adore Him with our hearts and treasures? May all our knowledge lead us to Christ, our Saviour. Amen.