FINAL CHAPTER—CHAPTER TEN
To think of goodwill from God to the world is to think universally. I remember fondly from my old church in Portland, Oregon called Imago Dei (Image of God) how the slogan was “to take the whole gospel to the whole world”. That summed up much of what is intended in the brighter spots to Christian history when the message of Christ is rightly preached and lived.
But Christian history has a template for this in the gospel. As wonderful as it was for Peter to be the first person to preach the gospel post-resurrection it is not the first example touched by the presence of the Divine.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11).
These magi were spiritual seekers. They had some ideas before seeing the star of Bethlehem but it seems clear that they had humility going for them quite well. In conversion there is a time to be skeptical but eventually reason is complimented by faith. Sometimes the two combined create in the seeker as sense of wonder.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star—- It is simply because a sense of joy in that the star had taken them to the fulfillment of all their desire to see this great king. This fulfillment, like any true spiritual fulfillment, is in knowing God and his will.
on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother—- With the perspective we have now of semitic peoples for centuries leading up to that time we can apply what we know of the role of the queen mother. The recognition of hierarchy in the royal courts of those people had a place for the queen mother that was higher in distinction than the king’s wife. Joseph was not chopped liver but they knew that the infant was a fully endowed king and thus no figurative crown on his head. In other words, they knew the king line here was brand new. Mary, however is named because she would be the gaberah (Great Lady) as the queen mother would be known. Matthew had the proper theological hindsight to note it this way since he more than other gospel writers emphasized the jewishness of Jesus. That emphasis includes the biblical thread of Jesus being the “son of David”.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage— This is where discerning how Jesus is Lord turns into action. Seek him. Find him. Worship him. In prostrating they lay themselves down on the ground in vulnerability and surrender.
opened their treasures and offered him— Recall the words of Jesus where he said where your treasure is there is your heart also. This is their gateway action standing as example for devotion as they abandon that which supposedly matters for He who really does. Devotion is the heart of the gospel and it is the simplicity of devotion to Jesus that is at the heart of this most holy faith.
gifts of gold…frankinsense….myrrh—- St. Ireneus stated in Against Heresies that gold is a symbol of royalty, frankincense is in the latria (worship) of God and myrrh Jesus’ humanity. It is also noteworthy according the Ignatius Study Bible that myrrh was used to anoint levitical priests for service. In summary, this interpretation could point to those symbols of speaking of Jesus as God incarnate and as a prophet, and royal priest. In short, Jesus is to be our everything.
I began this commentary about bringing the whole gospel to the whole world. It is fitting to point out two things that we learn from this passage. If one were to take away one element of the three gifts of the magi you would have an incomplete example of the completeness in Jesus being Lord and Savior. No divinity means that his atonement has a limit to his priesthood and sacrifice would be of a finite being. No royalty means that Jesus cannot reign in our hearts much less the world. And if one were to take away Jesus’ humanity we would not be seeing a chance of adoption in Christ through the gospel. All of Jesus must be presented by his Church and it must be unwavering.
The second thing I would point out is how these Gentiles, led by a miracle, had the rays of truth in their hearts (faith and reason) to encounter Jesus the Son of David. The world comes and adores him. He is always the same and never changing and this carries into reaching us through those rays in our hearts that are built in to revived by him. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until we fine our rest in you” (Confessions, Book I). This is the portion where the Holy Spirit brings a proposition of the gospel to our hearts.
The invitation each day, each season is to give him our all as he gave his all in right ordered worship. And if we see him as distant, who moved? And if you see a star guiding you out of your comfort zone towards Jesus, even if it is that small voice in your heart, what is lost if you inquire with a moment of wonder? These are the questions worth the asking in all ages out of the wisdom of the ages: in the gospel.