International Sunday School Lesson for December 24, 2017
To express faith as adoration, generosity, and the seeking of divine presence
Matthew 2:1-12 (CEB)
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:
6 You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah, because from you will come one who governs, who will shepherd my people Israel.”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.
They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
Today we are studying a Scripture we typically read around Christmas time, although it might be more suited for Epiphany than Advent. However, since Advent is not only a time to remember the birth of the Christ Child but also to look forward to the coming of Christ into the world in final victory, we will study this with an eye toward what we can learn about that second coming as well as remembering the first.
As we look at our text, I will give you a little different take on the Magi, who they were and how they knew about the birth of the Messiah.
We know from the Book of Daniel that Daniel and the wise men of Babylon worked together, and they may have heard about the Messiah from that. We also know that long before the exile of into Babylon, this same area produced a wise man or seerer in the time of the Journey from Egypt to Canaan. You can read the entire store in the Book of Numbers chapters 22 - 25. The story is about Balaam and his talking donkey. In 24:17 It says, I see him, but not now; I look at him, but not nearby. A star comes from Jacob; a scepter arises from Israel, smashing Moab’s forehead, the head of all the Sethites.
In Daniel chapter 9:25-26, 25 “So you must know and gain wisdom about this: There will be seven weeks from the moment the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until a leader is anointed. And for sixty-two weeks the city will be rebuilt with a courtyard and a moat. But in difficult times, 26 after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one will be eliminated. No one will support him. The army of a future leader will destroy the city and the sanctuary. His end will come in a flood, but devastations will be decreed until the end of the war.” The Lord God reveals to David the death of the Messiah, from that they may have calculated the approximate time of the birth.
I think between the teaching of Daniel and the legend of Balaam, the wise men of Babylon were looking for this star as a sign for many many years.
The common myth is that the the Wise Men are always pictured at the manger, when they got to Jerusalem, where they presumed to find the King, the family had relocated into a house.
From Babylon to Jerusalem, it took Ezra 4 months to travel that distance. The Wise Men could have made it faster in a smaller caravan.
It is not hard to understand the concern of Herod, he was an appointed Governor/King by Rome, any trouble would be blamed on him.
That the Wise Men knew about Balaam and Daniel but did not know about Micah, the prophet that prophesied about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem, sort of makes the story more believable.
My hymn for this week is “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”