You’ve seen the Christmas cards. Three wise men. On camels. Following a star. Balthasar, Caspar, and Melchior — three kings of orient according to western tradition. So we build nativity scenes with a manger and kings and camels and shepherds and sheep and the donkey that carried the very pregnant Mary. There probably weren’t three wise men: their caravan would have been larger for safety’s sake. The Bible doesn’t say they rode camels either. We made up the bit about the donkey too.
And they weren’t “wise men.” Magi were originally a class of Persian priests who practiced astrology and other magic arts. In Daniel 2 (LXX) they’re bundled with enchanters and sorcerers as advisors to the king of Babylon. In Acts 13:6-8, a Cypriot ruler had a magos advising him, and Paul despised him. The word usually has negative connotations in Jewish literature—a trickster/deceiver. Matthew hints at that when he says that Herod was “tricked” by the magi (2:16). Continue reading “How did the magi find Jesus? (Matthew 2:1-12)”
Mary, Joseph, wise men, shepherds, and perhaps angels. Ask people to name the key players in the Christmas story, and that’s probably what you’ll get. There’s someone else who doesn’t make our Christmas lists. That’s because we don’t read the Bible as a kingdom story. Continue reading “King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-10)”
How do you understand Immanuel? Matthew explains it means, God with us.
What does that mean to you? A warm and fuzzy feeling that you’re not alone? A comfort? Assurance of safety? Yes, God’s presence does make a huge difference to us individually, but there’s so much more than that going on in Matthew’s story. In fact, what Matthew has in mind is pretty close to the core of the Bible’s whole story. Continue reading “Our king among us (Matthew 1:22-23)”
Matthew 1:22-23 (my translation) 22 This whole thing has come about to fulfil the word of the Lord through the prophet, 23 “See, the virgin will conceive and bear a son and they will call him Immanuel” which translates as “God-with-us.”
The New Testament is not a stand-alone story. It’s the surprising plot twist that resolves the old kingdom struggle in a new way.
We’ve spent six months reading the first book of the Bible, showing the kingdom of God is the theme that binds the story together. We’ve seen why Jesus thought God-as-king was the central plot line. So I’ve been bursting to bring that understanding of the kingdom over from the OT into the New. Today we’re starting with Matthew’s account of the Gospel. Continue reading “Matthew’s main message”