The Magi, The Messiah and Me – A Christmas Musing

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Which Jesus are You Expecting?

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a uniquely chosen people missed the time of their Messiah’s visitation.

“The arrival of the magi was quickly noised throughout Jerusalem. Their strange errand created an excitement among the people, which penetrated to the palace of King Herod.” (Desire of Ages, p. 68)

“Now pride and envy closed the door against the light. If the reports brought by the shepherds and the wise men were credited, they would place the priests and rabbis in a most unenviable position, disproving their claim to be the exponents of the truth of God. These learned teachers would not stoop to be instructed by those whom they termed heathen. It could not be, they said, that God had passed them by, to communicate with ignorant shepherds or uncircumcised Gentiles… They would not even go to Bethlehem to see whether these things were so. And they led the people to regard the interest in Jesus as a fanatical excitement. Here began the rejection of Christ by the priests and rabbis. From this point their pride and stubbornness grew into a settled hatred of the Saviour. While God was opening the door to the Gen- tiles, the Jewish leaders were closing the door to them- selves.” (Desire of Ages, p. 70)

Once again, it is that time of year when Christians all over the world stop to remember the birth of the Saviour. Having accepted Christ as not only the Saviour of the world, but also as their personal Saviour, Christians have come to see Christ as theirs. This is true, for as the old hymn goes, “As the branch is to the Vine, I am His and He is mine!” But Christ came as the Messiah to all mankind.

Two thousand years ago another family of believers existed in Israel, believing the Messiah uniquely theirs. They had the Scriptures, theologians, pastors and priests, and a future of prophetic fulfillment yet to be unfolded. Yet this great privilege of being God’s people did not produce a sense of humility in them. It did not lead them to search honestly for the coming Messiah. Rather, in pride, they fixed on themselves false expectations of a Messiah who would come on their terms, to provide what they had determined was their real need, namely deliverance from the harsh rule of the Romans. In a sense they created their own Messiah, and waited anxiously for him.

Amos 3:7 promises that God will not do anything without first letting his servants the prophets know. One might expect that 2000 years ago this would have referred to the Pharisees and scribes in Jerusalem, or the priests in its temple. It did not. Rather, it was to Gentile wise men known as the Magi, that God chose to open up his precious message. They marveled at the heavenly creation of God in the night sky, but turned to the revealed prophecies of Daniel and other Old Testament passages. They searched diligently, knowing that God’s promise was for a Messiah who would deliver the entire human family, Jew and Gentile alike.

They entered Israel led by a star, expecting to find everyone excited about the birth of the Saviour. Surely, they thought, these are the chosen people to whom the Scriptures were given, and they would have known these things long before we learned of them. But they found Jerusalem quiet and unexcited about anything. It was business as usual, and when they inquired, nobody, not even the priests, knew what they were talking about. They left disappointed, but the star appeared again, and led them to the baby Jesus, wrapped swaddling robes in the town of Bethlehem.

In our day, as we celebrate the birth of the Saviour, let us make sure we have not, like Israel of old, created our own false Messiah: a Jesus who only gives us gifts at Christmas and on our birthdays, who’s primary purpose is our prosperity here on earth, who is only useful when we are in trouble, who does not care about our sin. Let us not make for ourselves a Jesus who is not real, and is not coming again to this world, or whose coming will be secret, as if he feared anyone (Matthew 24:27, 2 Peter 3:10).

As Christians, we have been given a sure word of prophecy concerning the mission and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:19). Let us not loose our guard. He is coming back again soon, and He has told us exactly how. 2000 years ago His people were expecting Him to come with great pomp and fanfare, yet He came silently. Today a large section of His church is expecting Him to come silently, and yet He has declared that He will come with angelic shouts and trumpet sound (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16)! Every eye will see Him, from New York to Kumasi!

So which Jesus are you expecting? The Jesus of Scripture comes to judge sin; the Jesus of philosophy comes to license every desire of the flesh. The Jesus of Scripture comes to save the world; the Jesus of society comes to keep us comfortable. The Jesus of Scripture comes to abide in the heart; the Jesus of cold, formal religion dwells only in books. As we remember His first coming, and look forward to His second, let us learn from the Magi, those wise men from the East, to search the Scriptures for ourselves, and be sure which Jesus is Coming, and whether we are prepared to meet Him. Let us not rely on the traditions of so-called learned people. If we seek Him honestly with all our hearts, like the Magi did, His promise is that we will surely find Him, for He will reveal Himself to us (Jeremiah 29:13). We will be His, and He will be ours!

God bless you!

 

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Agana-Nsiire Agana is a theologian, communicator and writer. His passion is for communicating eternal truth in a contemporary context which is influenced by postmodern, secular thought. The gospel, though unchanging, can and should be expressed in terms of the challenges, philosophy and language of the present day.