The visit of the Magi in Matthew 2 occurred after Jesus’ birth, but it points to the significance of God’s promise centuries earlier that he would one day dwell among his people and be Immanuel, God with us.
These Magi, or wise men, were likely royal counselors or other government officials, according to commentaries I’ve read, possibly from the region of ancient Babylon. Yet they left their lives of privilege and those royal courts they served in and enjoyed.
These people left the royalty they knew and traveled far in search of a different kind of King, a King who stepped down from his own throne and traveled far in order to search for his people.
The Irony of Jesus’ Birth
Soon after Isaiah prophesied about the birth of the Messiah Immanuel, Jerusalem was conquered and its people carried off. The conquering king, Nebuchadnezzar, brought the defeated Israelites to Babylon, his capital city. With the drawing of the Magi to his cradle, God brought Babylon to Jerusalem. The reversals are striking:
- Babylon’s conquest of Jerusalem came at the tip of a sword, an act of God’s righteous judgment on his faithless people; the Son of God’s birth came in a manger in Bethlehem, an act of loving faithfulness fulfilling the promise God had made to his people.
- The Jews were exiled to the east and forced to serve a pagan king; the Magi made their way west in search of a King they willingly worshiped and adored.
- Nebuchadnezzar looted Jerusalem’s temple and royal palace, bringing their treasures to Babylon; the Magi brought treasures with them from the east to lay at the feet of the new-born King.
God’s graciously gave us himself. He chose to leave his heavenly throne to be with us: you, me, and every single one of his people in all times and for all eternity. Now that’s a King worth worshiping.