Jul 20, 2009, 8:14 AM
The first event recorded by Matthew after the birth of Jesus
is the visit of the Magi. Later tradition would call them kings and give them
names. The Gospel simply describes them as Magi from the East. This term was
applied to both scientists and charlatans, but here it implies the best of
Gentiles learning. Their question to King Herod, "Where is the King of the
Jews?" was a dangerous one, since many, including his own sons, had lost their
lives because he suspected them of wanting to be king in his place. King is a
significant title for Jesus in Matthew. At his crucifixion, Romans (27:37)
called him king in mockery by the Jewish leaders (27:42) and in irony. It was
the humble king of Zechariah (9:9) that he entered
These Gentile Magi came to
Matthew expects his reader to recognise in his story the fulfilment of the Scriptures. Their gifts recall the gifts of Isaiah 60 and Psalm 71 (72). The fact that kings, helped to change the Magi from wise men to brought the gifts in the Psalm kings in popular tradition. The star that brought them to Jerusalem, may be linked with the unusual astronomical activity of 7BC but it reminds the reader of the prophecy of Balaam who saw a Star coming out of Jacob (Nm. 24:17.)This text was understood as a messianic prophecy. The joy these women at His resurrection (28:8.) It is the only joy mentioned in this infancy story. Finally, they worshipped the child, when they saw him with Mary his mother. Her appearance is a delicate reminder of Mary's part in the history of salvation.
Myrrh: Among ancient peoples used to prepare the dead for burial with this. We can see how women brought myrrh at Jesus' tomb. Because of the relationship of myrrh to death, it is an ideal symbol of human vulnerability. It is therefore symbolic of the humanity of Jesus. It speaks to us of Jesus' human vulnerability. Like us, he experienced the whole range of human emotions joy, sorrow, fear, frustration, and loneliness. He was like us in everything but sin.
This brings us to Frankincense
Ancient peoples used incense in their religious worship. The aroma and smoke, spiralling upward to heaven, spoke to them of gods and divinity. The gift of incense, therefore, is symbolic of the divinity of Jesus. It tells us, in Paul's words to the Philippians; "Jesus always had the nature of God, but he... Became like man and appeared in human likeness.
Finally, there is Gold:
Among ancient peoples, gold was regarded as the king of metals. It was, therefore, the ideal gift for a king. A king was, above all, a leader. The ideal king led by love. He undertook noble cause for his people. He inspired others to join him in his causes. Jesus was such a king. He led by love. He undertook the noble cause of establishing God's kingdom on earth. And he inspired others to join Him in His work. And this brings us to the practical message of the Feast of the Epiphany.
In many nations today, the Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated with greater solemnity than Christmas. This is because it celebrates the special manifestation of Jesus to the Jews, so Epiphany celebrates his special manifestation to the Gentiles. It is, therefore, the "feast of the nations."
What was begun by Jesus entered history and continued in our time. If Jesus is to be made known to all nations, it must be through our efforts. We must carry to the nations of the world the "Good News" that Jesus, the Son of God, took flesh and lived among us.
We must tell them that Jesus entered history not just for the Jews of his time but for all nations of all time. Jesus came to set up God's kingdom on earth. He came to set up a new world, one in which there would be no more grief, no more pain, no more sorrow-one in which the needy man and the needy woman would find loving friends, where before they found only cold strangers.
This is the "Good News" that we must carry into the world. This is the practical message of the Feast of the Epiphany. It is a message that calls each of us to action.
The reflective monthly meditation booklet entitled ABIDE IN MY WORD is available in large quantity at the Star of the Sea Church Bakau. Contact Mrs. Theresa Kanjia on 9808144 or 7065033 better still 6901194. It's cheap but very interesting!