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Unexpected Guests


Even though I grew up in an unchurched home, our family had a small nativity scene that we put on display each Christmas. I was fascinated by the story of Christ’s birth and especially intrigued by the Magi. I spent hours under our Christmas tree looking at the nativity scene imagining their visit.

The Magi’s arrival in Jerusalem was a surprise to one person in particular: Herod (v. 3). Herod was very disturbed, not just by the unexpected arrival of these foreign dignitaries, but by the news they brought: a child had been born who was destined to be the King of the Jews. They had learned of this by signs and had come to pay homage to Him (v. 2). They openly stated that they intended to worship the child. To learn of a new king was distressing enough to someone like Herod who was famous for jealously protecting his power, even to the point of executing members of his own family. But to hear Jesus spoken of as divine must have upped his concern.

A plan was set in action. Herod asked the chief priests and teachers of the law for the location of the Messiah’s birth. While he claimed to want to worship the child, he had ulterior motives. His subsequent actions showed that he had murder on his mind. God warned the magi to go home by a different route (v. 12).

Before their departure, they left behind precious gifts that were probably used by Joseph and Mary to fund their flight into Egypt out of Herod’s murderous reach (vv. 13–16). The arrival of the magi stirred the entire city of Jerusalem and led to the tragic death of many children in Bethlehem (v. 16).

>> The unexpected arrival of the Magi triggered the first fatal blows in a spiritual war that is still being waged today. If you know Christ, you are both a soldier and a target in that fight (2 Tim. 2:3–4). Although the battle rages, the war has already been won by Christ.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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