There and Back Again – A Tale of the Magi

The Magi Appear

The Magi are perhaps some of the most mysterious characters in the New Testament. The Scriptures never make it clear to the modern reader who they are. They just appear in Mathew Chapter Two and somewhat misguidedly in our nativity sets each Christmas. Some speculate they were great kings form the east, some magicians (thus the name Magi). Others believe them to be star gazing astrologers, and still others sages.

The Journey Begins

Whoever these men were, they apparently see a star and recall an ancient prophecy that we are not privy to. They load their camels and head west for Jerusalem to see the new King of the Judeans because that’s where the king lives.

When they arrive and are greeted by Herod I imagine he is a bit surprised. These foreign men have come to worship his young son, but there is no son. After the Magi explain the prophecy Herod is a bit agitated, and in his paranoia calls on the priests and scribes to help identify the threat to his throne.

Bethlehem. That is where Micah prophesied the shepherd-ruler, the Messiah would be born.

So Herod meets with the Magi and finds that the star first appeared some two years ago and sends them off to find the child with instructions to return to him so he too can go worship.

A Scene For The Ages

That must have been quite the scene. This poor family that has stayed in Bethlehem instead of returning to Nazareth. Perhaps Joseph had found good work as a tekton, a builder. Perhaps they had sold the donkey and didn’t have funds to return. Whatever the reason, they are have settled into the Bethlehem community when the Magi show up with extravagant gifts and to worship this two year old boy. Gifts that would eventually fund the families escape and lives in Egypt.

Back Again

But after worshiping the new Messiah-King the Magi do not return to Herod. Instead, having been warned in a dream (there seem to be several of these dream warnings in this chapter, perhaps something to explore in another post) they leave for home via another route.

That’s All We Know

And that is the story of the Magi – that is all we know. They see a star, recall a prophecy and set out for a many months journey to find the Messiah-King of Judea. We have no insight into what they talked about on this journey, though I can imagine the discussion on the way home was quite different than on the way there. But we do know that the family fled for the safety of their young son to Egypt. And how amazing that this poor family now had gold, frankincense and myrrh, brought from strangers far away, to provide the financial resources needed for that journey.

God sure has strange and elaborate ways for providing for his kids, doesn’t He.


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