Learning True Worship from the Magi


Sermon by Wasihun Gutema, Pastoral Intern

Matthew 2: 1-12

The event in this Gospel of Matthew was recorded during the time of King Herod, who was the governor of Palestine under the Roman Empire.  Herod ruled Palestine from 37 BC – 4th C BC. Herod was called “King of the Jews,” and ruled ruthlessly.  He was a brutal leader. Church historians dated his death to the 4th C BC. The Magi arrived sometimes before his death. The Magi which are the center of this sermon were from the East.[1]

The term Magi (Magos or Magician) is a reference to a priestly caste in ancient Persia or Babylon.  The Magi were active in religious, scientific and diplomatic activities of their country of origin.  One can understand from this that the Magi were not illiterate people. They had profound education during that time even though we do not have any clue of their educational status.  The Magi were looking for the “king of the Jews.”  Here one can understand that Herod was the “king of the Jews,” and that creates a serious conflict with the Magi who were looking for the “king of the Jews.”[2]

The Magi were not looking for Herod the governor of Palestine. They were not looking for Herod the militarized and well established. They were looking for a different “king of the Jews.” This by itself creates a conflict, for two kings cannot be the governor of a certain place. [3] How can we apply this into our lives? Do we have any king other than Christ?

The Magi were exposed to Jews traditions when the Jews were in exile. The Magi might have come from Babylon. They would have travelled about 900 miles to come to Bethlehem where the king was born.  [4]

The Magi’s account is only in Matthew and we are not quite sure how many they were except some ungrounded notions that they were three based on the number of gifts they offered (Three gifts; gold, incense, and Myrrh). The Magi’s account here in Matthew teaches us the following:

  1. Their journey was a long journey and we are not quite sure what kind of transportation they could have used. Yet we are pretty sure they did not use a car nor a plane since cars and planes were made after 1800s.
  2. They were not touring people. They were not foreign travelers to explore new things.
  3. They saw the star several months before their arrival in Bethlehem. They did not arrive the night Jesus was born as some argue. They probably arrive when Jesus was about two years old baby.
  4. They followed the star. They were in the East at that time and the star has directed them to the West which was Palestine.
  5. Their goal was to find Jesus which was the final star, the ending star and the star for far beyond the Jews kingship but a star for the salvation of the human race. They finally found the Star. Number 24: 17 states that “A star will come out of Jacob, a scepter will come out of Israel.” The Magi followed the Star and they ended up finding the culminating star in their lives. A Star far better than the star they were following.   As Christians let us be assured that there is no Star better than Christ.   What are we looking for today? What are we looking for in 2016? If we are looking for Christ, we will find him.  Christ is in our worship. Christ is in the bread and wine served here. Christ is in everything that we do.  The Magi did not find Christ only and closed the chapter. They worshipped Christ.

Mind you, they did not worship Mary nor did they worship Joseph. They found Jesus and worshipped Christ.  Matthew 2: 11 states that they bowed down and worshipped him.  The word used to describe worship here is a reference to veneration of deity.[5]  They venerated Jesus. They worshipped him.


Their worship was:

  1. A journey. They continued to walk. They did not stop their journey because of state paranoid from Herod. They did not stop their journey to look for Christ because of temple leaders’ animosity. They continued their journey to look for Christ and to worship. Worship is a journey that passes all obstacles because the Star that called us is far better than the obstacles we face. The Star that called us gives us the grace with which we walk. Our journey many be full of failures but it is not a matter of quitting.
  2. For the king. There are many kings in the world but one deserves worship; Jesus of Bethlehem. The Magi worshipped Jesus in the presence of the militarized, highly secured Herod and even well respected.  The Magi pointed to Christ that the unprotected Christ from human point of view deserves worship.  Christ was thus worshiped in the eyes of all the enemies.  The Magi after worshipping returned to their homeland with a detour form their 1st road through which they came. All these teach us that God is in control.  Is there anything that we suspect? Is there anything that we fear? God is in control. Herod may be looking to be worshipped. Mind you Herod was alien. He was not from the Jews linage.[6]  Any alien that is trying to take the throne of Christ in our lives has no place anymore.
  3. Full of impact. The worship of the Magi impacted the lives of the temple leaders. It impacted the life of Herod. Our worship has to impact all our surroundings. It has to impact our decisions.
  4. They did not allow anyone to do the worship for them. They came from a far distance. They came by faith and they did not stop because of Herod and temple leaders grievances.  They found Christ, rejoiced, bowed down and worshipped. They gave their gifts… their treasurers.
  5. A costly worship. Worship took their time, energy and money. As we worship Christ nothing is better than the Christ that we worship. Christ is above all that we have and everything that we have belongs to God. Do we worship God with our money this year? Do we continue giving? If we are not giving, then our worship is partial and may be abnormal.

Conclusion: This is the 1st Sunday of 2016 and the Lord is knocking on our door that he is central in our lives and the Lord is in control. The lord also is speaking to us that he alone is the King that deserves worship in all its enteritis.  May the Lord give us the power of faith to continue the journey of worship.

[1] Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Zondervan publishing house, 1996), 91-108. The whole paragraph is from this commentary.

[2] Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary, 91-108. The whole paragraph is from this commentary.

[3] Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary, 91-108. The whole paragraph is from this commentary.

[4] Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary, 91-108. The whole paragraph is from this commentary.

[5] Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary, 100.

[6] http://www.workingpreacher.org/


One thought on “Learning True Worship from the Magi

  1. Rosanne Mork

    As I read your sermon on the Magi’s journey of following the Star, I was grateful for your emphasis on the Star of Jacob. Again and again, I have read the account of the Magi with my eyes on them; but your sermon challenged me to look where they were looking — to the Bright Morning Star.

    Your sermon led me to see for the first time that the Magi depended on the Star to lead them from the East to Jerusalem. They came so far under its light! But when they arrived, they sought the King of Kings in the palace of a worldly ruler. They asked Herod for directions; Herod was informed of the King’s birth, then became agitated and lacking the report-back from the Magi — killed the innocent children.

    Changing my perspective from the Magi to the Star changes my contemplation of the application of this word in my life. Jesus promises to lead His sheep. The Holy Spirit teaches us all things. We are surely not without the Light of the Star of Jacob in our hearts and lives; yet I am tempted to find my own way by asking others for advice on where I might find Jesus today and how I might worship Him.

    I am struck to the heart that I am no different than the Magi. How far do I come under the guidance of the Holy Spirit only to look somewhere else for the guidance that can come only from God? What catastrophe’s — large or small — are a result of my inquiries for direction from worldly sources?

    May God help me to avoid looking to the Herod’s of this day for what can only come by the Morning Star’s guidance in my heart! When I take my eyes off of Christ in my journey on the pilgrim road, the story of the Magi demonstrates that my disorientation gives potential ground to worldly powers. For it is Christ who leads us forward, to Him, to our knees; and to others, to be His hands and feet; and to wherever He would have us live and whomever He would have us love.

    Thank you for your diligence in pointing to the Star the Magi followed! By the way, the Lord led me to pray for your sermon this past Saturday evening…little did I know that I was praying for myself. I praise and bless God for His Faithfulness and for you and your church family!


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