The visitation from the east, at the manger, highlights two important points: one of Christ, and the other of men. Firstly, it highlights Christ’s universal Messiah-hood. In the account of the Apostle Matthew, it was the Wise-men from the East, who first acknowledge Him as King. (pg. 23) Clearly, pointing out the message to us – later generations that Christ is for both Jews and Gentiles alike. Secondly, and most interestingly, the visitation highlights our limitation in grasping God’s glory without divine help. I want to make two further remarks here:
- So, the last shall be first, and the first last. (Mat 20:16, KJV) The Wise-men were chiefs of foreign courts. They were culturally, ethically, and religiously different from the Jews. Apart from that, they were people of different geography. And interestingly, these were also the people that the Jews considered unclean. (Henry, 2) Yet, it was in the divine will of God to choose them first in the adoration of the King. Piper notes, it was in Matthew’s divinely inspired desire – to establish that Jesus was/is Messiah and King of all nation. (pg. 13) And so, the wise-men came and “presented unto him gifts” (Mat 2:11, KJV) as was customary in the East, to honour and respect a King with gifts. (John Gill) Interestingly, Matthew Henry here notes: this was their way of saying that they have admitted His Kingship. And I quote: “We are come to worship him. They conclude he will, in process of time, be their king, and therefore they will be times ingratiate themselves with him and with those about him.”
- “O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Mat 16:3, KJV) The Jews were a chosen lot of people. They were granted prophesies for the coming Messiah. But it is interesting how, at the time of birth the Jews had already settled comfortably with their sins. And they were no longer, (really) looking forward to any miraculous conception of a Saviour in the human form. Yet, at the same time. Their eastern counterparts, whom they considered unclean, learned and discern, not just the coming, but the birth of the Messiah. (Mat 2:1-12) How ironic it is that the Jews who pride themselves as learned, clean, and chosen could not discern the signs of the times. And yet, how easily, its unclean counterpart did. Indeed, this is grace extended to humanity that we witness through the birth of Christ – the last became first.
Yes. Christ is King. He is a Messiah to all men alike. But won’t it be a great loss, if we who are born in a Christian community would miss Christmas like the Jews? Let us pray that Christ would grant us, the same Grace that He granted the Eastern wise-men, the wisdom to understand the scriptures, and the strength to obey His lead. May we, never be the people whom the Apostle John wrote of as: He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. (Jn 1:11, NKJV)
Note: All of Piper’s quotations are from “Good News of Great Joy“
Read previous entries in this Series:
(i) Introduction: What Christ wants this Christmas (ii) December 1: Prepare the Way (iii) December 2: Mary’s Magnificent God (iv) December 3: The Confidence of Redeeming Hope (v) December 4: A Big God for Little People (vi) December 5: What He Willed to do (vii) December 6: Peace to those with whom He is pleased