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Saw His Star

by David Johnson

   (Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

   It is wonderful to be together again as we look into the Word of God.

The title for the sermon is: “Saw His Star.  Our text is from the New Testament gospel of Matthew chapter 2, verse 1 and 2.  Please listen to the Word of God.

     After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

This is the Word of God.

     Today in Bethlehem of Judea still stands a large basilica, this is an oblong building having two rolls of columns dividing the interior into a central part with two side aisles, which is of Imperial Roman architecture, which the Imperial Roman emperor Constantine had erected in or about AD 325 over the hillside small cave, that according to tradition is believed to be the site of the birth of Jesus Christ.

     The small cave of the Nativity is under the space around the basilica altar.  It is approached by steps leading down from each side where a choir above sings.  In a chamber at the front of the cave is a manger (open box or trough) where baby Jesus was placed.  A silver star is on a marble floor at the east end of the chamber where inscribed are Latin words translated: “Here of the virgin Mary, Jesus Christ was born.”  Also, fifteen lamps burn day and night around this star, six belong to the Greek, five to the Armenian and four lamps to the Latin churches.  Why a star and lamps in this limestone cave which is only about 14 yards long and 4 yards wide?  Listen carefully.

     Let’s consider for a minute more closely our text Matthew 2:1-2 in verse 1 “…After Jesus was born.”  Notice the timing here regarding the visiting Magi – that it was not at the birth of Jesus but “after”.  Also, Matthew 2:11 “…On coming to the house, they saw the child.”  So, the Magi visited the Christ child not in a cave or stable (manger) as a temporary shelter, but “the house” which was “after”.  According to Bible scholars probably several months at least, after, Jesus was born.  Therefore, Jesus probably would have already been circumcised, and Mary would have already completed her period of purification which was 40 days for a son.  In verse 1 also:” during the time of King Herod”.  A king, as a distinguished title, only because he was appointed “king” by the Romans.  This Herod is also known as “Herod the Great”, not because he was great morally, nor benevolently, because he certainly was not, having ruthlessly murdered his wife, murdered at least 3 of his sons, murdered his mother-in-law and many others who he thought threatened his position and power.  He was known as “Herod the Great” due to being a “great builder”.  He built great theaters, and race tracks to provide entertainment for the people.  In 19 BC, he began a great renovation of the Temple in Jerusalem (Herod’s Temple).  He even built the beautiful port city of Caesarea among many other great building projects.  He was the first of several Herods who ruled in Palestine.

     In verse 1 also: “…Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.”  At the time of the birth of Jesus Christ “magi” or “wise men” were primarily known as the priestly-political class of the Parthians of the ancient country of Parthia, corresponding today to the area roughly of northeastern Iran.  Magi became skilled in astronomy and astrology, the study of the stars and their positions.  Which in that day, were closely associated?  They studied the stars of the heavens.  “Magi from the east” literally means “from the rising” that is of the sun and so refers to the east or orient.  They came to Jerusalem because they sought the one born king of the Jews – and Jerusalem, not Bethlehem was the capitol of the Jews!  Kings are usually found in capitols.

     It is interesting that when the Persians invaded the Holy Land in AD 614 they left the Christian basilica Constantine, the Roman Emperor Constantine had erected in or about AD 325 intact, even untouched.  Why?  Because the Persians recognized the garb (clothing) worn by the Magi pictured in the mosaic (which is a picture made by setting g small, colored pieces such as tile in mortar) as their national attire or clothing.  So, they did not destroy the basilica built previously by Imperial Rome.

     In Matthew 2:2 “…Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east.”  We should ask ourselves how could these foreign, gentile men even know “one who has been born (was) king of the Jews?”  And note again “who has been born” already sometime in the past to the Magi’s arrival at Jerusalem.  And what about his star?

     First this answers why a silver star is on the marble floor even though the Magi visited the Christ child at “the house” not the shelter, the cave with the manger.  It’s because the inspired writer Matthew – included “His Star” with the visitation of the Magi.

     As to how the Magi knew about the birth, it possibly dates to the Hebrew prophet Daniel, who was well known to preceding Magi (wise men) and highly esteemed.  So, the Magi probably passed down these prophesies of Daniel.

      Daniel esteemed by the wise men of Babylon?  Yes!  Consider from Daniel 2:24 “Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him.  “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon.  Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”

      After Daniel successfully revealed and interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, consider from Daniel 2:48 “Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him.  He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men (or Magi).”

     So, the wise men were spared from immediate death and served under God’s Jewish prophet Daniel.  And because the Jewish exiles, including Daniel, were in Babylon and Persia the magi possibly could have had knowledge of the Jewish Old Testament prophecies including the scrolls of Daniel 9:25 “…know and understand this, from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler comes, there will be seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens” …”  According to scholars this decree was actually issued in or about 445 BC by the Persian Artaxerxes giving a timetable for the coming Ruler or King of the Jews, which coincides with the birth of Jesus Christ.  God could have also given the Magi wisdom in interpreting this prophesy However, the gospel written by Matthew gives us the major reason, the magi knew to come eventually to Bethlehem to the “one who has been born king of the Jews which is.”  “We saw his star in the east.”  Astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars.  God gave the magi, these star gazers, “His Star”, “His being”: The one who has been born king of the Jews.  So, the Magi followed “His Star”.  From Matthew 2:9” …the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.”

     There is much speculation about “His Star.”  Some think it was a planetary conjunction, which is when planets are aligned, lie in a straight line from the view point of earth.  According to astronomers in or around 6 BC there was a planetary conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, maybe Mars in a triple conjunction all in line from earth’s viewpoint, reflecting the sun’s light brightly.

     Or maybe a super nova which is a star that brightens intensely then gradually dims.  But neither planets nor super nova’s move across the sky.  Of course, God can make a physical phenomenon (planets, stars) supernatural according to his purposes temporarily.  Comets and meteors are also not likely having short durations, whereas the Magi probably traveled for weeks, even months across probably over 1000 miles.

     A reasonable alternative is that “His Star” refers to a supernatural shining light similar to the “Shekinah” that guided the Israelites in the wilderness in the days of Moses.  “Shekinah” refers to a visible manifestation of the divine presence.  Throughout the Old Testament is revealed of God’s glory being manifested as the bright light of God radiating his presence or “Shekinah” in brilliant light.  For example, in Exodus 13:21 “…by day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way, and by night in a pillar of fire.”

     In the original languages of Hebrew and Greek the word for “star” was also used figuratively to represent God’s great brilliance or radiance.  For example, in the Old Testament referring to the Messiah according to Numbers 24:17 is a “star” that will come out of Jacob.  In the New Testament Jesus Christ refers to himself according to Revelation 22:16 as “…the bright Morning Star.

     So, quite possibly God’s glory, blazing like an extremely bright star appeared to the magi in the east and later guided them to Bethlehem.  The Shekinah glory of God himself.  In Matthew 2:9” …stopped over the place where the child was.”

     Reading the scriptures here closely indicates that the magi were not following the star from the east continuously because they had to ask “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”  In Matthew 2:2 the text reveals they saw his star in the east, but there is no evidence that the star continues to shine or that it even led them to Jerusalem (seeking the king of the Jews’ meant they would have automatically traveled to the capitol (Jerusalem) of the Jews.  It was not until the magi were sent to Bethlehem by Herod in Matthew 2:7-8 that the star evidently reappeared and guided them to the exact place where the child was.  Showing the presence of God, Emmanuel, God with us.

     Matthew 2:2 ends with “we have come to worship him.”  Today there are at least 3 general ways people relate to Jesus Christ.

  1. People relate to Christ today like Herod, disturbed and disbelief, even to destroy his memory, live only for self not the Savior.
  2. People relate to Christ today like the chief priests and scribes. Religious people with head knowledge only, lips only, but their hearts are far from him.  All about externals (ritual) without genuine inward faith.  The priests and scribes were only about 5 miles from Bethlehem, in the capitol Jerusalem, but none are revealed that went to worship the Christ, the anointed one of God.  Anointed with power by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Today people react to Jesus Christ moreover then the wise men, but nevertheless similarly, at least introducing themselves to the Christ child  – the magi believed enough to travel possibly 1000 miles, searching, seeking to worship him.  They knew that he was no ordinary king because of “his star” and they knew that he was special.  So, they were overjoyed we are told In Matthew 2:10. They bowed down and worshipped him in Matthew 2:11.  They opened their treasures and presented him with gifts.  And they gave their very best to this king of the Jews, “gold, frankincense and myrrh.  So, they personally met the Christ child.

Today the very best that we can give to Jesus Christ is ourselves: bodily, soul and spirit, and we need to do it personally.

     Why?  Because God gave us the very best of heaven – himself in Jesus Christ, who personally came to earth, to become one of us and give, Himself totally for us on the cross.  So, we need to come and make a commitment to Jesus the Christ.

    The lamps around the star in the cave chamber below the Church of the Nativity from the churches that burn day and night?  So, what do they represent?These represent us who are Christians.  We need to continue to let our lights shine brightly in Jesus Christ radiating Christ to others in this dark world would see and hear Jesus in us.

     So, dear listener do you need to receive Christ as your Savior and LORD?  Today would be a good day, for today is the day of salvation and can be for you. Do you need to rededicate yourself to Jesus?  Come the invitation is open to all.  Come to Jesus Christ who is the light in this dark world.

 

         David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.  

  

 




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10