TODAY’S READING: Matthew 2
The Jewish historian Josephus recorded Herod the Great dying in what we would call 4 BC. Given the reality that Herod killed little boys up to 2 years old, the likely date of Jesus’ birth is somewhere between 5 and 6 BC. The medieval creators of our calendar simply miscalculated. What is certain is that from the beginning, Jesus’ life and death would center around the nations.
Herod the Great was from present day Jordan. The wise men from the East were most certainly from Arabia and most likely from Yemen, and their worship anticipated the great throng from east and west that will stream towards the Messiah’s throne. The gifts of frankincense and myrrh are resins from plants that grow in Arabia or the Horn of Africa. Jesus and his family flee to Egypt, making the incarnate Lord both a refugee and a third culture kid from the beginning. How the heavens must have rejoiced that the early adopters, the first worshipers of the Messiah, were not Jews, but Arabs, possibly Africans, and the first to receive Jesus were Egyptians.
How empathetically does the risen Lord look down at refugees from Syria (or immigrants from anywhere) who fearfully try to gain a new life and not be forced to return to where they may be harmed! Jesus knows what it’s like to flee for one’s life, to know no one, to learn a strange language, to have no resources, and to be different from everyone around you, not knowing what tomorrow holds. And does not King Jesus have a special place in His heart for the Arabs as they were the first to give Him gifts? Long before Arabs were deceived into prostrating in vain, they fell down and worshiped Jesus (2:11). Does not Jesus smile as He looks down at 100 million Egyptians in nostalgic gratitude, for it was there that he learned to walk, distinguish different foods, watch the palm trees sway, and eat dates with every meal. Does he not smile at the memory of Egyptian wit and humor, the simple joy of silly jokes? Egypt took in the divine Son and gave Him His first home and memories. Will now King Jesus find a place for a multitude of Egyptians in His heavenly house? Will not heaven be brighter for the jolly wit of the sons and daughters of Egypt?
Matthew wrote his account of Jesus primarily to a Jewish audience, and in that light the opening chapters are provocative. It was Arabs who worshipped first and gave the first treasure. It was Egyptians who sheltered first and gave the first nurture. Clearly, the God of Israel is the God of all the earth and all the peoples. The nations have always been central to Christ’s heart—and always will be. There are many locally who pretend to worship Jesus (v. 8), but the Lord of nations prefers the sincere devotion of the foreigner to the feigned allegiance of family. For Jesus knows that home is in heaven and faithful family are those that fall and worship, no matter their color, tribe, location, or status. Be not proud of your earthly lineage. Be quick to join the Yemeni magi in falling at the feet of Jesus. Be quick to open your heart with the Egyptians to the Son.