The Magi, Chief Priests and Teachers of the Law

Today is Epiphany, when the Western Church remembers the Magi visiting Jesus as described in Matthew 2. This is a very familiar piece of scripture which many of us have probably read or heard read to us dozens of times.

Last Sunday our sermon was preached from Matthew 2:1-12 and the preacher had some interesting thoughts about the chief priests and teachers of the law, mentioned below, who I had not previously thought much about before:

When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

It is obvious from the response of the chief priests and teachers of the law that they were fully aware of where the Messiah was to be born. They knew the scriptures. However, strangely they did not seem to be interested in the journey of the Magi and meeting the child, to see if he was the fulfilment of the prophecies.

Why did they not ask to go along with the Magi? Bethlehem is only about 5 or 6 miles from Jerusalem. Surely that was not too long a journey to undertake to see if the Messiah had at last been born?

Why were they not excited and expectant on hearing about the star? They seem to have no spiritual hunger.

Were they like Herod and the rest of Jerusalem disturbed by this news?

Were they scared of losing their positions in the status quo?

Were they scared of the unknown?

Did they think that God could not possibly reveal the Messiah to gentiles?

Perhaps they were scared of how Herod would react? After all, he was not known as someone who was favourably disposed towards potential rivals!

Our preacher described the chief priests and teachers of the law as having “heads of knowledge and hearts of stone.” How very sad that they could quote the Bible but it did not seem to mean anything to them.

Is there a danger that perhaps we can know spiritual truths intellectually but not in our hearts? Do we quote Bible passages parrot fashion and not know their reality in our lives?

Compare that with the Magi who were overjoyed (v10) when they saw the star stopping over the place where Jesus was, and then bowed down and worshipped Christ offering their treasures to Him (v11).

As we go through 2021 let us not be like the chief priests and teachers of the law, but instead emulate the example of the Magi and seek Him eagerly.