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The Free-for-All God

• Greg Boyd

This week Greg discussed the familiar story of the three wise men in Matthew 2. As it turns out, there were not three of them, they were not wise by biblical standards and they were not kings, as has been assumed by many over the generations. So what is going on here?

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This week Greg discussed the familiar story of the “three wise men” in Matthew 2:1-11. As it turns out, there were not three of them, they were not wise by biblical standards and they were not kings, either, as has been assumed by many over the generations. So what is going on here? As sometimes occurs, we have cleaned up the story so it is less offensive to our sensibilities. The Greek term identifying these men is magos and means “magi,” or “magicians.” In this case, pagan astrologers of some sort from Persia. God apparently led them to the Savior through the tricks of their trade, reading the stars.

We don’t hear the story this way because we don’t like the idea of God entertaining these types of people and using means that is potentially “endorsing” of their habits. Of course, the Bible speaks clearly about the evils of divination and magic; just as it speaks powerfully against greed, over indulgence, gluttony, gossip, and so forth. God is not endorsing the practice of magic any more than Jesus was endorsing drunkenness when he turned water into wine. These are just ways to communicate the love of God. The fact that some people are offended at this doesn’t stop God from pursuing all people in various ways. God often surprises us. When we remember that God saved the world by crossing every chasm, we should be better prepared to expect the unexpected from God. The infinite God became finite, the holy one became sin for our sake (2 Cor. 5:21), the all powerful one became weak (Phil. 2) and died, the royal one was born as a peasant, glory was given up for the filthy barn, dignity given up to be born of an unwed teen, and so on… When we remember that God often shows up in the opposite form than we expect, we might expect to see Magi invited to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world. God is not confined to doing what religious people think is prudent.

God’s ways have always been higher than ours (Is. 55:1-9; 56:3). God has always had a vision for the reconciliation of ALL people. Even while God was nurturing the chosen people of Israel. Our mistake is the same as Israel’s, we think our being chosen is all about us. No, it is about God’s grace, and our role in extending that grace to the world. We are chosen TO BE priests to all people (1 Pet. 2:9), to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5), we are given to the world as a gift through whom the work of Christ is communicated to the world. We are not given simply to ourselves to be satisfied with ourselves. We have a job to do, a calling. When Christ was born, the religious of the day paid no attention. They were satisfied with where they were. But the Magi were hungry. They were seeking the truth, and they were not disappointed. God met them in a way they could understand, though they surely did not comprehend all that they were getting themselves into! Greg’s challenge to us today was to examine ourselves. Are we more like the religious of the day? Or are we truly hungry for God, like the Magi? Willing to follow at great lengths, to the end of the world if need be?

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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 2:1-11

    1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi [a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 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."

    3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 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. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

    6 “ '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.' [b]"

    7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

    9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

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