Jesus’ first cross-cultural mission (and He didn’t do much talking)

Today is Epiphany. It is the 12th day of Christmas. Epiphany is when the Church traditionally remembers the Magi — those “wise” men, astrologers, who travelled for two years to see the King that the skies had indicated had been born.

This, to me, is a wild and wonderful story. First, to think that God set up some kind of celestial event (perhaps eons prior) that would speak to these men and cause them to take action. (Click here for an interesting article on what might have happened in the skies that year.) John Bloom, Professor of Physics at Biola university, says:

“The exact nature of the Christmas star has been debated for centuries,
but many astronomers today think that the Magi were brought to Judea by a
series of rare and spectacular conjunctions between the planets
Jupiter, Venus, and the star Regulus in the constellation of Leo (the
Lion) that occurred over several months from 3 to 2 B.C..
The most impressive of these happened on the evening of
June 17, 2 B.C. when Jupiter and Venus came so close together in Leo
that they appeared as one single, brilliant point of light. Anyone who
has taken Horoscopes 101 could read these stellar events as, “A king
(Jupiter) has been born (Venus) in Judea (Lion).” This was an
incredible message from God to the astrologers of that age, which caught
the attention of some and motivated them to travel a great distance to
confirm what had happened. However, I think that this was more than a
sign to these wise men: It affirmed to Mary and Joseph that God’s
promises about this special child were not just their own private dreams
or visions.”

Second, to think that God would do what it takes to communicate to a people who were geographically and culturally and religiously extremely distant from Jesus’ Jewish heritage. These guys were astrologers! This gives me great hope for the Gospel — God will find a way to communicate with people even if they don’t have the “right” lingo or religious practices. I do wonder if the Church is as able to do what it takes as well, or whether we’d like people to use a “right” vocabulary or behave in a “right” manner.

Third, to see the intense hunger that these men had. Imagine what hunger drove them to search and study the skies, and then imagine their incredulity when they saw that event in the skies. What’s even more amazing is that they acted on what they had seen.

This is the first record we have of the newly incarnate Son of God being revealed to people from another culture. And so, for a mission agency such as CBM, this is a story of great importance. God will cross cultures and boundaries, and people who follow Him are called to cross cultures and boundaries as well.

 

 

Image used courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Adoration of the Magi

Andrea Mantegna
Italian, about 1495 – 1505
Distemper on linen