NOW 12th January Bible study – Tuesday 5th January – Epiphany

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Read Matthew 2:1-12

This is very much a story of two kings not three. Jesus was tellingly born in Bethlehem- the hometown of David. David had been dead for 950 years, but he was still celebrated as the best King the Jews had ever had. Herod had no royal pedigree. His father was an Edomite whose ancestors had converted to Judaism. Herod gained the throne by successfully gathering taxes for Rome and thus he was made a vassal king. He was ruthless in his pursuit of power. He banished his first wife and son to make a more politically beneficial alliance. Herod executed a large number of his own family including his wife for treason. He upset both the Sadducees and Pharisees for bringing in priests from Babylonia and Alexandria and erecting a huge gold eagle over the entrance (a symbol of Rome).

It says that ‘Herod was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him (verse3)’

  1. Why do think Herod was disturbed? Read Micah 5:2-6
  2. Why do you the city was disturbed?
  3. Are the Magi wise in how they go about looking for the child?
  4. What do you think about Herod’s methods?

Who are the Magi? We don’t know their number and we certainly don’t know their names. They are wealthy (looking at the gifts) but probably not kings. That understanding comes from a prophecy in Isaiah 60:3. They are scholarly, mystical astrologers originally from Persia where they had almost a priestly role. In Matthew they are the first to see the significance of Jesus’ birth after Joseph. We don’t know what Mary thinks or knows in Matthew’s gospel.

  1. Why are human beings fascinated by stars?

There are lots of theories about the star. It was probably not a huge shining blob otherwise everyone would have recognised it. It was common-place to associate the brightening of a star with a new ruler’s birth. Strange heavenly phenomena were linked to the births Augustus, Tiberius and Nero. We may no longer think in such terms, but the inclusion of the star prevents the story of Epiphany being a parochial one- it has cosmic proportions.

  1. The star is for a child who is a very different sort of king from Herod. The magi do not prostrate themselves in the palace but they do in this ordinary home. In what ways is Jesus different?

Read Isaiah 60:6, Psalm 45: 6-8, Song of Songs 3:6-7.

  1. In light of the passages above what do the gifts convey to us? Again, they seem both incongruous and yet ‘not enough’.

After seeing Jesus, they have a revelation from God and do not go home via Herod. A true piece of divine wisdom and they obey without question. However, Herod is angry and begins an infanticide. The holy family is forced to flee to Egypt. Their blundering and misunderstanding of power cause great harm.

  1. Can you think of other times in history when misunderstanding of local power structures causes harm or when perceived wisdom is nothing of the sort?
  2. What does it add to the story of Jesus and our understanding of Jesus that he was once a refugee?

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