BETHLEHEM’S SUPERNATURAL STAR
- John Piper
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” —Matthew 2:2
Over and over the Bible baffles our curiosity about just how certain things happened. How did this “star” get the magi from the east to Jerusalem? It does not say that it led them or went before them. It only says they saw a star in the east (verse 2), and came to Jerusalem. And how did that star go before them in the little five-mile walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem as verse 9 says it did? And how did a star stand “over the place where the Child was”? The answer is: We do not know. There are numerous efforts to explain it in terms of conjunctions of planets or comets or supernovas or miraculous lights. We just don’t know. And I want to exhort you not to become preoccupied with developing theories that are only tentative in the end and have very little spiritual significance. I risk a generalization to warn you: People who are exercised and preoccupied with such things as how the star worked and how the Red Sea split and how the manna fell and how Jonah survived the fish and how the moon turns to blood are generally people who have what I call a mentality for the marginal. You do not see in them a deep cherishing of the great central things of the gospel—the holiness of God, the ugliness of sin, the helplessness of man, the death of Christ, justification by faith alone, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the glory of Christ’s return and the final judgment. They always seem to be taking you down a sidetrack with a new article or book. There is little centered rejoicing. But what is plain concerning this matter of the star is that it is doing something that it cannot do on its own: it is guiding magi to the Son of God to worship him. There is only one Person in biblical thinking that can be behind that intentionality in the stars—God himself. So the lesson is plain: God is guiding foreigners to Christ to worship him. And he is doing it by exerting global—probably even universal—influence and power to get it done. Luke shows God influencing the entire Roman Empire so that the census comes at the exact time to get a virgin to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy with her delivery. Matthew shows God influencing the stars in the sky to get foreign magi to Bethlehem so that they can worship him. This is God’s design. He did it then. He is still doing it now. His aim is that the nations—all the nations (Matthew 24:14)—worship his Son.This is God’s will for everybody in your office at work, and in your neighborhood and in your home. As John 4:23 says, “Such the Father seeks to worship him.” At the beginning of Matthew we still have a “come-see” pattern. But at the end the pattern is “go-tell.” The magi came and saw. We are to go and tell. What is not different is that the purpose of God is the ingathering of the nations to worship his Son. The magnifying of Christ in the white-hot worship of all nations is the reason the world exists.
Ahhh details. I love details. To me, details add layers upon layers, building up and making something far better than at first glance. I have learned though, that there is also a downside. Like when you can’t concentrate because something small is out of place. I can miss something big and obvious because my concentration is on something else. I can do this as with everything, including reading scripture. How long did it take so and so to travel? Or how far away is this town to that one? I can then miss the whole message of the story that God is (usually obviously) sharing. Sigh.
Now, almost everyone has heard or knows some part of the Christmas story. Even if someone doesn’t know the name of the town Jesus was born in, or why there is always a stable, they seem to know there was a star involved. Interesting. What if the story of the Magi didn’t happen? God still came to earth and was born in a stable. This is one of those times when you think, why would God include this? I’m glad you asked. God right from the beginning is shouting, He wants ALL to come to Him. He included foreigners in his story from the very beginning of life on earth. So the question I really should be focused on is, have I included all people to tell about God so they may worship Him? He came for all and reminds us of this over and over again, so I should be asking myself (over and over again), am I in the “go-tell” stage or stuck in the “come-see”?