This is an unusual Sunday. This year Epiphany falls on a Sunday, and so the Gospel text for this Sunday is the text from Matthew 2[:1-12]. I could write for a long time regarding the structure of the Gospel according to Matthew, but that would be a bit distracting from the text.
The text itself is a bit distracting when it brings up the subject of ‘magi’. I think that the ESV has a good translation when the writer brings up the word. Right before it, the text says, ‘behold’; in other words, ‘pay attention’, ‘something important is happening here’, ‘something very different is happening here’.
It took me a while to get used to the possible definition of ‘magi’ as ‘magician’. It is not too hard phonetically—just one more syllable is added. But it constitutes a different subsection in the dictionary. Here is the definition of magi as it is used in this gospel account: ‘a wise man and priest, who was expert in astrology, interpretation of dreams and various other occult arts [BDAG, p. 608].’
In that definition, the word ‘occult’ may be the hardest word to accept. At first it seemed a bit difficult for me to see someone who is an expert in the occult arts coming to Jesus and worshiping him. But people change, and some people have changed in some very significant ways.
Looking at the occurrences of the Greek word ‘worship’ within this gospel account are also a good reminder of the wide range of people that ended up coming to Jesus and worshiping him. After the magi, the next one is a leper (8:2). Then there is a ruler of the synagogue (9:18), and then his disciples worship him—finally (14:33)! Then a Canaanite woman worships him (15:25), and then the mother of the sons of Zebedee does the same (20:20). Then, after Jesus’ resurrection, the women first worship him (28:9), and then his disciples (28:17). It seems like these occurrences were deliberately laid out in pairs.
It is certainly good to see a wide variety of people in the text worshiping Jesus. That happens every Sunday; it is just that we do not realize it.