The night sky is awash with stars, what made the Star of Bethlehem so exceptional to the Magi?
Matthew chapter 2 tells us that the Magi (learned astronomers/astrologers) came from the east, following one particular star. The star appeared as a new star to them, one they had never before seen. That alone would have made it exciting. And it went ahead of them, guiding them much like the pillar of fire that provided light for the Israelites during the Exodus. Needless to say, this was highly unusual ‘behavior’ from a star.
Over the years, various theories have been formed about the star. Was it a natural phenomenon, such as a comet, a nova, a supernova, a hypernova or a triple conjunction of planets? Or, was it supernatural? It could be both at the same time. Joshua 10:12-13 tells us that in response to a plea from Joshua that the sun stood still and the moon stopped while the Israelites pursued the Amorites. Boiled down to the simplest elements, the planets, our sun and all the other stars are God’s creation. The star of Bethlehem, whatever it was, however it came to be, however miraculous it appeared, was essentially a lamp to lead the Magi to a destination.
The Bible doesn’t tell us if the Magi were, or were not of Jewish faith or descent, and the Bible does not disclose precisely how they learned to associate the star with the birth of Jesus, King of the Jews. However it was accomplished, God revealed to them not just the existence of the star, but the purpose of the star. They weren’t following a star merely as a scientific expedition.
Matthew 2:1-2 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 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.” The Magi sought Christ not to give homage to a mortal king, but to worship an eternal King. Their purpose was spiritual. If the Magi wanted to ingratiate themselves with a king, they could have done so with Herod.
Matthew 2:9-12 “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. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” The Magi were not dismayed by the contrast between the palace of King Herod and the humble abode of Christ. They worshiped the true King.