We three kings and then some
An extract from the Dean's sermon for the Feast of the Epiphany:
Matthew could have spun this midrash, including Herod’s murderous rage, without any need to add a visit by foreign sages.
But he had more to teach his readers than the Jewish pedigree of Jesus.
Matthew was also passionate about the significance of Jesus for the gentiles, for those people without any Jewish descent. Which is most of us.
In the decades before Matthew was drafting his revised and enlarged edition of Mark’s Gospel there were occasional state visits to the Roman emperor by oriental rulers from beyond the empire seeming to establish cordial diplomatic relationships. Details of these and other parallelsto Matthew’s birth narrative have been blended together by Matthew to create the spectacular scene of a visit to Bethlehem by an entourage of unspecified size (but certainly more than three individuals), bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew is not recording history here, but appealing to his non-Jewish audience. They too have a part in the story of Jesus. God’s purposes in sending Jesus were not restricted to the Jewish nation, but extend to everyone, everywhere at all times.
Full notes for this sermon, including a link to the video of the live sermon are available on the Dean's personal website.