A Word to the Wise (Men)

by jimmyakin

in Bible, Bible History, Liturgical Year, Liturgy

The magi protected Baby Jesus by returning to their country by a different road. Who else were they protecting?

This Sunday’s readings include St. Matthew’s account of the visit of the magi, which I’ve blogged about here.

When I was at Mass, I was struck by the ending of the gospel reading:

And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way [Mt. 2:12].

This reminded me of something that I think is worth mentioning.

We often think of the warning as being one to protect the Baby Jesus–to keep Herod from finding out precisely who and where he was–and it certainly was this.

But there is another dimension that is easier to overlook: It was also a warning to the magi themselves.

What would have happened if they had returned to Herod?

He would have immediately asked who the child was and where he was located.

They would then have the choice of either telling him or refusing to do so.

If the former, they would be complicit in the murder of the very Child they had come to honor, so they would not want to do that.

But if they don’t tell him, what would Herod do?




In that order.

So while the magi definitely cooperated with God’s will by going back to their own country by another road, they weren’t only protecting the Baby Jesus.

They were also protecting themselves.

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marycatelli January 6, 2013 at 10:53 am

Herod didn’t tell them that he want to kill the baby, only to pay him homage.  Telling the murderer where the victim is is only complicity if you knew, or reasonably should have known, that murder would result.

Jimmy Akin January 6, 2013 at 10:56 am

@marycatelli True, though they likely were given information in the dream about why they should not go back to Herod, the way Joseph was told that he should take the family and flee.

she_said January 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm

@Jimmy Akin  @marycatelli
Plus, after being in town for awhile, they may very well have heard that Herod was an evil tyrant. It’s hard to keep a reputation like that under wraps.

Homeschooling Works January 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm

@Jimmy Akin  @marycatelli Obviously if they knew enough not to tell Herod where Jesus was and go another way they had to have some danger in mind for them self as well as Jesus.

MariaAlia January 6, 2013 at 11:28 am

Is there an update on when your new book, Secret History of the Bible, will be published? I tried asking on your blog post about the book, but comments were closed. I also went to jimmyakin.com/my-books to check, and that page is blank for some reason :( not sure why (maybe it’s my device/iPad).

kateri17 January 6, 2013 at 11:33 am

At mass today the priest pointed out that the Magi, once they had met Jesus, couldn’t go back the way they came because they were forever changed.

Ed January 7, 2013 at 7:37 am

The Magi, by protecting themselves, were protecting Jesus so the rest of the world could know him.
“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord…”
(Philippians 3:8)

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