“And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed
to their own country by another way” (Matthew 2:12).
King Herod’s quid pro quo that the Magi return and report to him after visiting baby Jesus (Matthew 2:8). A dream sent them off “by another way” to perhaps to buy time for Mary, Jesus, and Joseph to quietly leave for Egypt. I would quickly settle this and say that is the only meaning behind that verse. But there is something nagging me about the theme “another way.” And it is conveniently found in Matthew which keeps me from shaking it off as coincidence but an underlying theme.
Later Jesus would say:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Broad is the way that leads to destruction but the alternate route is narrow and leads to life. That is usually imagined as an expressway juxtaposed alongside the narrow service road. The problem with that image is that they are both going the same direction. What may be a better image is a wide avenue filled with traffic and with a narrow lane of few going the opposite direction. What would that look like in the real world?
Earlier we asked in Christianese what might have happened to the Magi. How you consider this may answer that question and possibly what a believer might look like.
Did the Magi “accept (Baby) Jesus into their hearts”? Well, they worshipped him (Matthew 2:11), does that count? Did they become Christians? Loopy question, move along. Did they start/join a Christian Fellowship in Persia? Well … duh. Did they burn all their horoscopes and started reading the bible? Here is the twist—it was their horoscope that led them to Jesus in the first place. Why burn the very thing that led them to him?
We never hear of the Magi again, but my guess is that they went back to Persia doing mostly the same thing. Yeah, they were groupies of the prophet Daniel to begin with, so their interest in Baby Jesus. That may mean there is something that differentiate them from the rest of the Magi. Otherwise, things are back to normal. What is important is that they met and recognized Jesus. Enough said.
In contrast to that, Jesus continues in Matthew 7 after saying the alternative narrow option:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23).
“Prophesy”? “Drive out demons”? “Perform miracles”? Doesn’t those sound … “Christianese”?
Between a group of practitioners of the “dark arts” and another group doing “Christian” things, one is on the highway to hell while the other is on “another way.” Without any doubt it is Jesus who gets to say who the evildoers are.
The Magi will fail a modern Christianese test of what a Christian is; but a modern ‘Christian’ may fail Jesus’ test.