Some of you may remember “Carnac the Magnificent,” a comedy routine Johnny Carson used to do on late-night television. Ed McMahon would read an answer—a word or phrase—from the back of a sealed envelope. “Carnac” (Johnny) would hold the envelope against his forehead, pretend to meditate for a moment, and then supposedly discern the question found inside the envelope.
For instance, if the answer was “A thousand clowns,” Carnac’s question would be: “Who are the candidates for mayor of Los Angeles?”
If the answer was “England, France and Greece,” Carnac’s question would be, “Name two countries and the luncheon special at the NBC Commissary.”
So how about this one? “Some magicians, a soldier and a mother.” This trio is no joke, and there’s no question about it.
So what do these people have in common? What’s their connection? They are all unlikely recipients of God’s mercy. As Jesus journeyed to the cross, he engaged many different people along the way. Some belonged to God’s covenant people, Israel. Others, though, were not Jews by birth. Nonetheless, they became friends of God through Israel’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Let’s take a deeper look at each.
First, the magicians. None were Carnac—at least, so far as we know! We read about them—the Magi—from Matthew’s Gospel:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
Scholars tell us it’s likely the Magi came from Persia (modern-day Iran) not Israel. Even though they were from outside the family of Abraham, God drew them to worship the promised Savior, Jesus. The Magi believed, and they became unlikely recipients of God’s mercy.
The soldier’s story comes from Matthew 8. He was a centurion, and he had somehow heard about Jesus. Then, a terrible need arose in his household:
When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
The centurion was of Roman, not Jewish, descent. Even though he was from outside the family of Abraham, God drew him to worship the promised Savior, Jesus. The centurion believed, and he became an unlikely recipient of God’s mercy.
The story of the mother will be shared tomorrow. Until then, consider how you can show God’s mercy to others.