The Man Who Really Met The Magi

Title: The Man Who Really Met The Magi
Category: Story
Subject: Magi; Christmas; Birth of Christ
[Editor's Note: Dr. Braswell, Jr. is a scholar and former Southern Baptist Missionary. He was in Iran during the days of the last Shah and was consulted by President Jimmy Carter following the fall of the Shah and the rise of radical Islam in Iran. My son-in-law, Dr. Vince Hefner, studied at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary under Dr. Braswell, as did I many years before my son-in-law. Vince passed along this wonderful true story from Dr. Braswell.)


George W. Braswell, Jr.

Traveling by jet from Beirut to Teheran, we arrived at 3.a.m. to a quiet Mehrabad International Airport. Since we were the first appointed missionaries from our mission agency to Iran, there were no Baptist missionaries to meet us. The Presbyterians did, and took my wife and three kids and me to their guest house in the center of the city.

Upon settling in, it was about daybreak. They were exhausted and fell asleep upon the hard mattresses and doubly hard pillows. I was exhilarated and keyed up to capacity. It was 6.a.m. and bread with butter and jam and hot tea were being served to the early risers.

After greetings, my first question was, “Where do the Magi live?” My Sunday School teachers had taught me about the three Wise Men of Persia as a little boy. I had studied the biblical characters of the Persian kings Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerses. At divinity school, I had studied comparative religions with a professor who told us he visited the Magi in Iran and had studied their Zoroastrian religion.

I was in luck. Just up the street from the guest house was a Magi temple. Knowing only a few words of greeting in the Farsi language, I set out by myself, boldly to find the temple. Along the sidewalks were ten foot tall mud walls behind which were residences and other low lying buildings. I came to the recognizable green gate. I pushed the buzzer. A man dressed in white robe and white cap and wearing sandals appeared. He let me in, took me to another Magi so dressed who knew English, and my life long dream of conversing with a Wise Man began.

I told him my story about the Wise Men, about the three Magi who traveled a long way to arrive at Bethlehem and present to the baby Jesus the very best gifts they had: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I told him how pleased I was that they did not tell old King Herod all that they knew. They really were wise and fearless.

The Magi looked so calm, cool, and collected as he tended to the sandalwood fire. The fire has been kept burning for eons of time. Their deity, Ahura Mazda, wanted it to be. He told me of his prophet, Zoroaster, sometimes called Zarathustra, of the battle between good and evil, between light and darkness, between Ahura Mazda and the evil one.

I felt the warmth of the fire as well as the warmth of his personality. He told me there were so few Magi and Zoroastrians left in Iran and even in the world. He had studied the Bible and its narratives about the Magi. He said he honored Jesus as a prophet and a very wise man.

As I drank my second cup of tea dissolving a sugar cube in my mouth, as I had earlier learned to drink tea at the guest house, I looked at this Magi with his sparkling eyes and distinct Persian nose. After barely six hours in Iran, I had found the Magi. He poked another piece of sandalwood into the flames, its incense refreshing in the air. I felt calm, cool, and collected around him. I told him the story of the Jesus I knew who grew up from that manger scene with the Magi and taught such beautiful lessons for the living of our days and who was crucified on the cross and was resurrected from the tomb. I told him I called him Savior and Lord.

He looked at me and said that he too had heard that story and read it in the Bible. And then he said to me what I had heard years before in my studies of Zoroastrianism, “We teach that there is a ‘Son of Man’ coming in the future for whom we are to watch”. I smiled with him and said, “I believe that ‘Son of Man’ has come.”

As we walked to the green gate, I thanked him for letting a stranger in, for a warm cup of tea, and for the gifts long ago of the Magi to Jesus. As I walked back to the guest house, I felt like a little boy of long ago. I really talked with a Wise Man! Wait until I tell Joan and the kids.