Summary: Wise men have one life pursuit: to worship the Savior.
A Christmas Agenda
Intro: What do we really know about the wise men? Not much when you examine the scripture. Where did they come from? We know they came from the east and they came from a long way away, but we don’t really know where they came from. Some say they may have come from Persia or Yemen, some say Babylon along with other theories and guesses.
-How many of them were there and what kind of men were they? Again, we don’t know. In the second century, a church father named Tertullian suggested that these men were kings because the Old Testament had predicted that kings would come to worship him (Isaiah 60; Psalm 72; 68:29). He also concluded that there were three kings based on the number of gifts mentioned, gold, frankincense and myrrh. So in nearly every nativity scene, you see three kings or wise men. But the Bible doesn’t tell us who they were or how many of them came.
-In the sixth century, someone came up with names for the alleged 3 kings: Melchior, Baltazar and Gaspar. Plays and scripts have been written ascribing these names to them, but no one really knows what their names were.
-We don’t even really know that they were wise. In the original manuscripts they are called the “magi” from an ancient Persian/Iranian word, “magus” which was used to describe some people who acted in very strange ways, were stargazers, and dressed very strangely. The Latin word is “magi” from which we get words like “magician.”
-So we don’t know who they were, where they came from or even how many of them there were. Why not? Why doesn’t Matthew tell us any of this information? Possibly much of this detail is left out so that the full emphasis may be placed on the one thing that is central to this story, namely their statement, “we have come to worship.” That’s the main point of this particular story as Matthew tells it to us. “We have come to worship.” And as we look at what Matthew tells us about these men, it appears that they really were wise men.
-The Christmas Agenda: We have come to worship the Messiah, Jesus, the One whose mission was to save people from their sins. That intention is paramount.
-What would compel this group of wise men to journey from far away to seek out Jesus? Why would they inconvenience themselves and go to such great lengths simply to give gifts and to worship One so small and helpless? Somehow they got a glimpse of the same good news that the shepherds heard about, only a bit earlier. Two thousand years later, their lives present a challenge to us today. Will we be wise men and women?
-Here is the main thought of the message today: Wise men have one life pursuit: to worship the Savior.
Let’s read the text and see what characteristics are worthy of imitation in these wise men.
I. Wise Men Seek the Savior
-It’s possible that these magi were descendants of the ten tribes of Israel that remained in Babylon after the time of Daniel. Many of the Jews did not return to their homeland but rather chose to remain behind in Babylon. There they were assimilated into the culture and may have adopted some of the religious practices of the pagans. So these magi may not have been very orthodox in their faith, but still, they were looking for the coming Messiah. They took literally the statement from Numbers 24.17: “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” And so they searched the skies for hundreds of years looking for a sign that the Messiah had come. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced and came seeking the one who was born king of the Jews.
-We don’t know exactly how far they traveled, but it is likely that they came from a few hundred to 1000 miles away. Imagine traveling that far on the back of a camel. It was a long and difficult trip across the desert. Give these men credit. They really wanted to come and find out about Jesus. They were serious seekers.
-Contrast them with the chief priests and teachers of the law. They were not the least bit interested. They weren’t concerned about the star. And they wouldn’t travel 6 short miles down the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to check out what was happening. They knew the right answers. They just weren’t willing to make the effort to see if what they had heard was true.
-Here’s a little background about Matthew’s writing. Matthew is writing this gospel to Jewish people who are living away from Israel. His purpose is to convince them that Jesus is the Christ predicted in the Old Testament. That’s why he makes so many references to it. And what he is saying to these people to whom he is writing is that they should be like the magi, not like the Jewish religious leaders. Wise men still seek him. Check him out. Do whatever it takes to discover the reality that Jesus really was born King of the Jews.