Summary: Five characteristics of true worship we can learn from the worship of the baby Jesus by the Magi.
“It Not Too Late Too Worship Jesus”
When I told you the text you may be thinking, “Bro John Christmas is over!” But in reality the story of the Wise Men which has always been associated with the Christmas story did not happen at the same time as the visit of the Shepherds. Read with me Matthew 12:1-2, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, (2) saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
In most nativity scenes the wise men are arranged with the shepherds and the angels at the birth of Jesus. But we know from Matthew 2 that the wise men did not arrive on the night of Jesus’ birth it was later. Matthew specifically uses the word “house” (oikian) instead of stable (v. 11). He also used the word “child” (paidion) instead of newborn (v.11). And based upon the 16th verse of Matthew 2, we can infer that Jesus was probably some where between 12 months and 24 months old when the wise men visited Him. (Herod commanded that all the male children 2 and under killed).
By way of introduction I want to briefly touch on three questions concerning the Wise Men.
1. Who were these Men?
These wise men were literally “Magi,” members of priestly caste form the area now known as Iraq. Dr. John MacArthur writes about the importance of the Magi, “Because of their combined knowledge of science, agriculture, mathematics, history, …they became the most prominent and powerful group of advisors in the… Persian and Babylonian empires. Historians tells us that no Persian was able to become king without mastering the scientific and religious disciplines of the magi and then being approved and crowned by them.” [John MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7. (Chicago:Moody Press, 1987. p. 27]
2. How had They Been Guided?
The wise men said that a “star” had led them. What was the star that they followed? Some astronomers theorize that at this time, several planets came into alignment in relation to earth and would have created what appeared to be an extremely bright star. Others suggest it was a comet, or the emergence of a super-nova. But I think that those theories ignore the key point that the scripture says that this star “moved.”
All attempts to explain the star as a natural phenomenon are inadequate and a waste of time. Verse nine says that the star that went before them stood right over the house of Joseph and Mary. This star was a supernatural guidance system, a luminary from God which hung low in the sky and moved ahead of the Magi, leading them first to Jerusalem, then to Bethlehem and finally to the very house where baby Jesus resided. God gave the wise men a supernatural guidance system to lead them to the newborn king. The same God who guided Israel through the Wilderness, by a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day, now guided these Gentiles to Jesus by a star.
3. Why Had They Come?
Why did these Gentile wise men come at this time? At the heart of this account is worship, the submission and the adoration of the magi for Jesus, for as soon as they arrive in Jerusalem, they announce, "We have come to worship him." (v.2). They came for the sole purpose of worshipping Jesus Christ. These men were worshippers and I want to spend the majority of our time this morning examining what their story has to tell us about true worship.
First, True Worship Is Open to All
This passage reveals that God had chosen these wise men to come to Palestine to worship Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world and the only source of truth. The inclusion of these Gentile wise men helps us to see that all the peoples of the world are free to worship Jesus Christ. Anyone and everyone is called to worship Jesus Christ. But although all are free to worship Jesus, not everyone will choose too. We will see this truth in a few moments when the wise men have an audience with King Herod and his religious advisors.
True Worship Is Open to All and …
Secondly, True Worship Requires Commitment
If I were to ask you this morning, “Do you worship God?” Most of us would probably say, “Yes, I worship God every week!” And by that you mean that on Sunday’s between 10-11 a.m. you come to the “worship service” at the church. But there is a distinction between attending a “worship service” and actually worshipping. Is worship something that we can really do for one hour a week? True worship is more than that, it requires a commitment of our time and our resources.