Summary: The wise men are a surprising twist to the narrative from Matthew. What does their presence indicate and how does getting to know them help us prepare for Christmas?

You may have noticed the chalkboard signs that are scattered around the church building. Each has a different saying- “Be the Branch,” “Catch the Wind,” “Wreck the Roof,” “Grip the Plow,” and “Empty the Jar.” They come from a small group video Bible study our groups participated in a while back. We got the idea from Southeast Christian Church to dig deeper into the last mantra this Christmas. Originally, the idea of “Empty the Jar” comes from the story of the woman who anointed Jesus. It holds the idea of being generous as we worship. Being the Christmas season, we’re going to explore this concept by studying the events surrounding the wise men from the gospel of Matthew.

I actually find it intriguing that Matthew shares about the wise men. You see, one of the things that makes each of the gospel accounts unique is who appears to be their intended audience. Matthew targeted his gospel towards a Jewish audience. That’s why his book is heavy on Old Testament quotes. He begins the first chapter with the genealogy of Jesus, showing the lineage of the promised messiah. Continues by telling of the obedience of Joseph.

But then he takes a left turn and introduces the wise men, a group of gentiles who seem to better understand the good news that the messiah has come than the Jews who have been watching and waiting for their promised messiah. Why would he do this?

I believe he did this to bring the point home that Jesus is for ALL of mankind. The messiah wasn’t simply going to be a king who rides in on a white horse, rallies the troops, and conquers the world, bringing Israel to world domination. The messiah was coming to restore the opportunity of an eternal relationship with God for all of mankind. So we want to take some time today to get to know these wise men and learn from them how to be ready for the journey this Christmas.

One of my favorite traditions while we lived in St. Louis was to go to Harvester Christian Church and experience their Journey to Bethlehem. The church did a wonderful job of grouping visitors into families and guiding them along a trail where you’d encounter Roman soldiers, other families, shepherds, and the wise men. As their servants encouraged your family to warm up by the fire, the wise men would emerge from a tent and share how they had been watching for the signs of the messiah because of various Hebrew prophecies with which they were familiar. They shared how they had seen a special star and were hoping it would lead them to the child who had been born king of the Jews. They’d finish by pointing out the star through the woods and sending us on our way to Bethlehem.

As you know, Terri teaches language arts at the junior high. This year, she has been assigned a number of EL students- students who have come from other countries and are just learning English, so her job is to help them understand. One of the things that I learned in English class was that when telling a story, cover the 5 W’s- who, what, where, when, why. I think that’s a good way for us to get to know the wise men today.

Who are the wise men? The Bible doesn’t give many details- simply that they are wise men from the east. Various traditions have developed over the years, including different terms to describe them. They are magi, priests, advisors, prefects, astronomers, kings. Because there are three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, we often speak of the three wise men. In fact, tradition has given them names- Gaspar, Balthazar, and Melchior. I think the main thing that we should recognize about these men was that they were watching in readiness for the birth of the king.

Where are they from? The Bible only tells us from the east. As I was researching this, I came across several sources that surmise they came from Persia- about 8-900 miles away. How do they come to this conclusion? Many of them point to the book of Daniel. As you recall, Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were carried away into exile to Babylon, the capital of Persia. On multiple occasions, they stood for their faith and God rewarded them for it. The king threatened to kill all the wise men if they couldn’t tell him his dream and how to interpret it. After praying with his friends, Daniel provided the information the king desired and the king made Daniel the chief prefect in Babylon and gave his friends important positions as well.

They continued to live without compromise, very likely using their positions to teach the Persians their Jewish ways. The Persian wise men of their time likely learned about prophecies like Numbers 24:17 (read), in which Balaam declared a star shall come out of Jacob to rule. They also likely passed along the prophecy that Daniel wrote in Daniel 9:24-26 (read). An angel visited Daniel to answer his prayer of repentance. The angel gave him a prophecy about 70 weeks. A week, of course, is 7 days long and in prophecy is considered to represent 7 years. Therefore, a total of 490 years in this prophecy- the first 7 weeks points to the time Israel returned from exile, the next 62 weeks points to the time the messiah (or anointed) would arrive and be cut off from His people.

Copy Sermon to Clipboard with PRO Download Sermon with PRO
Talk about it...

Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!

Join the discussion