Summary: For years I thought the only reason the Wisemen came to Jerusalem was to get directions. But I was wrong. What other possible reason could the Wisemen have had for going there?
My home church met in a huge building. The main sanctuary had four sections of pews that ran back 12 rows or so and the back section had another 2 sets of pews. Then there were two balconies that ran along the sides of the main area. They said they could seat over 600 people in that building.
Because it was a such big church, Christmas was a BIG production. They had an entire closet dedicated to robes and crowns and shepherds’ staffs and so on, for the Christmas Pageant. And they put it all to good use on the Sunday of the Pageant.
It started out with Mary and Joseph making their way solemnly down the center aisle. Mary was beautifully adorned with a blue satin dress and a lace head covering and Joseph walked protectively beside her in the traditional garb of a Jewish man of the day. They took their place on stage in front of the manger, with Mary seated in front of the manger and Joseph standing by her side.
Then the shepherds (who had taken their place off to the right of the stage looked up to the balcony to see an angel brightly lit by a spot light who proclaimed the birth of the Christ child. And suddenly with that angel there was a heavenly host of children - dressed in white gowns and wearing wings and halos - singing alleluia to the new born King. As the lights dimmed on the angels, the shepherds made their way onto the stage and kneeled before the manger.
Then – last of all – came the Wisemen from the East. I got to be one of them. I was dressed in an elegant robe and bearing a crown on my head, I brought one of the gifts to Jesus. And the 3 of us marched reverently down the center aisle to the song “We 3 Kings”.
“We three kings of Orient are,
bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect Light.”
You could almost feel the camels under us rocking back and forth to the beat of the song as we sang “We 3 kings of orient are, we’ll come up on the stage where you are…” (I made that last part up).
It was all great fun… but it was a bit misleading.
First of all, the Bible doesn't say how many Wisemen there were. There were 3 gifts, but there may have been more Wisemen in the group.
And then there was the fact that the shepherds probably weren't anywhere nearby when the Wisemen showed up… because the Wisemen were late to the party. Scripture says they found Jesus in a house - not a manger. And there are hints in the text that Jesus was at least 1 ½ or 2 years old by this time.
Some scholars believe Wisemen traveled about 1000 miles by time they got to Jerusalem and speculate it might have taken them 2 to 3 months just to prepare for the journey.
And it wasn't a “safe” journey. Thieves and robbers plagued many of the roads and so these Wisemen probably traveled in a large caravan.
One man I read speculated that “at a minimum they would have brought full military escort along with their servants. The total party could have amounted to more than 300 people.”
So, picture in your mind this host of distinguished men and armed soldiers coming to the gates of the city of Jerusalem and saying: “We’re looking for the child who is born to be the King of the Jews we've seen His star in the East and we've come to worship Him.”
You can imagine the attention they’d have received from the people in Jerusalem –these Wisemen from a far off land coming to worship a baby they said was to be King of the Jews. And they've come to the very gates of Jerusalem.
As I was reading through the text for this morning’s sermon, there was one question that suddenly came to my mind:
What are Wisemen doing in Jerusalem?
Why do you think they were there? (Ask for feedback).
Looking for directions? Of course they are. They ask “where is the child?” And that’s the main reason most of think the Wisemen were in Jerusalem.
But there’s just one small problem with that answer.
In Matthew 2 we’re told that they’d seen His star in the East and had come to worship Him. But then – after they left Jerusalem we’re told: “… they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east WENT AHEAD OF THEM until it STOPPED OVER THE PLACE where the child was.” Matthew 2:9