Summary: This message focuses on the wise men and the gifts they presented to the newborn Savior. In viewing the symbolism of the gifts, we can learn more about the great plan of our Lord to save His people from their sins.
I wish to begin this morning with a prophecy of the Messiah found in Isaiah 60:1-3, and verse 6: “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising . . . The multitude of camels shall cover your land, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall proclaim the praises of the Lord.”
Isaiah described here a darkness that covered the earth; the darkness of sin, leading to death (Romans 6:23); but he also prophesied of the hope of freedom from sin, through a Messiah or deliverer. Isaiah foresaw the day that the nations would come to worship the one true God; when herds of camels would cover the land; whenever people from Sheba would come bringing gold and incense; for Israel was not permitted to keep the Messiah to herself. Isaiah foresaw the day when eastern wise men, Persian astrologers or Magi, would come to Israel seeking the Christ who was born in Bethlehem. He saw the day when those who once worshipped the stars would be led by a star to bow down and worship the Light of the World.
I want to take some time this morning and focus on the Magi, or wise men, and the gifts they presented to the newborn Savior. In viewing the gifts, and considering their symbolism, we can learn more about the great plan of our Lord to save His people from their sins. We will begin by reading Matthew 2:9-12.
The Wise Men Arrived (Matthew 2:9-12)
9 When they [the wise men] heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
Before we go any further I need to share the context, or the location where this beautiful scene unfolded. If you have a typical nativity set or manger scene, then you will probably notice the wise men present at the stable where the baby Jesus was born. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Joseph journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a census around the time that Mary was expected to give birth. Bethlehem was so crowded that there was no room at the inn; therefore, Christ was born in a stable and laid in a manger, or feeding trough (Luke 2:1-7). Luke does not record the Magi being present at the stable and manger; we only read about how the shepherds were there (Luke 2:15-16).
When we look at the visit of the Magi, found in Matthew chapter 2, we read how when King Herod plotted to have Jesus killed, that “he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (v. 16). Jesus is thought to have been somewhere around the age of two, at the time that the Magi arrived. We also read in verse 11, that the Magi “had come into the house,” not a stable. Apparently Jesus’ parents had stayed there with Him until He grew a little older before they were ready to head home to Nazareth. We learn, however, that they had an unexpected detour to Egypt (vv. 13-15) before eventually returning home (vv. 19-23). I have shared all these details to help us see how the Magi likely came to Jesus at a house in Bethlehem when He was around “two years old.” This was the context.
We have here the story of a King with humble beginnings. He was born in Bethlehem, a place the Scripture describes as a “lowly village” (Matthew 2:6). He was born in a stable, which some were actually caves that were hewn out of solid rock; therefore, Jesus was possibly born in a dark and dusty cave; and the place was likely full of livestock, along with many unpleasant animal smells. Jesus, the very Son of God, was born into a very messy scene; and some of us complain when life throws us a curve ball. Jesus is the King of Kings (Revelation 19:16), and kings supposedly have great wealth, yet when the Magi arrived on the scene they found their King living with His parents in a house; possibly a rented house. We read here, however, that “they fell down and worshipped Him” (v. 11).