Summary: In Matthew 2, we see three responses to the Good News of Jesus birth. And if we are honest, we probably see those same responses in ourselves.
The Magi: Its What You Do With What You Know
Please open your bibles to Matthew 2:1-12
This morning, we are going to talk about three responses to the Gospel. You might remember from our study of the angel’s message a couple of weeks ago that the word Gospel comes from the Greek word euangellion which means good news. But this wasn’t originally just a religious term. In ancient times, when an army was fighting a battle away from the city, the watchmen would wait on the city wall for a messenger to return from the battle lines, either with good news—we won!—or bad news—the army is defeated. And a messenger bringing news of victory was called a euangellios—an evangelist.
And of course, the announcement of the birth of Jesus is THE good news. It’s the announcement that the war against sin is finally, completely over. Because Jesus came into the world, sinners who were dead in their trespasses now could be made right with God again. So how could anybody respond to that with anything less than fall-on-your-face worship?
Let’s read together Matthew 2:1-12. If you are physically able, please stand to honor the reading of God’s Word:
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
If your bible is like mine, the chapter heading for this passage of Scripture is “The Visit of the Wise Men.” Actually there’s a lot more going on in this passage than just the wise men, but there’s a few things I want to point out that aren’t in the Scripture at all, but are things we’ve added to the story over the years. First, notice that they absolutely did not get there the night of Jesus birth. I love that when Diane Causey and her crew decorated the sanctuary they put Mary and Joseph down front and the wise men in the baptistry. Which, by the way, is almost due east! How do we know they weren’t there? Verse 11 says they went into the house and saw the child. So we know that Mary and Joseph were living in a house by this time, and the Greek word used for child here isn’t the same one Luke uses for a newborn baby. Given that Herod would give the order for all male babies two years old and under to be slaughtered (v. 16), Jesus would have been as old as two at the time.
Even though one of our favorite Christmas carols calls them “We Three Kings,” we don’t know for sure that there were three of them (we get that because of three gifts). We don’t know their names—even though traditionally they have been named Balthasar, Caspar, and Melchior. The Bible never says they were kings. It calls them “Magi” or wise men, which means they were astrologers or philosophers. and even though we sing “Wee Three Kings,” it never says they were short. (Wee Three Kings).
What we do know is that after a journey of as much as 900 miles, if they came from Babylon, they come to Jerusalem, find King Herod, and they ask exactly the wrong question: