Summary: Why would the Wise Men travel so far, at such expense, and over dangerous roads? Jesus wasn't "their" King was He? And what can we learn from how they responded to Jesus wasn't they arrived?
OPEN: When I was a boy, every December we’d sing: We Three Kings Of Orient Are”
Stand with me and let’s sing just the first verse together:
“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.”
Please be seated.
The song tells us the Kings from the Orient “traversed afar”.
How far was “afar”??
Well some believe they may have traveled about 1000 miles to get to Bethlehem. That’s roughly the same distance as from here to Phoenix, Arizona. You or I could make the journey in about 20 hours… but then we have 4 lane highways, and can travel at 65 mph.
These Magi didn’t have those advantages. Some scholars speculate it might have taken them 2 to 3 months to make it to Jerusalem.
And theirs was not a “safe” journey. Much of the way would have been unprotected by armed forces meant to protect travelers. Thieves and robbers plagued many of the roads and forced merchants and commoners to travel in large groups, called caravans, for safety.
But these were neither commoners nor merchants. They were prominent men of society. One preacher I respect speculated that “at a minimum they would have brought with them a full military escort along with their servants. The total party could have amounted to more than 300 people.”
(Brian Bill, sermoncentral.com)
That would have explained the stir they caused when they rode into Jerusalem. To have 300 people of obvious importance walk into Jerusalem would have caught the imagination of the entire city. And the fact that these Kings or Magi had no trouble gaining an audience with King Herod gives us a pretty good idea that these were men of prominence and power.
So, we’re looking at more than just 3 guys out for a ride on their camels. This was a large band of men who’d come a great distance over dangerous roads.
Just to prepare for their journey would have taken months. That’s why most scholars believe these folks didn’t arrive until about 2 years after Christ’s birth.
Even the text hints at that. Matthew 2:11 tells us “when they were COME INTO THE HOUSE, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him…”
Where was Jesus born?
In a barn, in a manger – a feeding trough.
They’re not there anymore.
Joseph and Mary have moved out of the barn, and settled into a home in Bethlehem and Joseph is plying his trade among the Jews of that area. And that’s at that house where the wise men found Him, and they fell down and worshipped Him and gave Him their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Now these wise men had gone to a great deal of trouble.
And they’d traveled great distance.
And they’d spent a great deal of money to get to their destination.
So the question comes to my mind… why would they bother?
Jesus wasn’t born in their country.
And He wasn’t technically “their” King.
In fact, when they found Him, He wasn’t much of a king at all.
They found Him living in a small unimpressive house, in an insignificant Judean village.
And when they arrived He probably wasn’t even dressed like a king.
He was just a two year old boy playing on the floor. The adopted son of a lowly carpenter.
So, why Would They Bother?
Why go to all the trouble?
Well, because… they’d been reading about Jesus for a really long time.
Matthew 2:1-2 tells us that “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’”
They knew there was to be a King born in Judea?
The King of the Jews?
And they believed that there would be a star to guide them there?
Why on earth would they believe such things?
Well, they were Magi FROM THE EAST.
A few hundred years before this, there had been Jews who’d been taken captive and forced to live in a land in the East. A place called Babylon.
How many of you remember the story about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
How, about the story about Daniel and the Lion’s Den?
They lived most of their lives in Babylon… in that nation in the East.
I’ve read that there is a possibility that the Magi may have been the descendants of those Jews in captivity, and that they had become students of the prophecies of the Old Testament… and of the Prophet Daniel.