Summary: Wise men still SEEK Him, SERVE Him, and WORSHIP HIm
Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, January 3, 2010
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
“The Visitation by the Wise Men”
Several years ago, I came across a humorous article which suggested that had the wise men been women, this wondrous event would have come off without a hitch. For one thing, they would have arrived in time for the birth of the Christ Child. Why? Well, the answer should be obvious. They would have stopped and asked for directions! Then, too, had the wise men been women, they would have arrived in plenty of time to have cleaned up the stalls, decorated the manger making it presentable enough to be on the cover of Good Housekeeping Magazine. Finally, had the wise men been women, they would have brought practical gifts like casseroles for the whole family to enjoy. Who knows, they might have organized a neighborhood “Tupperware Party”!
From our text, it would appear to indicate that by the time these wise men arrived, Jesus was no longer an infant, but a child perhaps two years of age. And instead of finding Him in a stable, Jesus’ parents were, by this time, residing in a house. Keep in mind that Joseph was compelled to register for the census. Then, perhaps two years later, Joseph and his family returned to Bethlehem to pay the taxes which were due.
So, what do we know about these so-called “wise men”? Scripture gives us little information which heightens our interests. For instance, where did they come from? All we’re told is that they came “from the east.” However, our text implies they had traveled a great distance. Some Bible scholars assert they might have traveled a thousand miles or more. If so, they would have needed pack animals (e.g., donkeys or camels) to traverse the arid desert landscape, carrying not only their own possessions but the gifts they were bringing for the Christ Child.
Speaking of gifts, these three items were of considerable value both then and now. And because three gifts are specifically mentioned, people merely assume there must have been three wise men. But again, the Scriptures do not specify either who they were, or how many there were. So, it appears that we have more questions than answers. Which brings to light an interesting point. When it comes to the Bible, people should never engage in speculation.
What I can tell you is this. Many ancient records portrayed these wise
men as “sages.” In the Greek, the word for magi is (pronounced ma-goy), which is where we get our word “magician.” However, the more accurate pronunciation is “may ji”. In some cultures, these magi were nothing more than sorcerers who dabbled in the so-called “dark arts.” However, Persians referred to such men of enlightenment as “philosophers.” In the ancient near East, magi were held in high esteem because they were learned men who became familiar with other cultures, languages, religions, and sciences, such as astronomy.
By the sixth century the following names were attributed to these wise men: Melchior, Baltazar and Gaspar. But again, this falls more into the category of conjecture rather than fact.
So, let’s get this straight. We don’t know who these people were, how many there were, or where they came from. And why was Matthew the only gospel writer to record this historic event; one which has become so shrouded in mystery?
Let me suggest that the reason why only Matthew recorded this event was because he was writing as a Jew, to the Jews, about a Jew…the Jewish Messiah. The details surrounding this visitation may never be known but the fact remains that these magi were wise enough to follow the star. They were wise enough to know that something quite extraordinary had taken place. And they were wise enough to believe in something far greater than themselves.
For when all is said and done: WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM (repeat).
Some Bible scholars have suggested that these magi were descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel that had remained in Babylon after the time of Daniel. But whether they were of Jewish ancestry or pagans, this much we do know; they earnestly sought the long-awaited Messiah.
These wise men might well have been familiar with a passage from the Book of Numbers, which says: “…a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel…” [Number 24:17]. For hundreds of year’s wise men had searched the heavens for a “sign”. And when this star rose in the eastern sky, they rejoiced and came seeking the One who was born “King of the Jews.”
This star in the night sky was something quite extraordinary. It could not have been a supernova, or a conjunction of planets, as some modern theorists have suggested. That’s because this star moved in the sky and then later hovered over one place. The little town of Bethlehem. These wise men may not have known precisely what they were looking for, or what they would find once they arrived, but intuitively they knew it was a worthy endeavor to search for the One to whom the prophets of Old had spoken about.