Summary: What we do not know about the wise men will help us to understand their purpose - to worship the newborn king.
Things we do not know about the “Wise Men.”
1. How many there were.
a. The number three comes from the three gifts: Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
b. But for such a trip they would have had a caravan with servants to assist them.
2. Where they came from.
a. All we know is that they came from the east.
3. How far they traveled.
a. You can find estimates from 500 to 1500 miles, or more.
4. How long they traveled.
a. It is obvious that they were not present at the stable because the Bible tells us that they came into the house not the stable.
5. If they were really wise.
a. In the original manuscripts they are called the “magi” from an ancient Iranian word which was used to describe people who acted in very strange ways, were captivated by astrology, spells and incantation and dressed in a very bizarre manner.
6. If they were kings.
a. In the second century, a church father named Tertullian suggested that these men were kings because the Old Testament had predicted that kings would come to worship him.
7. When they arrived.
a. While we think of these men as part of the Christmas story, they were not present on that first Christmas. They didn’t arrive on the scene till well over a year or perhaps almost two years later.
b. We know that they were not present at the first Christmas because if they were then Joseph and Mary would not have given a poor person’s sacrifice of two turtledoves (Leviticus 12:8) because they would have had the gift of gold.
c. Another clue to the time of their arrival is the fact that Herod put to death all the male children ages two and under, “according to the time he had determined from the wise men.”
d. This also helps us to understand that, even thought Herod told the wise men that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that they were led by the star to Nazareth.
i. It would not be reasonable or possible for Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus to have stayed all that time in Jerusalem. Remember they were poor, having only enough money to buy two turtledoves rather than a lamb.
So we do not know a lot about the wise men at all. But what is important is that they came to worship Jesus. Matthew 2:1-2 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have some to worship Him.”
The Christmas message was first given to the shepherds, the lowest class of people in Israel. And then it was given to the wise men from the East, who were not even Jewish, but were Gentiles. This shows that God sent his Son to all people and that all could be saved by Him. Remember the message from the angel to the shepherds, “Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people…”
And there is one more thing that I think we should think about. Last week I sat in on Karen’s Sunday school class because of a discussion she and I had after church. You see, the glory of the Lord that shone around the shepherds was probably the same star that the wise men saw in the East. That star, that light was with Jesus in the stable in Jerusalem and was also above the house in Nazareth. That light was the light of Jesus Christ in the world. John 1:5-8 “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gave light to everyman coming into the world.”
Jesus is that true Light that gives light to everyone who comes into the world: from the poorest to the richest; from the most humble to the most esteemed; all may receive the light of Jesus Christ.
And I think that when the wise men return to their own country people there saw something different about them, for they were now bearers of that Light.
And we, too, are now bearers of that Light. As we enter into the New Year let us take the light given to us through Jesus Christ and share it with the world. Let us shine our light into the darkness of the world and bring the name above all names to those who so desperately need to hear the great good news of God’s love.