Summary: Worship was the Wise Men’s greatest act
What was the wise men’s greatest act?
Was it their diligent study of the heavens, which resulted in the discovery of the Christmas Star? The Wise Men, also known as the Magi, were probably not kings, but a priestly band of scholars and stargazers. We don’t know what brilliant star these Magi saw. In 7 B.C. there was an unusual conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, which could have appeared as a new heavenly light, and four years later, Halley’s Comet flared through the skies. Could the star have been a supernova which exploded centuries before and whose light had just arrived in our celestial neighborhood? Or was it a supernatural star, placed there by God himself?
We don’t know. Nevertheless, it wasn’t astronomical skill that etched the Wise Men into the tablets of history.
Then was it their sacrifice in traveling so far? The Magi hailed from faraway Persia, modern-day Iran. Sponsored by the Holy Land Trust, twelve pilgrims from various nations are re-tracing the route of the Magi—a distance of almost 1000 miles! The leader of the group, Robin Wainwright, has pledged to make the entire trip on foot.
Back to the original Magi, can you imagine the conversation between one of these wise men and his wife?
“Dear, the boys at the observatory and I are going on a trip.”
“Well, we’re not sure. We’re following a star.”
“A star? This isn’t one of those mid-life crisis things, is it?”
“No, no, no. We believe God has placed this star in the skies for a purpose – perhaps to tell us of the birth of a great king!”
“All right, dear. Before you go, could you paint the stable?”
And so the Magi loaded up the camels and struck out, uncertain of where the star would lead them. Despite their faith and sacrifice, this still wasn’t their greatest act.
Well, maybe it was when they confronted King Herod with the question, “Where is he born King of the Jews?” Herod was a half-Jewish puppet of the Romans, insanely jealous, constantly plotting. In the course of his reign, he murdered his wife and mother-in-law, and then assassinated three of his sons. The Roman emperor once remarked that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s kinfolk. The Wise Men took a big chance insinuating that Herod had a claimant to his throne.
But, still, this wasn’t their greatest act. What was? You can find it succinctly written in Matthew 2:11: “When they came into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him.”
Imagine! The most intellectual men of their day, scientists and scholars, wise by worldly standards, going on their knees before a baby boy. And they offered him gifts: not last-minute specials hastily picked up at the dollar store, but choice items from the gleaming shelves of Neiman-Marcus:
*Gold, perhaps in the Persian form of rings or wedges – a fitting gift for royalty.
*Frankincense, a white aromatic gum drawn from several Arabian trees, burned in devotion to God.
*Myrrh, a fragrant spice used to embalm the dead, a foreshadowing that this Infant King would also be the Crucified Lord.