Summary: In this sermon, we examine the truths involved in the wise men coming to see Jesus after His birth. There are many lessons we can learn from their visit.
A. I like the old joke that asks the question: What would have happened if it had been three wise women rather than three wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem?
1. Answer: They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, and helped deliver the baby.
B. Here are a few cartoons about the 3 wise men that I like:
1. Cartoon #1: After the wise men left, there came three politically correct guys, saying: “Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Warmest Holiday Wishes.”
2. Cartoon #2: “Well from a distance it certainly looked like a star.”
3. Cartoon #3: “They say they are three kings, but I don’t think they are from the Orient!”
C. There is a lot of mystery, speculation and tradition that surrounds the story of the wise men.
1. Tradition tells us there were three in number and that they traveled by camels across the desert.
2. About the 6th century, someone decided their names were Melchior, Baltazar, and Gaspar.
3. Tradition tells us that they were baptized by Thomas and when they died their bodies were preserved in Constantinople.
4. Centuries later, their bones were moved to Cologne, and if you want to pay the price of admission, you can still see their bones today.
I. The Story
A. Let’s spend some time this morning looking at the Biblical story of the wise men to see what lessons we can learn from them.
1. The Bible says: 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
2. The first thing we notice is that the Bible identifies these men as “Magi.”
a. We get our English word “magician” from this Greek word.
b. But these men were not magicians as we would normally use the word – they were not experts at slight of hand, nor did they pull rabbits out of their hats.
c. The word “Magi” in those days referred to those who were experts in the workings of the heavens - the study of the stars.
d. Today, we might call them “astronomers.”
e. These men were probably well educated, and very intelligent, and therefore, deserving of the title “wise men.”
f. These men were also probably wealthy, otherwise, how could they afford such a trip, and how could they afford the gifts they brought.
3. Another thing we notice is that they came from the East.
a. The major empires to the East had been the Babylonian and the Persian empires.
b. We know that the Babylonians specialized in studying the stars.
c. We also know that many Jews had been taken into captivity to the Eastern empires.
d. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel were Jewish exiles who rose to prominence in those empires because of their faith in God and their other exceptional qualities.
e. Therefore, these men from the East may have been Jewish in their descent and were likely familiar with the Jewish Scripture prophesies about the coming Messiah.
4. We also notice from these verses that it was the star that led them initially to Jerusalem.
a. We have already mentioned the fact that these men were experts in astronomy.
b. We don’t know when the star first appeared, but at some point a star appeared which they had never seen before.
c. Many have speculated over the years about the nature of the star – was it a planet, a conjunction of planets, a comet or a super-nova? No one can say conclusively.
d. All we know is that it got their attention and gave them a direction.
e. There is an Old Testament prophesy called “The Star Prophesy” that many believe is the verse that led the wise men to Jesus.
f. The Star Prophesy is found in Numbers 24:17, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.”
g. So the star led them toward Jerusalem.
h. I wonder if the star somehow disappeared just as the neared the region, so they did the logical thing – they went to King Herod, the King of the Jews at the time, and asked him for further information.
i. Who better to ask about the birth of a new King of the Jews than the present King of the Jews?
j. Let’s see how that conversation went.
B. The Bible says: 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: