Summary: When we look at the account of the wise men we will see some reasons why they were wise. The characteristics that made the wise men so wise are the same ones that will make us wise too.
WHAT MADE THE WISE MEN SO WISE?
INTRODUCTION: Today I’ll be talking about the wise men’s part in the Christmas story. You might be wondering why I am doing a Christmas sermon after Christmas. Well, I’m focusing on the wise men specifically after Christmas because they arrived on the scene after Christmas. Contrary to many a depicted nativity scene, the wise men were not there at the manger when Jesus was born. They saw Jesus later, when he was in his home. In regards to this, Janice Webb, Editor for Gages Lake Lighthouse, wrote, “What would’ve happened if it had been wise women instead of Wise Men? They would’ve asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, and made a casserole!” Perhaps, but today we’ll look at what made the wise men so wise.
1) They believed (1-2).
Not much is known about these Magi (traditionally called wise men). Magi is where we get the word "magic" from. Interestingly, in Adam Clarke’s commentary, the “Anglo-Saxon translates the word magoi, which signifies astrologers, from a star or planet, and to know or understand”. In other words, in the Old English, Magi signified a person who knew or understood the stars and planets.
It has been suggested that these men were astrologers but not in the sense that would’ve been forbidden in scripture. The problem with astrology is that one looks to the stars for guidance and answers instead of looking to God. The wise men looked to the stars not as a substitute for God but rather as a tool God used to communicate. It makes sense for God to use his creation to help tell a story and give signs because all of what he created is to be used for his purposes. We don’t look to the things of creation to be our god we look to God and he uses his creation to speak to us in specific ways.
Tradition says the Magi were men of high position from the area near ancient Babylon but they could’ve come from Persia or southern Arabia. They were most likely gentiles (refer to Jesus as king of the Jews). Since they were gentiles and from a land far away how did they know that the star they saw represented the Messiah?
They may have had associations with Jews who remained in Babylon after the Exile who would’ve had copies of the Old Testament. If so then they may have known the O.T. prophecies concerning the timing of the Messiah’s coming like Daniel 9:25-27 talks about. It is also understood that Magi were philosophers who would’ve studied religion so it’s likely they would’ve studied, and in this case became convinced of, the biblical scriptures. It’s also quite conceivable that they simply received a special message from God directing them to the Messiah.
“Seen His star”. What was this special star? Some think it was Halley’s Comet. But that appeared in 11 B.C. So it was too early. Some say it was a supernova, which is kind of like a shooting star. But there is no record of a supernova during that time. Some feel there was a strange occurrence of Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn aligning in a very rare conjunction that appears once every 125 years. And it was recorded to have happened in 7 B.C. so none of these events line up with the time of Jesus’ birth.
But even so, how could such a natural event lead the wise men to the precise place in Bethlehem where Jesus was? Matt. 2:9 says the star "went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was". This suggests that this was no ordinary star. First of all, stars travel west and Bethlehem was south of Jerusalem. Second, stars don’t stop over a specific location.
Then we have how the wise men knew to attach this special meaning to a star in the heavens. They knew that the star meant that the King of the Jews had been born. It was likely a unique and special divine star that guided them. Just like God guided the Israelites with a pillar of fire and a cloud, I believe God guided the Magi to His Son. They listened to God who revealed to them that the Messiah was born and that the star they saw was his and that they needed to pack it up and move it out. The wise men believed and followed. They trusted that what God said was true. God revealed to them the way to Jesus and they didn’t dismiss it; they obeyed. They followed God’s lead.
The wise men focused on the star and followed it as it moved along and stopped where Jesus was. It’s like when the Israelites followed the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night wherever it went. When it stopped they stopped and set up camp and when it moved they pulled up their tent pegs and moved with it. For us, the star, the pillar and the cloud can represent the Holy Spirit. We follow him wherever he leads. Just like the wise men and the Israelites before them, we who are wise follow God’s lead. We stop when he says ‘stop’ and we go when he says ‘go’.