Summary: Matthew now introduces us to a fascinating part of the story of the birth of Jesus by introducing a group of mysterious travelers who have come seeking Jesus. There are three things in this story that proved that they really were “Wise men."
“Wise Enough to Seek Him”
Matthew 2: 1-12
For many of us the joy and anticipation of the season has been reduced to figuring out what we can afford to give our loved ones. It is from the gifts given by the Wise Men to the Christ child that we get our tradition of giving gifts at Christmas! But for many it is not truly giving gifts it is a gift exchange. Sometimes what we give and receive during the Christmas season are not really gifts at all. They are exchanges. That’s when you give a gift because someone has given or you expect will give you a gift. You give them a gift equal to the gift you expect to receive from them. True gifts are given for the joy of giving not in the anticipation of receiving something in return.
Matthew now introduces us to a fascinating part of the story of the birth of Jesus by introducing a group of mysterious travelers who have come seeking Jesus. As we examine what the Bible says about this fascinating part of the birth of Jesus in Matthew 2:1-12 we will discover that much of what we believe we know about the Wise men is built upon fallacies.
Almost every Christmas season we sing the song, “We Three Kings.” This song tells one of the intriguing events of the Christmas Story, the arrival of the Wise Men. But as we will see much of what have seen portrayed about the Wise Men comes from myth and legend not the Bible.
Let’s list the things we think we know about the Wise men; that they were three in number, that they were kings, that they were from the Orient, that they worshipped baby Jesus in the manger.
Now let’s consider the facts. Verse one tells us, “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.”
Great legends and myths have grown up around these mysterious travelers. For example, from the biblical account we cannot be certain about the number of the magi. Tradition says there were three men because they gave three different gifts. There is as much reason to believe that there were half-dozen or a dozen or more Wise Men. As men of wealth they probably traveled with caravan of attendants. When they arrived in Jerusalem they created a sensation. Herod the scoundrel that he was recognized them as men of great dignity and genuine distinction.
We do not know their nationalities for sure, we do not know their names, or if they rode camels and what they wore although it was probably not bath-robes as we see in most church reenactments.
We do know that came from the East and were Gentiles by birth. In biblical language the “east” was the region beyond the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers – the area of ancient Persia – today comprising the countries of Iran and Afghanistan. The word “wise men” is literally Magi. They were active throughout Babylonia during much of Old Testament history. The book of Daniel in the Old Testament tells about their influence under King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon in the sixth century before Jesus was born.
We also know that they were scholars by education. They were considered sages, the scholars of their time. They were also politically powerful since no Persian could become king unless he mastered the scientific and religious disciplines of the Magi. Their political and legal expertise resulted in the highest legal code described in the books of Daniel and Esther as "the law of the Medes and the Persians." Our modern word "magistrate" is derived from the word Magi. Daniel taken prisoner by King Nebuchadnezzar; was appointed chief of the Magi in Babylon because of his amazing wisdom, intuition and knowledge that came from the Lord God.
Three things about this men proved that they really were “Wise men.”
First, They Were Wise Enough To Seek Him.
We do not know how the Magi knew about the coming king revealed in Scripture, perhaps they learned it from the writings of Daniel, but obviously the Lord revealed it to them some way and then confirmed it by a sign, the star.
The Wise Men say that they have been led by the light of a star (v.2). “Saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
What was the star that the Magi followed? Was it a comet, some kind of planetary conjunction, or a supernova? Frankly, we don't know, the particular Greek word used here (aster) is a very general one. Astronomers try to prove that it was some sort of natural phenomenon. Perhaps the star was a visible manifestation of the Shekinah glory of God, like the pillar of light which led Israel by night, or like the glory of the Lord that shown on the shepherds when Jesus' birth was announced to them. This “star” appeared to guide them and then disappeared, then appeared again to lead them to the very house where Jesus was.