Summary: This sermon takes a look at the Magi.
I read this humors account of the Wise Men (obviously written by a woman):
If it had been ‘Wise Women’ instead of ‘Wise Men’, they would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts from Baby’s-R-Us, including diapers, wipes, bibs and formula. But that’s an entirely different story… [SermonCentral]
The story that we are looking at this morning comes from Matthew 2:1-12
Listen very closely. And, I am going to ask you a few questions about it.
MT 2:1 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 in the east and have come to worship him."
MT 2:3 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 Christ was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
MT 2:6 “`But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’ "
MT 2:7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
MT 2:9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (NIV)
These mysterious travelers from the East have always been a fascination to me.
I. Who were these Wise Men?
Remember, I told you that I was going to ask you a few questions. The first question that I have for you is:
1. How many of them were there? All that the Bible tells us about their number is that they gave three gifts. The Bible doesn’t say that there were 3 or 50.
We usually depict three wise men because there were three gifts. It does seem that the most prominent of these would be the ones who presented the gifts, so our picture of three men giving gifts seems a pretty accurate depiction no matter how many there actually were.
Would you want to travel great distances carrying precious cargo with just two other people? It would be odd to travel in a small group, especially carrying riches. It is evident that robbers and thieves existed in that day, just as they exist in this day. It seems likely that this might have been a sizable group of travelers. And, three men traveling alone would be especially odd if these men had the status that we traditionally ascribe to them. This brings us to my next question for you.
2. Were they kings?
It was Tertullian (160-225) who told us that the Magi would have been considered Kings. And, thus fulfill the prophecy concerning, “And to Him shall be given of the gold of Arabia;” and again, “The kings of the Arabs and Saba shall bring Him gifts.”
[Ultimate Christian Library, Anti-Nicene Fathers, Tertullian, Part One, 291.]
I agree with Tertullian that they were probably as powerful as kings in their own country. And, I would also point out to you that they were not kings as we consider kings, in that each one was the ruler of a country. Verse Twelve told us.
12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Notice one country is mentioned. It would seem that they were all from the same country. Were they kings? They were probably not officially kings, but kingly enough that they fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. They may have been richer and more powerful than most kings.
They have wealth.
They have enough power that Herod does not have them killed on the spot for suggesting his replacement is born. And, let me tell you, Herod was capable of doing just this. He had killed his own family members. He had anyone who opposed him killed. To come to Herod saying, “A new king is born” is as dangerous as it gets.