Summary: Like of Wise Men looking for the young child Jesus, people today need the wisdom to seek the King.
1. Matthew 2:1-12 (NKJV) 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, 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." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’" 7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also." 9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
2. Overview of text:
a. "After Jesus was born" -- The wise men had traveled from the East (probably Babylon or Persia) which would have taken quite some time. After the wise men left, King Herod ordered that all male children in Bethlehem two years old and under be put to death. The wise men did not worship a newborn in a stable, but a "young child" in a house [Matthew 2:11].
b. Wise Men (Magi) -- This is the word from which we get "magic" and "magician." However, these were not ordinary magicians. They were respected for their knowledge and perception. These men were Gentiles -- they asked about the location of the one who had been born "King of the Jews." The word for magi is plural in Greek so it means there were two or more. Nothing indicates that they were kings.
c. Seen His star
(1) Some commentators and scholars explain this as a natural phenomenon such as Halley’s comet (which was visible in 12-11 B.C.). Those who study astronomy point out that an unusual conjunction of planets occurred in 7 B. C. Chinese astronomers recorded a supernova in 5 B. C. But how could such a natural event lead the wise men to the precise place in Bethlehem where Jesus was [Matthew 2:9 says the star "came and stood over where the young Child was."]?
(2) This explanation also leaves unanswered the greater question of 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 and that they needed to worship Him. J. W. McGarvey offered the best supposition when he wrote, "The magi were undoubtedly favored with a special revelation as to the Babe and the star." It is hard for us to offer any other explanation for the wise men’s knowledge other than that God revealed it to them in some special way. There is an apocryphal work called The Gospel of the Infancy which an angel in the form of a star guided them. We shouldn’t put much stock in those old fables, but this particular detail might be right.
d. King Herod. Herod’s father, Antipater, was made procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar in 47 B. C. After Antipater was poisoned to death in 39 B. C., Herod was appointed King of Judea by Caesar Augustus and the Roman Senate. Herod was a vicious, cruel ruler who had his wife and several of his sons put to death because he saw them as threats to his power. Herod was one of the greatest builders of ancient times. He built several cities and numerous forts, palaces, and sports venues. His greatest construction project, however, was beginning the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. The project lasted for 84 years and was not completed until A. D. 64 -- just six years before the Romans destroyed it. We know from secular sources that Herod died in March in the year 4 B. C. Calendars dating years from the birth of Christ were first compiled by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus in A. D. 525. Since Herod was still alive when Jesus was born, Dionysius obviously made an error in his calculations. Jesus had to have been born sometime before March, 4 B. C.