Summary: A historical look at the Wise Men’s quest.
Wise Men Still Seek Him
This morning our text is Matthew 2:1-12, the passage of scripture that describes the
wise men’s search for the Messiah so they could worship Him and give Him gifts.
Before I read the scripture, I want to ask you how your shopping is going? How
many of you are completely done? Raise your hands. How many of you are at least
half way through? Let me see your hands. OK, now, how many of you haven’t
started? That’s what I thought.
Christmas shopping, though fun, can be difficult. Did you hear about the guy that
bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas? A friend of his said, "I
thought she wanted one of those sporty 4-Wheel drive vehicles." "She did," he
replied. "But where am I gonna find a fake Jeep?" (Fresh
I hope your shopping is more sincere than the man’s in my joke. I hope it is as
sincere as the wise men’s in our text:
"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,  ’Where is He who has
been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to
worship Him.’  And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all
Jerusalem with him.  And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the
people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born.  And they
said to him, ’In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet, 
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of
Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler, Who will SHEPHERD My people
 Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star
appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, ’Go and make careful
search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may
come and worship Him.’  And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo,
the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and
stood over where the Child was.  And when they saw the star, they rejoiced
exceedingly with great joy.  And they came into the house and saw the Child
with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their
treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.  And
having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for
their own country by another way."
When I read this text, the first question that comes to my mind is, "How did these
wise men know to seek Jesus?" In a minute, we will explore that question together,
but before we do, I want us to ponder another question: "Why did God warn the
wise men not to accept Herod’s invitation to return?" The obvious answer lies in
what Herod did after Jesus was born, Look at Matthew 2:16: "Then when Herod
saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and
slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two
years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi."
What kind of man was Herod? Was the slaughter of innocent children we just read
about his only act of atrocity, or were there others?
By and large, Herod was an evil man, but he did have his moments of kindness.
During the famine of 25 B.C., Herod melted down a gold plate he owned to use to
purchase corn to feed the starving people. (Barclay, p. 19)
Good for him. Unfortunately, that just goes to prove that even an evil man can rise
to an occasion and do the right thing.
Something he wasn’t known for. Remember it was Herod who killed John the
Baptist at the request of his niece. Why did his niece want John killed? Because her
mother, who was the wife of Herod’s brother, was involved in a scandalous affair
with King Herod, asked her to make the request of the king. Why would the King
honor such a dark request? He was cornered. After she danced for him, he pledged
to do whatever she wanted because she pleased him. (Matthew 14: 1-12)
These killings weren’t isolated incidents. The Roman Emperor, Augustus, said it was
safer to be Herod’s pig than his son. Herod had killed 3 sons, his wife and his