The Wise Men’s Journey (Matthew 2:1-12)
This week we are going to look at the wise men, Herod, and the Bethlehem Star, so let’s read Matthew 2:1-12, “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, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”
Who Were The Wise Men?
In Matthew 2:1-12, we see the arrival of the wise men in Jerusalem after they saw the star in the east. But who were these wise men, the Bible does not give us an exact answer, other than that they were magi, gentiles, wise men, and from the east. Them being wise men was proved even more so by them coming and seeking out Jesus. The wisest men are the ones who seek out Jesus. Several theories have prevailed historically, which can give us clues as to who and where the wise men were from. The first is that the wise men were magi from one of the countries where the Jews were exiled. The most prevalent country in this theory is Babylon where Daniel was a magi in his time, many think that Daniel taught them about the Messianic prophecy and it had been passed down through the generations. The second theory is that God laid on their hearts what the star meant. The third theory, and the one I find most likely is the theory that the wise men were Arabs because that is where the Bible often refers to as the east and the Arabs often honored David and his line with gifts which could be a foreshadowing of the Messiah. A misconception we have in modern times about the wise men is that there were only three even though the Bible does not give us an exact number. Another one is that they were kings even though it is not supported by the scripture and is contradicted by how Herod interacts with the wise men.
What the Wise Men Were Seeking
The wise men came asking “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” One thing we should notice about what the wise men said, is the certainty they had in their speech. They do not ask if the King of the Jews has been born, no they ask where is he who has been born King of the Jews? We see the way God revealed to both the shepherds (which we covered last week) and the wise men in their language or in the way they were most acquainted with. Some people think that we should share the gospel only in church, that only some people can, or that we should never use the cultural examples, events, or holidays to share the gospel, that Christians should keep themselves completely separate from culture and to those people I say to read John 17:6-26. When we should really meet the person where they are and in something they are well acquainted with. The wise men were seeking to worship Jesus, we should do the same. That is what this season should be about, worshiping Jesus but instead, we fight over whether to even celebrate Christmas. Christmas should not be a time of division, it should be a time of unity because people are seeking at Christmas and we need to meet that need as the church. It should not be a time of heightened consumerism, it should be a time of worshiping Jesus and sharing Him with everyone we meet.
The Bethlehem Star
The wise men told Herod of the star that they followed to find the King of the Jews. Many have surmised about this star, the theories have ranged from it was the angels that appeared to the shepherds and the wise men saw the light from the angels, to it was an alignment of some or all of the planets. One that has been prevalent because of the word rose in the passage and the fact that it disappeared and then reappeared is that it was a comet (Chinese astronomers recorded a star which sounded like a comet right around Jesus’ birth) or a supernova (Chinese astronomers also recorded a supernova the only one in recorded history visible to naked eye which was right around His birth). If you would like to dive deeper into what the Bethlehem star could have been here are two links to check out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exmbuX1NffU and https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/the-star-of-bethlehem-can-science-explain-what-it-really-was) If you do decide to dive deeper keep in mind that it could always be something supernatural like an angel that can not be explained by science. But what we can know about the Bethlehem star for sure is that God put it there to guide the wise men to Jesus. Look at creation it also can guide others to Jesus.
The Troubled Herod
What the wise men told Herod troubled him because he was the king and did not want to lose power. He was already older and probably would not even have lived long enough for Jesus to be a threat, if Jesus would have been here to be an earthly king, but as the star and angel had already proclaimed He was not here to be an earthly authority, but to be the savior of all mankind. But Herod had already decided the infant Jesus was a threat. So he assembled the chief priest and scribes of the people to find out where Christ was to be born. They consulted the prophecy and found in Micah 5:2 where He was to be born and then they told Herod that He was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea. Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and asked them when the star appeared and then he sent them to Bethlehem saying “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” We later see that this was a lie that Herod did not want to worship Jesus, but kill Him. In Matthew 2:13-18, we also see that the wise men told Herod when the star appeared and since Herod killed the children who were under age two we can make an educated guess that it was a year or two before. This also caused Mary and Joseph’s journey to Egypt which we think was paid for by the gifts of the wise men.
Time to Worship
When the wise men were leaving Jerusalem on their way to Bethlehem they saw the star, and they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. That is what Christmas is all about seeking Jesus and rejoicing with great joy. They followed the star until it was above the house where Jesus was. On arriving at the house they went in and saw Jesus and Mary and they fell down and worshiped Jesus. Then they opened up their treasures and gave Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The gift of Gold represented Him being the descendant of David and rightful heir to David’s throne. The gift of frankincense is what was offered to God showing us that He was God. The gift of Myrrh showed us that He would die and redeem us from our sins, that is the beauty and meaning of Christmas. Because the penalty for sin is death and we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23, 6:23). The good news is that He died for you and on the third day He rose from the grave showing that not even death has power over our God. Anyone who accepts Him will be given eternal life with God, that is the greatest Gift ever given. If you would like to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior all you have to do is to admit that you are a sinner, repent of your sins, believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and God raised Him from the dead, and confess Him as Lord and Savior of your life (Romans 10:9). So this week, if Jesus is not Lord and Savior of your life, what better time than Christmas to give your heart and life to Him. Also, this week celebrate Jesus and tell everyone you encounter about Him, so they can also receive the greatest gift ever given. Remember that the wise men took time off and took a long journey to a distant land to worship Jesus, so we should take time out of our busy holiday schedule to seek and worship Jesus by rejoicing with great joy.