Matthew 2:1-12 contains the story of the wise men who travelled a great distance to worship the the Lord Jesus Christ. This grand occasion took place soon after the amazing event of the birth of Christ. In this post I would like to consider the events that transpired and the lessons that can be learned.
Prior to all this happening, Joseph and Mary had travelled to Bethlehem so as to register for the census (Luke 2:4-5). Soon after their arrival in Bethlehem, Mary goes into labour. There was no room for them in the inn (a small guest room for travellers), so they lodged in a humble shelter and there the Son of God was born. The future King was laid into a manger, which was a feeding trough for animals (Luke 2:7). The Creator and King was born in such humble circumstances.
After these events we read, “in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” (Matt. 2:1). Who are these “wise men“? Christmas tradition tells us there were three of them and they were kings (Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar). However, that is only guesswork. Based on the word for “wise men” they were likely educated individuals who studied astronomy, astrology, science and religious matters. They may have been royal advisors. It is believed that the reference to the east refers to Babylon or even Persia. If these wise men had travelled from ancient Babylon that would have been a 1,288 km journey!
After this long and committed journey, they arrive in the city of Jerusalem and with great anticipation they ask the question, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matt. 2:2). They were expecting to see they King, but the initial sight they saw from the nation where He was going to be born was blank faces. They provide the reason for this question by saying, “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship Him” (Matt. 2:2b). God allowed for these men to see this star and thus fulfilled an ancient prophecy of the coming King: “A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17).
When this news had reached king Herod, he became troubled by it (Matt. 2:3). If this is true, this posed a huge threat to his position. So he assembled the chief priests and scribes so as to find out from the Scriptures what this could be referring to (Matt. 2:4). With this team of legal experts came the discovery that the Scriptures did indeed predict this to occur. Matthew 2:6 contains two ancient prophecies (Mic. 5:2; 2 Sam. 5:2):
“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.”
So Herod organized a secret meeting with the wise men so as to obtain further information (Matt. 2:7). He sent them to Bethlehem and told them that when they find him to let him know so that he may come and worship the newborn king (Matt. 2:8). This of course was a lie as he had no intention of worshiping Jesus. The wise men left and the star reappeared and guided them to the specific location (Matt. 2:9). They came to the house where the child was and fell down worshipping Him and offered gifts. By this stage Joseph and Mary moved from the small shelter to house (Matt. 2:11).
After this, an angel appeared to the wise men in a dream and told them to not return to Herod. So they departed and went all the way back to their homes secretly by going another way (Matt. 2:12).
Consider two important lessons from this well known story. Firstly, the wise men searched for the King. What we don’t read about is how these men came to the knowledge of the truth. God clearly had been working in their lives and first sought out these individuals (cf. Rom. 3:11). When God truly seeks out a sinner, the sinner can’t help but seek after God. This is what happened here. In response to God’s work in their life, they searched for the King and nothing was going to get in their way. Secondly, they worshipped the King. After they found the King, they worshipped Him. This is a fitting response to knowing who Jesus Christ is. He of course is the Son of God and worthy of all our attention and adoration.
The events in this passage of Scripture reveal so much more than the cover of a Christmas card. These men proved to live up to their name (“wise men”). Not because of their education or prestige – simply by their actions. You too can be classed as a wise man or woman if you come and worship the King.