The Wise Men of Christmas
Taken from the author's book, Through the Scriptures. The Gospel according to Matthew.
The studying of the events surrounding the Birth of Christ, Such as the Wise men. It cannot be comprehended without an exposition of the reason for the events, which is the purpose we commemorate the Birth of Christ.
His birth was a great tiding to those who desired Him, but a great lost for those who rejected Him. It was a news of a great proportion. Reaching the highest class of Israel, and the lowest of the low to the shepherds. However, the Gospel which means Good News, is never the good news to those who despises good and love evil, openly or secretly.
The recollection of then is the story for today. The story we learn today is our lesson for tomorrow. In the exposition within the passages surrounding the birth of Christ, the preceding account provides a wealth of information for the Christian living. Therein we find ourselves through the characters of our texts.
There are those who do not deny who Jesus Christ is. However, they withhold any fellowship with Him. These were the religious leaders of our text; the Chief Priests and Scribes. The equivalence to our modern congressional representative and lawmakers.
Then there are those who acknowledge Him, yet opposed Him, fearing the acceptance of Him, is the end of their vice living. Such was Herod the Great. An appointed King of Israel, not by the decree of God, nor by the consent of the Jews, but by the authority of the Roman Empire. The greatness attributes to Herod; designate the great, was the greatness of evil he imposes on others.
Lastly, the right use of knowledge; will bring forth a worthy end, this is wisdom and true wisdom is validated when it is connected with the source of all wisdom; the Creator. Spurgeon once said, many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it.
Rightly so, the amount of what we know is not the validation of how wise we are, but the order in which we perceive through divine guidance is the wealthiest of all wisdom. The recipient of divine guidance usher in the characters of the Wise Men.
Faith in Jesus Christ and a total dependence on Him is a path to a true fellowship with God. A perfect illustration of such faith is portrayed in the brief, but inspiring recollection of the Wise men from the east.
Who were they?
We only know a little information about these men.
Where did they come from?
Although the Scripture recalls their location that of the East of Jerusalem, that is all we know. Their presentation of the three gifts to the baby Jesus does not substantiate the appearance of them as three. Considering the distance and timing of their trip, there is an indication there were many of them on this trip to see the baby who is the King of the Jews. First, we will deal with the title of these men.
The Scriptures called them Wise men, literally, “Magi” or “magician”. This does not mean astrology brought them to Jerusalem nor were they sorcerer. We know part of this due to the reason of their trip, it was to worship the Lord Jesus as a King and a Savior. The act of sorcery is ungodly, and devil inspired (Deuteronomy 18:10. Galatians 5:20-21) and those who does the work of the devil will not seek out the Lord to worship Him, but rather attempt to hinder His work.
Tracing the Divine hands of God, to the origin of the Wise men
Instead, these men were wise to seek the Lord. Secondly, they were wise in the fact, they were the learned men of the Eastern nations. Not necessarily kings, but likely leaders and men of importance. Their point of origin recalled by the Scriptures as mentioned was east of Jerusalem. Which gives us a vast area for consideration. Arabia, Persia, or Mesopotamia.
Within Mesopotamia was Babylon, which could have been their point of origin. For about five centuries before the birth of Jesus, a young Jew name Daniel was taken captive along with many others by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Those the king considered a value to his Kingdom because of their skills and knowledge, were appointed to a respectable government position.
Among them was Daniel of whom in his teen, he was selectively made a ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Here we see an early mention of the phrase wise men (Daniel 2:48)
Daniel position of a great honor and dignity as a leader wasn’t so much in the sense as a political figure as it is today, but rather learning, educational and instruction. For this reason, we know the influence of Jehovah was widely known and reckon among the wise men of whom Daniel was the head, also among the people of Babylon, including the surrounding nations.
Daniel did not waver in his faith due to fame and position. As a ruler and leader, he grew in faith and in the Wisdom of the Lord. The incident which led Daniel to a status as a ruler was at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreamed, a forgotten dream. Besides, all his wise men, and sorcerers, magicians, astrologers and the Chaldeans couldn’t tell the king his dream.
These were men who practiced necromancy, witchcraft, the occult and the seeking of familiar spirits (evil spirits). Although they saw all this as a form of supremacy and knowledge to govern their land. The truth is they were only a pawn used by fallen angels and demon spirits to rule Babylon.
Such things are forbidden by God, and with all their demonic help, yet, they couldn’t tell the king what his forgotten dream was, until Daniel the one who believed in Jehovah spoke the words given to him by God unto King Nebuchadnezzar. Not only did the young Daniel tell the king of his dream, but he also gives its interpretation.
What the forces of darkness couldn’t do through the host of many men, God did through one man.
From thereon Daniel became their leader and because Daniel did not waver in his faith. We know he taught them the ways of God and that someday the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, and before that, the Savior of the world would be born as the King of the Jews.
Although not all who worked under Daniel favored him because of his faith in God, but for those who did. Without a doubt their lives where change forever for the better. Daniel lived many years in Babylon through the reigns of multiple kings. Some kings recognized him while others didn’t unless they needed someone to give a revelation of the unknown.
Yet, through all this, his commitment and fellowship with God did not change nor did it dwindle. Moreover, the knowledge of God through him unto others, lives on forever.
Even after he was gone, without a doubt the echo of his saying continues; concerning the future works of the Messiah, the King of the Jews and the Savior of all mankind. Who would give Himself as a sacrifice for fallen humanity, our blessed hope.
Those who heard and received these words, held fast to it and passed it on from generation to generation, to generation and onward. Through faith they heard, and they believed, even though they did not see, yet they believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
About four centuries later in the time of our text. From the east of Jerusalem (the proximity of Babylon) out of an area ruled by the power darkness came forth men searching for the Light.
These were the wise men. Their history on earth may be little known, but their faith shall ever be greatly known. Let this be a lesson to all Christians who contend for the Faith. Though our surroundings might seem barren of the Gospel, and it seems like no one else care and we are all alone, but let it be known; the Grace of God is not limited to a particular place or certain people. The Holy Spirit can lead souls to Christ, even with limited resource and understanding. If that heart desire a change. Such were these men, born in darkness, surrounded in heathenism, yet they sought out the light.
Their journey and faith, serve as a true example of all that are in the world today and those who would yield to Christ. The journey of these wise men started with faith and continue with faith.
The recollection of their journey and the lesson therein
True faith is validated by test and trial. Despite the many attempts on their faith to prevent them from believing in the promise of God, in order to revert their pursuing of the presence of the newborn King. They pressed forward by faith. Even the initial of their journey was birthed by faith.
As it is recorded in Matthew 2:2. They saw a Star in the east (meaning while they were yet in their homeland they saw this star). They knew this star represented something of a great magnitude; likely with bearing with another prophecy of old, Numbers 27:17 … there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel… Through this they began their wonderful journey by faith. In hope to pay homage to the new born King of the Jews and the Savior of the World.
Although they did not have the complete understanding of Christ’s birth. Yet, they believed and moved forward, upon seeing this star.
A lot had been spoken and written as to what this star was. Likely a light of a great illumination. However, the importance of this star is not seeking to understand what it really was. Instead, its importance is to Whom it pointed to. The Lord Jesus Christ. For every heart out there, that truly desire the Lord, and is willing to be led by Him. He or she will have a star to lead them into the presence of their King and Savior. The star is the token of God’s glorious assurance of leading and guidance.
Walking by faith, not by sight
He who is being led by faith, does not comprehend the scope of the journey, but He who leads is God, and He knows the outcome. He is the author and the finisher of the journey and the faith.
As the journey of the wise men continues, they headed towards Jerusalem, the metropolis of the Jews. With gladness in their hearts and anticipation of being among the many to welcome the King of the Jews and the Savior of the world, but they soon realized their assurance of the journey was halted by uncertainty.
They did not walk into a celebration of the baby born King of the Jews. Instead, the streets were quiet. There wasn’t a proclamation of His birth, expect their own questions. Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship Him (Matthew 2:2)
Their question about the baby Jesus didn’t lead them to the answer they seek, instead it placed them in the center of an investigation.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3) All of Jerusalem was troubled because of Herod insecurity problems, which was always solved with the act of murder, including his own family members.
Upon hearing the news that there were Wise men from the east in search of the King of the Jews, and to worship Him. Herod no doubt once again felt insecure and fear and his solution once again was to murder, but to be precise about his demonic plan to murder the baby Jesus, Herod did gather all the chief priests and scribes of the people together. He demanded of them where Christ should be born (Matthew 2:4).
The Chief Priests were those of the highest ranking Jewish religious leaders, with duties as an overseer for the Temple. The Scribes, not all of them were religious, most were. They were men of the law. Transcribers and keepers of the Law. Some were men of learning, especially for one skilled in the Mosaic Law.
The lesson of affiliation
Within the passage above, there are two lessons to be learned. Herod and those he gathered together, represent two types of people.
The first is those who acknowledged who Christ is, but oppose Him. Note, Herod didn’t ask if Christ was born. He knew He was, but he asked where Christ was to be born, to oppose Him. Secondly, there are those who claim Christianity, but as a head knowledge, they know a great deal about Christendom, but they care less about what it stands for, it is without any impact on their lives.
When Herod asks this gathering of the Chief Priests and Scribes as to where Christ should be born? Their response was precise and right. They said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: thus it is written by the prophet. (of old)
Discerning from error
The question should arise in our minds when we read this. Considering the chief priests knew where and when their Messiah was born, why weren’t they in search of Him, proclaiming Him to the people and to bring praise to Him? Why the scribes weren’t there to take notes on such a monumental event?
Before the criticism is passed upon these men of old. Let the reader ask themselves. Do I have a time for the Lord? When was the Last time I heard of Him through a friend, a preacher and sought after Him? Or How long has it been since I came into His presence with acknowledgment and praise and worship? Are we so different from those who knew who Christ was, but chose not to follow Him? With all their great religious privileges, yet they had no honor to give Him. True fellowship is not based on how many times a person attends a Church or how many religious books they read or written nor what their fellow men think of them.
Faith in Jesus Christ and a total dependence on Him is a path to a true fellowship with God.
The persistence of Faith
The demand of Herod as to where Christ should be born. Was not a wholehearted love for Jesus Christ like these strangers from the east had displayed, but an animosity towards Christ. Even when the assembly gathered by Herod concluded by the Scriptures, as to where Christ should be born, in Bethlehem. The uncertainty the wise men might have felt was overwhelming and yet, another attack against their faith. An attempt to prevent them from seeking the Lord.
They first came into the land of the Jews to worship the King of the Jews. Yet, the Jews they encounter show no interest in their newborn King. Secondly, the newborn King wasn’t found in the Palace. Where a king ought to be. Instead, they were now told He should be born in Bethlehem. They came into the metropolis of the Jews, with high hope and honor to worship the King, but now they have to journey to a hillside village of Bethlehem, to seek the King among peasants.
Moreover, the star of hope and promise and guidance they once saw, was no more in sight. Was their long journey in vain? Was this really the will of God? These are the questions many of whom are called Christians would contemplate in their hearts, giving heed to doubt and unbelief and blaming God for what they do not yet understand.
Without direction nor understanding of their current situation. Herod privily called the wise men. He inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared (Matthew 2:7). A mad mind like Herod will stop at nothing, unless murder is enacted. His diligent inquiry of the appearance of the star, was to know accurately the age of the baby Jesus. In order for his murderous plan to be enacted.
Within these passages, we again see the representation of two types of people. There are those who would seek the presence of the Lord despite the hindrances, these were the wise men.
Whereas, there are those who pretend to desire to know more about the Lord, but their true intention is to try to disprove the power of God and destroy every evidence of God, secretly but precisely, like Herod.
His deceptive plan was to use the wise men as a precise instrument to murder this new King of the Jews and ultimately the wise men themselves because he considered himself the king of the Jews. Note, he referred to the Lord Jesus as the young child, but never the King of the Jews. His deceptive words of assurances to the wise men were; Go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also (Matthew 2:8).
As they departed, there is no evidence that they give their words to Herod that they would return to him. That wasn’t their focus, this might had been a difficult time to believe. It is easy to believe God when things are going accordingly as we anticipated, but when things are not happening like we hoped it would; It takes unchangeable faith to take the next step to move forward.
From the beginning they followed a miraculous star. With hope and joy to worship the King of the Jews. Yet, He wasn’t found in the city of Kings. Even when He was acknowledged by His fellow Jews, those who acknowledge His birth, care less about His well-being. Moreover, they had to leave Jerusalem, the city of Kings and travel southwest into Bethlehem, a humble village at that time, to find the King among peasants. This meant the continuation of traveling, into the unknown for five to six miles. Without the ease of modern’s transportation. The Journey would likely have taken seven to 10 hours, upwards due to Bethlehem’s geographical elevation of about 2,550 feet above the sea-level.
Comfort in endurance
To seek God is to desire to be in His presence. So great is His presence, that the toils and many obstacles in the path of those who desire Him shall not be hindered. They shall walk by faith and not by sight. The Christian Journey for God always seems to be contrary to the common sense of the world, many will condemn and ridicule its purpose.
There will be natural hindrances, like the time and conditions we may find ourselves in. Such was the condition of these men. Shall they return home? After all, they have tried. Or shall they travel yet many more miles into the unknown of the hill lands, and wilderness? As they contemplate these things. Yet, there was another hindrance.
The unbelief of men
Many times, they are those we considered as friends, relatives. Or those we hold up in high regards. As to the wise men, these were the religious leaders of Israel. They knew of the Lord’s birth. Yet, they believe not. Neither did they care to journey to Bethlehem with the wise men to worship the Lord Jesus Christ.
We must continue our attendance upon Christ, though we be alone in it; whatever others do,
we must serve the Lord; if they will not go to heaven with us, yet we must not go to hell with them (M. Henry).
Secondly, they didn’t look for a “sign” when they had a question. Instead, they resorted to the Word of God first. From there they received an answer. He shall be born in Bethlehem.
Whenever God gives a task, He will provide the means of carrying it out. Let this be a lesson to Christians today. Christians who once truly saw, and felt the presence of God and having accepted Him. They decided to follow Him, in serving and to have a fellowship with Him, but when a circumstance arises of which they do not understand, and the sign they once saw from God is no longer in their sight. They cease from believing and revert to their old path. This old path is a path of unbelief and it is a forgotten path.
That which is forgotten, it is already lost before it is forgotten. Such would be the outcome of those who revert to the path of unbelief. Lost and forgotten. But blessed are those that keep believing and hear His Words.
These men were wise and faithful because they believe, they were persuaded to place their confidence in God. To trust and rely upon the fact that God will make a way, despite the gloomy situation they found themselves surrounded by, in the darkness of uncertainty.
The integrous Word of the almighty God became a shining beacon of a star in their darkness. Thus, He has promised; I will never leave you nor forsake you. They believed and kept on believing, in so doing, they were immensely blessed and filled with exceeding great joy upon seeing the star once again.
Herein was their assurance, God was with them, and He has provided, and He will always provide. For He is Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord will provide).
The star reappears the second time as a reminder that God is with them. It became their personal navigation (without recalculating) it literally went before them (perhaps of a lower position) than that of a regular star. It led them and brought them to Bethlehem, till it came and stood over where the young child was (Matthew 2:9).
They were filled with exceeding great joy. O how great is a revelation when God is in it? Precise and joyful in its unfolding. An experience of increasing faith to boldly move forward, knowing God is with us. At last when they were 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 unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).
Factual lesson of the first encounter
As the wise men enter the house: note, it was a house and not a barn or stable. Although the Lord Jesus was born in a stable due to the lack of rooms in Bethlehem because of the many Jews that were ordered there by decreed of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus.
Among the many was the pregnant Mary, who had no room while she was in labor. The only availability was that of a stable. The unavailability of rooms bore more connotation than a coincidence of an overcrowded village of Bethlehem. Rather, it is a recurrent structure of this Gospel. The presentation of a king to His people and the rejection of Him by religion. The presentation of His kingdom and the rejection of it by spiritual proudness. His presentation of grace and life everlasting and the rejection of it by self-righteousness.
In a form of a human child, he came into the world made by Him. Yet, the world knew him not. (John 1:3)
Coming into His Presence
At last the reason for the rising of the miraculous star and the reason for their long journey into the unknown. To pay homage to the King of the Jews, is right before their eyes. Though their faith had been tested. Yet, they believe. As they enter the house wherein the young Child and His mother were, they were not welcome with a blast of a royal trumpet sound, nor were they led into His presence by the array of royal colors and the host of a renowned assemble. Neither a grandiose expand of an entrance, but the narrow opening to the door of a peasant’s house.
These were the learned men of their society, men of importance, hailed as the wise men. Yet, in meekness they step-down from their pristine eminent means of travels because those who truly seek the Lord, will surrender who they are because of who He is.
How we worship the lord, determine what he is to us
In their sight they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and they fell down, and worshiped him. Note, Matthew 2:11 recorded their immediate meeting, the Young Child is the first mentioned, but not His mother. They fell down and worshiped Him, but not His mother. Blessed be Mary, the one among many women chosen by God to serve as the womb to bring forth God’s salvation plan for all humanity including the blessed Mary herself.
All true worship must be directed to God through Jesus Christ and Him alone. Despite what little understanding we might have of Jesus Christ, let this be known He is God manifested in the flesh. Those who truly desire Him, will seek Him and will find Him. Those who truly see Him will know Him and will worship Him. Those who truly worship Him shall be filled with joy and will give Him their all. Indeed, these men were wise to give Him their all.
The Gifts of the Wise Men
They presented gifts of high value to the young Child and not His mother. They didn’t give the leftovers they had from their possessions as gifts while still holding on to their main possessions, but they opened their treasures, signifying what was precious to them.
Within their treasures, they presented gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. However, before they presented these costly gifts they first surrender themselves to the Lord by worshiping Him, which is to do Him homage. It means, to prostrate oneself to another, the person kneels, and puts his head between his knees, his forehead at the same time touching the ground. It was used to express both civil and religious reverence, as to a deity.
Howbeit, no one worship Jesus because He is a good man, but Jesus is worshiped because He is Lord.
It takes faith to worship
They saw a helpless baby in the union of its mother. Yet, they knelt. They saw a baby who couldn’t speak to the lame and give strength to a feeble leg. Yet, they bowed.
They saw a baby who couldn’t command as a king. Yet, they worshiped Him as King and Lord (of such they did not do towards Herod).
They saw a baby borne King in a surrounding not fit for a King. Yet they offered Him priceless gifts as The God who became man, to die once in place of His people; as a sacrifice. Yet He shall live again that He may govern His people forever as the King of kings and the Lord or lords.
Thus, it was written in the prophecy of old (Isaiah 9:6). For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
The meaning of the Gifts and how it relates to the Christian today
The gifts offered to The Prince of Peace as previously mentioned were that of gold and frankincense and myrrh. A lot had been written in time past, expounding the significance of the gifts. Before much is spoken again, let us first define its physical properties.
Beginning with gold; as obvious a precious metal, it wasn’t coined during this time like a gold coin of today. Instead, it was represented in the form of a fixed weight.
Next is Frankincense; originally a white or yellowish resin or gum like substance in its early stage, obtained from the cutting of the bark of a tree. Its finished product was that of a dry resinous substance in pieces or drops, of a pale yellowish white color, and very inflammable. Yet, highly sweet-scented.
Lastly is myrrh; like frankincense, it was obtained from a tree in the same manner, but its name denotes bitterness. Now, with the clarification of the physical aspect of the gifts. Forthwith, its significance can be studied.
Although these gifts were widely known. Yet, it did not diminish its value. It was worthful and costly. In sincerity and willingness these men were wise to give Christ, their all. God loves a cheerful giver, not because He desires what we have. He created all things, but when a Christian gives willingly and bountifully to the Lord, he or she first shows their love for God and secondly, they trust God is able to replenish all their needs.
A gift is only accepted in the presence of the Lord, if the giver is accepted by God and a giver can only be accepted by God, if The Lord Jesus Christ is acknowledged and accepted by the giver. Such were these Wise Men. They believe, acknowledged and accepted The Lord Jesus Christ before their gifts were accepted into His presence. Therefore, their gifts indicate their knowledge of this baby who is, The Christ.
They presented Him gold as a king, paying Him tribute. Gold in its many uses was also used to pay tribute to the kings. They give Him frankincense, acknowledging His deity as God. Frankincense was used in worship to honor God, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God (Exodus 30:8. Leviticus 16:12). Lastly, they presented Him myrrh. Myrrh was used primarily for the embalming of dead bodies. As a Man and a Savior, the myrrh signifies He would die for the sin of the world.
The second meaning of Giving is Illustrated in the Gifts of the Wise Men
Giving is just not a sheer necessity, it is who we are. When we give sincerely to God, in essence, we give ourselves and all we are to Him.
Once again in these three gifts we see the fullness of man surrendering himself unto God. Gold in its solid state represents our substance, or our body. When we come to Christ, we humble ourselves to Him, surrendering who we are unto Him.
Frankincense in its aeriform and exhalations, represent our inner being, our thoughts and motives. May our thoughts and motives be a sweet savor unto God.
Lastly myrrh in its use of embalming represents all our dead works, bitterness, sorrow and suffering. Let us give it all to Christ that we may receive His fullness of perfection and grace.
Where the grace of God is, there is always God’s provision. Once again, the illustration of the wise men is a true example of what it is to follow Christ. It is always about His business, and never ours. We must be ready, knowing His watchfulness is Omnipresent, if we draw near to His Son. We shall receive provisions as children, and He shall be our Father.
Therefore, as children, His will shall be done in us, for it has already been ordained in Heaven, if we trust in the LORD with all our heart; and lean not unto our own understanding. In all our ways, may we acknowledge Him, and He shall direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
After their journey to Bethlehem, and the worshiping of the Baby born King of the Jews, and their presentation of gifts; Indeed, they were blessed and filled with great joy. It is not certain if their next undertaking was to return to Jerusalem as Herod had commanded them deceitfully, to bring him word about the whereabouts of the Young Child.
One-day, new faith. A new day a new faith
Although these men display great faith in God, but they were still men who needed the constant intervention of God’s Divine grace and providence upon their lives. It is likely their stay in Bethlehem was less than a 24 hour. Considering when they arrived at the house where they saw the Young Child and His mother, it was already night time or almost night time because it was the miraculous star which brought them, there i.e. (a light in the dark).
Although as stated; it is uncertain if they decided to return to Herod to bring him word about the baby Jesus, but what is certain they expected the intervention of God on their behalf for His leading and guidance.
Angels are watching, ready to act by God’s command for those who put their trust in Him
At this point they saw it wise to rest for the night and laid themselves down a while, for some refreshment and sleep. Next, we get a glimpse of the beauty and the magnificent structure of the angelic world. God is always present with those who depend on Him. His angels are always attentive to His sight. They faithfully attend to the presence of God and are ready to perform any service for Him.
They are not bare children as wrongfully often depicted, neither are they adorn in apparel as if they were the focus of an elaborate pageantry of tenderly fair females. Their looks should not be the focus of our interest, but rather the purpose of their service should be one of our many gratitude towards God of Whom they serve. However, their undertaking should give us a perception of their being.
They play key roles in the protection of a nation (2 Kings 6:16-17).
They play key roles in the establishment of a nation (Daniel 10:12-14).
They play key roles in the dethroning of nations (Daniel 10:20).
Furthermore, they are involved in the lives of the believer (Hebrews 1:14).
For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways (Psalms 91:11). The Christian way is the way of God; which is to follow Jesus. In such way the provision of God is always upon those who abide therein.