Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men [astrologers] from the east came to Jerusalem, asking,
“Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east at its rising and have come to worship Him.”
When Herod the king heard this, he was disturbed and troubled, and the whole of Jerusalem with him. So he called together all the chief priests and learned men (scribes) of the people and anxiously asked them where the Christ was to be born.
They replied to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are not in any way least or insignificant among the chief cities of Judah; for from you shall come a Ruler (Leader) Who will govern and shepherd My people Israel.”
Then Herod sent for the wise men [astrologers] secretly, and accurately to the last point ascertained from them the time of the appearing of the star [that is, how long the star had made itself visible since its rising in the east].
Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search for the Child carefully and diligently, and when you have found Him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.”
When they had listened to the king, they went their way, and behold, the star which had been seen in the east in its rising went before them until it came and stood over the place where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they were thrilled with ecstatic joy.
And on going into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then opening their treasure bags, they presented to Him gifts—gold and frankincense and myrrh.
And receiving an answer to their asking, they were divinely instructed and warned in a dream not to go back to Herod; so they departed to their own country by a different way.
Matt 2 v 1 – 12 (amplified)
During this busy time of year, it’s good to take some time out to focus on what Christmas is really all about. Let’s have a look back to what happened in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.
It’s the Wise Men or the Magi I would like to consider, gentiles coming to worship a Jewish king. There’s no other mention of them in the New Testament, only in the Christmas story. Who are these strange men and where did they come from?
The historians say that they came from the Babylonian and the Medo-Persian empires. They were men of influence, maybe spiritual advisers would be a better way to put it, giving insight, instruction and council to the kings. Also they were men of authority and had worked there way up into a position of prominence. A prospective king had to learn the law of the Magi and had to be approved by them before he could become king. You could say they were the “King makers of the East”.
This poses the question. Why did these gentiles of such importance want to come and worship the “king of the Jews”? We have to go back into the Old Testament to find the answer. When the Israelites were in exile in Babylon king Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him, he asked his wise men or Magi and enchanters for an interpretation . Now in saying that, he didn’t make it easy. They had to tell him what he had dreamed as well as the interpretation. No pressure.. none of his advisors were up to the challenge but there was one in the land that was, and his name was Daniel, a man “beloved of God”. Through various events that happened including the encounter in lions den, king Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel to be head of the Magi. He was now in a position to tell the story of the real King that would be coming. The King of the Kings, the Messiah.
Many years passed and the Magi were still waiting and looking for the real king to be born. Then about six hundred years after Daniel a remnant of the Magi saw the star in the east and they knew that the king they had been waiting for had arrived.
They gathered their entourage together and set off for Jerusalem. Now besides what the Christmas cards say, no one knows just how many wise men there were and also they probably rode Persian Steeds not camels. There would have been a large caravan of servants, supplies and maybe even a division of soldiers for protection as well. It would have been an impressive sight, with them wearing their large conical hats and their long flowing robes arriving into Jerusalem.
It’s makes me ask, what were they expecting when they arrived at Jerusalem. They knew the King of the Jews had been born and they were in home of the king. I’m sure they were expecting a buzz in the city, people celebrating but here was nothing, all was quiet. The Israelites, God’s chosen people had missed the birth of the king and yet it had happened only five miles away.
The wise men found out from Herod that’s it was Bethlehem that the Messiah was to be born in. So they set off and there is a beautiful comment when then see the star in verse 10.
“When they saw the star, they were thrilled with ecstatic joy”
They knew that the waiting was almost over, the generations had passed and they were about to see what they had been looking out for all these years. They were about to see the King, the real king.. God’s only begotten son.. Wow!!. No wonder they were ecstatic with joy, what an event..
They arrived at the house to see the young child, it was probably several months after the birth of Jesus. It’s their response to seeing the King was so moving, “they fell down and worshipped him”, their rank, position who they were mean’t nothing. They understood who it was before them, they knew they were in the presence of deity, God’s only Son.
They gave him gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. The gold was to say he was a king. Solomon and a few of the kings in the Old Testament were given gold to acknowledge their kingship. Then they gave Frankincense which speaks of his priestly service, the priests used it in the temple as a “sweet smelling aroma onto God”. Jesus had come to do the will of the father.
Then there was the myrrh, I find this the most difficult one to think about as it speaks of his death. When Nicodemus asked for the body of Jesus he brought myrrh to embalm the body. They knew that this child in front of them had come to die. It was the reason why he had come. When we look at any child we think of life, potential, expectation. The last thing any of think about is death but the wise men knew that Jesus had come to earth so that he could go to the cross. He had come to give his life as a ransom for many.
Through all the presents and festivities take time out this year to think of the birth of the real King. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son. The journey started in a stable in the small village of Bethlehem but ended on a cross in Jerusalem. He came to give his life, to accept the weight of our sin so that we could be free and have life.
This Christmas follow the wise men and take time to worship the King, the real King, our saviour Jesus Christ.