Greeting: Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens.
Text: 1) After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2) and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him. 3) When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4) When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5) "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 6) 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of My people Israel.'" 7) Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8) He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." 9) After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10) When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12) And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Introduction: Whatever happened to the Wise Men? Matthew tells us that the Magi saw the star that indicated the birth of the Jewish Messiah-King. They traveled to Israel and leaned where the Child would be born. They came to Bethlehem, they worshiped the infant Savior and then they left. After their left, we have not heard from them again. - Or have we? The original Wise Men, the mysterious Magi from the east, who honored the infant Jesus have passed from the scene. However Wise Men and Women still exist - and (like the original Wise Men) they still adore Jesus, the Royal Messiah. It is these original Wise Men who show us how it's done and inspire us to do the same.
1. Seeking The Christ With Eager Diligence
The Wise Men, the Magi, were truly wise people. They were an elite group of talented and educated people. They were scholars, priests and astronomers in places like Babylonia, Persia and Arabia, who were often employed as consultants to kings. The Magi generally believed in one god, had a strong moral code and had an active prayer and worship life. While studying the skies, some Magi saw the star from a position east of the land of Israel. They recognized this star as a sign that indicated the birth of the Messiah, the King of Israel.
What was the star the Magi saw? There has been much study and many suggestions in reply to this question. Some contend that the Wise Men's star was a specially created star, others a conjunction of planets, Some think it was a comet, others regard it as a nova or supernova. Still others think it may have been a combination of some of these. We are not exactly sure what the star that guided the Magi was. What we do know is that the star indicated to the Magi that the Christ was born.
How did the Wise Men know that the star pointed to the birth of the Messiah in Israel? The key Scripture passage that links the coming of the Messiah to a star is Numbers 24:17-19 which says: "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth. Edom will be conquered; Seir, His enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city." These words were spoken by Balaam, the prophet that Balak, the King of Moab, had hired to curse the people of Israel. God took control of Balaam's tongue and caused him to pronounce blessing on the people of Israel instead. These words, spoken about 1400 B.C. may have been passed on by traveling Jews or exiled Jews such as Daniel to people in other countries. This prophecy was remembered, studied and its fulfillment expected for hundreds of years.
We note that the Wise Men sought to find the Christ with eager diligence. They proposed and planned a trip that would take months to complete over hundreds of miles of a difficult, desert route. The journey would be expensive, lengthy and dangerous. In the minds and hearts of these Wise Men, the journey simply must be taken on. They firmly believed that they had to see this Chosen One, this Anointed King, this great long-promised Ruler, for themselves. So they made the arrangements: freeing up the time, planning their route, packing their provisions, and then setting off for the trip of a lifetime. They were determined and eager to find and to honor this special Child. They faithfully followed the leading of the star and inquired of King Herod in Jerusalem where they could find this recently born King.
The Wise Men then sought out the Christ with eager diligence. The Wise ones still do that today. The great quest of anyone's, of everyone's, life is to find the Messiah for themselves. Without the knowledge of Jesus, life is dark, empty, hopeless and doomed. The wise eagerly and diligently seek to find and meet and personally know and trust the Christ. They are glad that God has kindly remembered them and sent a Savior to them. They long to discover this Rescuer for themselves. They are not content with a vague, second-hand report about Him. The wise are resolved to expend great effort, time and resources in order to gain a clearer, deeper first-hand knowledge of Christ through His Word. Oh, that God would forgive us for the times we have been so foolish, so often for having so little interest and for spending so little effort to gain a deeper knowledge of the long-promised and long-ago-sent Messiah. Oh, that God would make us wise one who are most eager and diligent to know Him.
2. Greeting Their Lord With The Deepest Devotion
The Wise Men did find the Christ Child and when they did, they adored Him, by greeting their Lord with the deepest devotion. The Magi learned from the Jewish Bible scholars that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. They followed the star that had reappeared to the house where Jesus and his family was staying. The men joyously entered the home and bowed down before the Baby Jesus and worshipped Him. They offered the Infant Savior their deepest, heartfelt devotion.
In the Wise Men we have a wonderful picture of genuine, sincere adoration of the God-sent King of all. There is nothing regal about the humble house where Jesus was staying. There are no servants and no guards for this precious Baby. There is just the young mother and the tiny Baby. The cultured, educated, wealthy Magi are not troubled or put off by this humble setting. They have listened to the Word and followed God's guidance. They knew Jesus was the One chosen and sent by God to bring blessing to the world. So they poured out their hearts' love and loyalty to the heavenly Babe. They offer unrestrained, undiluted honor and reverence and a sincere, focused outpouring of awe and devotion.
The Wise Men then greeted the Savior with deepest devotion then and wise people still do that now. Notice the important lessons the Magi teach us. They honor this Jesus, who is so small and weak and appears so ordinary and unimpressive on the outside, They honor Him as the holy, mighty God of heaven who was sent to be their Lord. They teach us that Jesus is worthy of our complete attention and affection, that He deserves our full loyalty, love and adoration.
Oh, that God would pardon our often woeful worship of the Lord Jesus. So often it is so easy for us to be distracted, distant, dry, hesitant, joyless and soulless in our worship of Him. Oh, that God would make us wiser and help us follow the Magi, remembering the magnificence of Jesus' person and great worth of His work for us. Oh, that God would move us to put our total focus, our concentrated joy, our complete self into adoring and praising our heaven-sent Savior and Lord.
3. Serving Their King With Precious Offerings
The Wise Men revealed their God-given wisdom in a third important way. They served their Savior-King with precious offerings. These Gentile seers came to honor the Jewish king, yet they are invited by God to claim Him as their own. The Holy Spirit works that confidence in them. They believe the Christ Child to be their Lord and King. Having believed, they now offer their service.
They serve the Savior by presenting precious, helpful gifts to Him, treasures truly fit for a king. They present Him with gifts of valuable gold, fragrant incense, and the rare ointment, myrrh. They are all costly items and the best that they can give. Later they would give an even greater gift. King Herod had wanted them to report back to him the place where he could find the Child. Herod planned to kill Jesus. God warned the Wise Men in a dream about the plot. So they left Israel without telling Herod a thing. The Magi would not betray their King. They insisted on protecting Him.
The Magi teach us much about serving Jesus as our King. Their faith-led actions instruct us. As people who believe in Jesus we also love Him. We express our faith and love by giving and doing our best to honor and serve Him. As we evaluate the gifts we have been offering Him and service we have been giving Jesus, are we following the example of the Wise Men? Are we presenting to Jesus the best we can give? God regularly replenishes the resources He gives us. Are we regularly returning our best to thank and serve Him? As we examine our actions, are we giving God our best? Are we being careful not to fall for clever lies and dangerous traps that would have us betray our Lord and endanger His work? God, forgive us where we have fallen short. And - and - renewed by His deep and humble love for us that would cause Him to become a helpless baby and offer a lifetime of loving service for our salvation, may we be stirred in our souls and thrilled in our hearts to offer Him our best in this New Year. The Wise Men adored the Savior then, The Wise Ones still exist. By God's grace, we are God's Wise People who live and love to adore the Savior now. Amen.