The Wise Men

The Wise Men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:1-12)

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Wise Men from the east of Jerusalem.”

These ancient travelers from the east were men of mystery. No one knows for certain from whence they came, nor wither they returned. They emerged from the darkness, for a brief moment they appeared upon the page of history, and passed again into obscurity. Many legends have grown up around them; they have been immortalized in story and song.

These men of mystery were men on a mission. “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? We have seen His star in the east and are come to worship Him.” We do not know what star the Wise Men saw. It was their profession to watch the heavens. Some heavenly brilliance spoke to them of the entry of a King is a symbol of man’s seeking. There is some validity in the concept that the history of man is a search, (often an unconscious search,) for the living God. “The history of philosophy,” said George Henry Luce, “is the history of man’s long quest for God.” in the heart of every human being is an unnamed hunger to be at one again with God. These men of mystery and mission speak of that restlessness of the soul until it finds its rest in God.

It is quite natural that the Wise Men in their search for the birth of the King of the Jews should go first to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the capital of Judaism. Certainly the king would have been born there. But when they arrived they found no throng in the streets celebrating the birth. Instead they found open hostility in the part of Herod. When Herod received the news of the birth of a King he was very upset. Herod thought of this child as a threat to his place, to his position and to his power. Thus, his first instinct was to destroy the child. There are still those, such as the communists, who would gladly destroy Jesus Christ. There are others who say, “We will not have this man rule over us.” They see Him and His teachings as One who would interfere with their life style. They want to be their own lord and master and, thus, have little use for Jesus Christ. The Christian, however, is the man who has ceased to do what he likes, and who strives to order his life according to the will, the way and works of Jesus.

The Wise Men found indifference on the part of the religious hierarchy. They were so engrossed in the Temple ritual and their legal discussions that they simply disregarded Jesus. It mattered not to them that the prophecy of Micah: “You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not by any means the least among the rulers of Judah; for from you will come a leader who will guide my people Israel,”  was being fulfilled. This meant nothing to them. There are still those who ignore the person of Christ and are indifferent to His teachings. The question of Jeremiah can be asked, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” Is it nothing to you “that there is born this day in the City of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord?”

The Wise Men, foreigners from the east, had come “to worship Him.” They did not react negatively against this Divine Intruder into the world and affairs of men. They responded positively in love, praise, and adoration. Surely when any man realized the love of God in Jesus Christ, he too should be lost in wonder, love, and thanksgiving.

            Hail to the Lord’s Anointed, Great David’s greater Son!

            Hail, in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!

            He comes to break oppression, To set the captive free.

            To take way transgression, And rule in equity.

When these men of mystery and mission learned that the King was to be born in the City of David, they set out from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and “lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”

In towns throughout the world,

Are saddened hearts tonight.

In many a home, once filled with joy,

Grim war has cast its blight.

The dreams of prophet’s low are laid

In warlike death and dearth.

And yet, athwart a distant sky,

Still shines a sovereign Star,

With joy we hail its healing beams;

We seek its light from afar,

The peoples of the earth once more

In reverence and prayer,

Take that old path to Bethlehem

And find solace there.

That star “athwart a distant sky” reminds us that God is seeking man. The history of philosophy may be the record of man’s search for God, but the message of the Bible is the account of God’s search for man. One of the first questions in the Bible is: “Adam, where art thou?” And its last page is a divine call to man: “The Spirit and the Bride say, come let him heareth say, come. And let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” This is what Christmas is all about. It is the story of the Light of the World who came “to seek and to save the lost.” The “grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men has appeared” saying: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man will open unto me, I will come in unto him and will fellowship with him and he shall fellowship with me.”

Have you any room for Jesus, He who bore your load of sin?

As He knocks and asks admission, Sinner, will you let Him in?

Room for pleasure, room for business, But for Christ the crucified,

Not a place that He can enter, In the heart for which He died?

Room for Jesus, King of glory! Hasten now His word obey;

Swing your hearts door widely open, Bid Him enter while you may.

When these men of mission and mystery “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, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Gold is the gift for a King. Jesus was “the Man born to be King.” He was to reign not by force but by love. He was to rule over the hearts of men, not from a throne, but from a cross. We do well to remember that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. We can never meet Him on equality. We must always meet Him on the terms of complete submission and surrender.

Frankincense is the gift for a priest. Jesus is our great High Priest. Priest comes from the Latin word pontifex, which means bridge builder. The priest is the one who builds a bridge between God and men. That is what Jesus did. He opened the way to the presence of God. He said, “I am the way … no man comes to the Father but by me.” There are many ways, many avenues that lead to Jesus Christ. But the babe of Bethlehem is the only living way unto God.

Myrrh is the gift for the one who is about to die. Myrrh was used to embalm the bodies of the dead. Jesus came into the world to die. You and I were born to live. He, alone, was born to die. He affirmed, “I am come to give my life a ransom for many … No man takes my life from me, I give it up of my own free will.”

Gold for a King, frankincense for a priest, myrrh for one who is about to die – these were the gifts of the Wise Men. They foretold that He was to be the true King, the Perfect High Priest, and the Supreme Savior of men.

These men of mystery and mission truly were Wise Men..

Who were the Wise Men in the long ago?

Not Herod, fearful least he lose his throne:

Not Pharisees to proud to call their own;

Not priest and scribes whose province was to know;

Not money changers running to and fro;

But three who traveled weary and alone,

With dauntless faith, because before them shone

The Star the led to a younger low.

Who are the Wise Men now, when all is told?

Not men of science; not the great and strong;

Not those who wear a kingly diadem;

Not those whose eager hands pile high the gold;

But those amid the tumult and the throng

Who follow the Star of Bethlehem.

O star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect light.

Dr. Robert W Kirkpatrick

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