Devotion In Motion
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” These visitors to Jerusalem are called “wise men” or literally “magi”. The Greek historian, Herodotus, identified the magi as a priestly caste of Medes – probably men who served as advisors in the royal court of Persia. The English word “magistrate” is a direct descendant of the word “magi”.
The magi were skilled in mathematics, science, astronomy, and religion. They kept one eye on the sacred writings and another eye on the heavens. They were on the lookout for a supernatural sign, and one had appeared… A star in the East was pointing out the location of the Hebrew Messiah. Remember, the Hebrew prophet Daniel once served in the court of Babylon. He was head over the magi. No doubt these men had studied his prophecies. Daniel 9 would’ve told them that the coming of the Messiah was near. The wise men were also familiar with another Babylonian astrologer named Balaam. He too, had been privy to God’s plans, and had seen this star – years in advance.
In Numbers 24:17 Balaam predicted, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a star shall come out of Jacob; a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” What this “star” actually was we’re not sure… Famed astronomer, Johannes Kepler, theorized it was an alignment of planets that occurred in 4 BC – the alignment was visible from Jerusalem – in the sky over Bethlehem. How an alignment of planets led them to the exact house is unknown. Of course, it could’ve been a comet, or some other celestial body? Or perhaps the star was supernatural. God put it in the heavens for this very moment?
I believe it was the Shekinnah glory sent by God to point the way. Whatever the star was, the magi reacted properly – they followed it to worship Jesus. We say it every Christmas, but it’s true, “wise men still worship Jesus.” They come to Jesus. They’ll bow to Jesus. And they’ll give to Jesus. The wise men are forever examples of worship. True worship leaves where it is and moves in a direction toward Jesus. It swallows its pride and submits to His will. And it finds something to give – in response to the many gifts Jesus has given us.
Verse 3 “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Notice all Jerusalem was frightened by the appearance of these magi. We usually think of three wise men. Probably because of the three gifts they brought to Jesus. Tradition even lists three names – Casper, Balthasar, and Melchior. But nowhere does the Bible say there were just three… Notice, when their caravan rides into Jerusalem, looking for the Messiah, they create quite a stir among the locals. Three lone riders would’ve gone unnoticed. These were Persians traveling through Roman territory.
They might have been accompanied by a small army. Their caravan scared the puppet king, Herod. And the magi were probably strangely dressed. They probably wore cone-shaped hats, and resembled the stereotypical picture of a wizard. They also rode on horses, not camels. They rode Arabian steeds. But what disturbed Herod most were their words. They said they were looking for the “King of the Jews”. This was the official title Caesar Augustus had given Herod when he made him king of Judea. Herod was king of the Jews… Now these Oriental bigwigs were looking for another. Herod got a little harried… “And when (Herod) had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” Remember, the word “Christ” is Greek for “Annointed” – the Hebrew is “Messiah.”
It was a title given to David’s offspring – the eternal king who’d rule an eternal kingdom. Herod calls together the leading Bible scholars to search the Scriptures. “They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.”
The theologians point to Micah 5:2… Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. It’s astonishing, 720 years before the first Christmas God revealed His Son’s exact birthplace. It’s a startling testimony to the divine authorship of the Bible. “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” This was a cover-up. Herod didn’t want to worship the King, he wanted to assassinate him.
“When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.” How many of you have a nativity set? Does it include the wise men? Most nativity scenes depict the wise men and shepherds together – but the wise men’s visit occurred months after Jesus’ birth. Luke 2 tells us that Jesus was born in a stable – but here, according to Matthew 2, by the time the wise men arrived Joseph had moved his family into a house. Pretend you live in Bethlehem. You own a three bedroom home and Imagine this scene… An oriental caravan, conspicuous enough to shake up the capital city of Jerusalem, descends on your tiny, little village.
The entourage turns down your street. Oriental dignitaries walk up to the rented house next door. They’re greeted at the door, by the humble peasant couple who’ve just moved in. What are kings doing at a carpenter’s house? Curiosity causes you to peer through the windows, and you see the strangest sight yet… noblemen bow before a bassinette – world leaders on their knees worshiping a toddler… How would you respond to see ambassadors worship the kid next door? It’s interesting the reactions to Jesus we see in this story.
Even today, people respond to Him in one of three ways – antagonism, ambivalence, adoration. Some people are like Herod – antagonism. Herod hated the thought of a rival king. He didn’t want to serve, but be served. Herod opposed Jesus at all costs. Others are like the scholars in Jerusalem – ambivalence. They were religious. They knew their Bibles – Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. But though they knew His whereabouts they never bothered to come to Him and worship.
A few folks are like the wise man – adoration. Do you bow and worship Jesus? People still respond to Jesus the same three ways – some people hate Him – others ignore Him – but wise men and women still come and worship Him.
Which are you!!!
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