Wise Men Visit the King
Open Your Bible
Matthew 2:1-23, Jeremiah 31:15-20
My dad loves to tell the story of how, when I was a little girl, he asked me to pick out a new figurine to accompany Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in my mom’s Christmas nativity scene. As the story goes, I overlooked the shepherds and wise men to choose a barnyard cat. It’s funny what happens when it’s up to flawed humans to prepare for the arrival of a perfect King.
However, some people are quick to point out that the wise men don’t really belong in our nativity scenes anymore than my barnyard cat does. And Matthew indicates that they didn’t arrive until some two years after Jesus’s birth (see Matthew 2:16). He wasn’t a babe in a manger when they got to Bethlehem; He was a toddler. But these wise men from the east belong in our Christmas stories all the same, because Jesus came for the whole world.
After arriving in Jerusalem, the wise men were sent by King Herod to inspect the Christ child. It’s difficult to pinpoint their exact occupations, but some theologians believe they were court magicians who served as priests, perhaps from Persia or Babylon. While we may not know exactly who these men were, it’s easy to assume they weren’t being sent by Herod to worship the boy. Herod’s plan was to kill the Christ child. He wanted the wise men to follow the star, find the young King in Bethlehem, and report back promptly so that he could carry out his plan. But that’s not what happened at all. In fact, quite the opposite occurred:
When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with joy. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route (Matthew 2:10–12).
They didn’t return to Herod. Theologian Matthew Henry calls this series of events “an early instance and presage of Christ’s victory over the devil” as the men, some of Jesus’s earliest devotees, became “wise men indeed when they set themselves to enquire after the Christ.”
This is what happens when imperfect people witness the divine nature of Christ. By His light, we are rerouted, never to be the same again. The Messiah in the manger was not the sort of king God’s people had expected. Nevertheless, He was the Father’s plan to change the course of humanity, and ultimately, rescue the hearts and souls of all who would believe in Him. May we do the same. May we turn to Jesus and worship Him with undivided hearts. May we follow the only God who is truly wise (Romans 16:27). Amen.