THE VISIT OF THE WISE MEN
Please read Matthew 2:1-12 before reading this message. One of the fascinating stories connected with the birth of Christ was the visit of the wise men. Scripture reports them saying, "We have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." The wise men were magi, a name given to the star-gazers and wise men of ancient Babylonia and Persia. Because of their insight and wisdom they were the counselors of kings. There is a great deal of speculation which has come down by tradition as to who they were, where they came from, how many there were, and how they traveled. There are some religious groups who think they know that the number of the wise men was three, and know their names, the character of their retinue and even what kind of ornaments were on the necks of their camels. You will be wise not to believe anything about the birth of Christ that cannot be verified by scripture. We only know that they were wise men from the East, men who studied the stars, probably from Persia or Babylonia.
We cannot tell how far they journeyed. Traveling was extremely difficult in those times. There were rivers to cross, trackless deserts to penetrate and perhaps mountains to cross, but they made nothing of the difficulties or the dangers. There were good men among the Gentiles, men who in spiritual darkness felt after the truth, if haply they might find it. The wise
men represented you, me and all Gen tiles at the birth of Christ. God directed these magi to Bethlehem to let the entire Gentile world know that the birth of Jesus was for Gentiles as well as Jews. God notified the Jews of His coming in their own scriptures; He notified the Gentiles of His coming by a star. How good God was to the Gentiles; He informed them of the greatest even ever to take place on planet earth.
I direct your attention first to the mysterious light or star that guided these Gentiles to the Savior. When they arrived in Jerusalem they said, "We have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." They first saw the star in their own land, and it guided them to Jerusalem. Leaving Jerusalem the same star guided them to the little town of Bethlehem, and it stopped and stood over the very place where the Christ-child lay. Some would try to convince us that the appearance of this star was a very natural phenomenon. Astronomers who do not believe the miracles in the Bible would have us believe that this was simply a conjunction of Jupiter and Mars causing a bright object in the heavens. They would have us believe this is the star the wise men saw. At Christmas- time an article making this claim usually appears in the local newspapers, on news broadcasts and on Television. Why will people misrepresent the Bible, distort its truth, and try to make it mean something it does not mean.? Only because they have no faith in God, only because they do not believe the Bible is the word of God, and only because they do not believe the miracles recorded in the Bible. The Bible distinctly reveals that the star or light guided them from a distant countr; then the star disappeared. When they left Jerusalem it reappeared and guided them a few miles away to Bethlehem and stopped over the very house where Jesus lay. He was not in the stable when the wise men saw Him. Mars and Jupiter in the far distant heavens could not have guided the wise men from Jerusalem to the very house in Bethlehem where the child was staying. God wanted the Gentile world to know about this mighty event and performed a miracle to notify them.
This star was altogether supernatural and miraculous and was not a star or comet. It was not a conjunction of planets or a star in which we now speak of stars, for it moved on before the wise men. Then it suddenly disappeared and appeared again to move before them to the very spot where the child lay. A conjunction of the planets would have stood over Jerusalem and Bethlehem and the rest of Palestine at the same time and could not move from one town to another just a few miles away. From what the Bible says it would appear it was a luminous appearance in mid-air. Whether it could be seen in the daylight or not we cannot tell. Whether they traveled only at night or night and day are questions of little importance to us, and we will spend no time speculating.
The most important thing to know about this star is that it was Christ's star. The wise men said, "We have seen His star." We know the names of many of the stars, yet they may each one envy this star that remains anonymous bu never can be forgotten because the wise men who sought the one who was to be King of the Jews knew it was His star. This star raises many interesting questions. For example, how came they to identify the star as Christ's star? What made them consider that this particular appearance was the one they expected? It may be an angel appeared to them and instructed them to follow the star. Possibly they were acquainted with the Jewish scriptures that predicted the coming of a great King who would save Gentiles as well as the Jews. Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Isaiah 45:22 made the prediction, "Look to me and be saved all you ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other." There is a famous prediction in Numbers 24:17 by the prophet Balaam that says, "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." Many think this passage may have had a faint reference to David, but the promised Messiah was given the name David, for David was type of Christ who was to be the King of Israel forever. Many other prophecies in Jewish scriptures included the Gentiles as sharing in the kingdom of this great King to arise out of Israel. The words of the wise men are very significant when they said, "Where is He who is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." God used this miraculous way of informing the Gentile world that the birth of this King has taken place.
Leaving the discussion of the Star, let's review the events that took place when these men finally arrived in Bethlehem. We don't know who they consulted first, the religious authorities or the Roman authorities. They had but one question, "Where is the new-born King of the Jews?" The Bible says, " When Herod the King heard these things he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him." Herod was agitated, perplexed and afraid that another pretender to the throne would do away with him. He was so suspicious of being dethroned that he had already murdered several candidates to the throne. He had murdered five Maccabean princes and princesses, including his favorite wife Mariamne and also two of his sons by Mariamne. Also, all Jerusalem was afraid what fresh crimes he would commit against the Jews because some Jew now is aspiring to the throne. Jerusalem's fear was justified for he massacred all the little children of Bethlehem two years old and under to kill the new-born king the wise men came to worship. These little children were the first martyrs to die for Jesus.
We can only imagine the amazement and consternation in Jerusalem when these foreign dignitaries appeared in Herod's palace in search of the King of the Jews. Even more puzzling was the fact that those Gentiles had brought expensive gifts with them, gifts for the King of the Jews and a child who was born a King. It usually takes time to become a king. Gentiles bringing gifts to the Jews was a strange thing to them. They thought of the Gentiles more in terms of looting and brutality. Yet, here were these strangers bearing gifts and asking, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star and have come to worship Him."
The incident was unprecedented, but really Jerusalem should not have been totally surprised by the goodwill of those gift-bearing Gentiles. After all, the Hebrew scriptures from Genesis down through all the prophets foretold that one day all nations would worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jascob. For example, Isaiah 42,6,7 says, "I, the Lord have called You(the Messiah) in righteousness and will hold your hand. I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a Light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house." Jesus said, "I say unto you that many will come from east and west and sit downs with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"(Matthew 8:11,12).
Christian Jews in Israel today call Jesus "Y'shua, " pronounced Yeshua. Y'shua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. The word Jesus means "Savior." In those days before the birth of Christ, hope abounded in Israel that soon the Messiah would come to rescue the Jews from the Roman invaders of their country and to establish His kingdom on the throne of David. However, that has all changed. Today those highly knowledgeable of Judaism say that most Jews who reject Christ no longer hope for the personal Messiah that Isaiah and other prophets predicted. Instead, they have reinterpreted Scripture, choosing simply to believe in a kind of Messianic age or Utopia in which God will in some way bring peace on earth. And in some way the Jews think that it will include the Gentiles in the worship of the one true God.
Furthermore, some Christian Jews in Israel, as well as most of Christendom in America are possessed of the unscriptural opinion that Christ has not yet become King on earth, and the Kingdom of Christ has never yet been established on earth. It will not be established until Christ comes and sets up His throne in Jerusalem. This is the very same mistake most Jews made in the first century and caused many of them to reject Christ. They were erroneously looking for a military Messiah who would free Israel from Rome. However Christ came the first time to establish His kingdom on earth, and the Church of God, the church of Christ is that kingdom. When He comes the second time He will deliver up His kingdom-church to God the Father in heaven. The resurrection of all the dead will take place, the saved will meet Jesus in the air and will be taken to heaven. At this time the heavens and earth will pass away with a great noise and will be destroyed by fire. Whatever future glory may fall on Israel will come to them by accepting Christ as their Messiah and by converting to the Christian religion. Some students of the word of God think such a turn of events is predicted in Romans 11:25-32. The Jewish people would be wise to reinterpret their reinterpretation and bring themselves into line with the true meaning of the scriptures. Christ established His kingdom on earth in 33 A.D. in the city of Jerusalem, became a King over the earth at age 33, and He now sits as King of Kings on the throne of David which has been moved to heaven(Acts 15:12-17). The one and only hope for both Jews and Gentiles is the Christian religion.
The wise men who came to worship Jesus were quite specific. They had come to see the one whose divine right it was to be King of the Jews. They were sent by Jehovah God who delivered Israel from the land of Egypt. Their gifts, veneration and loyalty belonged only to one king and no other. It belonged to Y'shua, God's appointed King of Israel, the author and controller of creation; and He was the only One who could command a star to herald His birth. This marvelous star was just one of a large number of supernatural events performed by God to convince mankind that the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ and the religion of Christ were God's wonderful gifts to mankind. All nations on earth have not excuse for not understanding the significance of the birth of Christ. Israel was informed by the announcements of angels and the Gentiles were informed by the wise men guided by a miraculous star.
Lastly, as wonderful as this event was, the world does not understand the significance of what these wise men saw and said in the city of Bethlehem. Israel, Gentile nations, and even Christendom in general do not understand the significance of the great truth the wise men revealed to the world. They saw a child was to become the King of Jews. They said, Where is He who has been born King of the Jews." But what does this statement mean? These foreign dignitaries revealed to Israel that this child was to be the King they have been looking for many centuries Moreover, this word "King" was just another word for Messiah, which is a Hebrew that means "anointed." Therefore what the wise men saw was a child who was to be anointed or divinely appointed to be the future King of Israel forever, and not only of the Jews but also for Gentiles and the whole world.
The word anointed was a famous and holy word in the law of Moses. The High Priest, ordinary priests and the kings of Israel were anointed or smeared with holy oil and this signified their appointment by God to serve in a special office or position. In calling Jesus the king of Israel that God would anoint Him to be the King of Israel, the last King Israel would every have. However, God did not anoint Jesus with oil but with the Holy Spirit at the time of His baptism. His anointing filled His physical body with all miraculous powers so that scripture says of Him, "In Him dwelled all the fulness of Godhead bodily."