I’ve been studying the Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12) for a teaching I’m doing a little later. Thought I’d post a few interesting things I’ve learned.
Three distinctive actions of the Wise Men: (From an old message by Greg Matte.)
1. They left home to worship Jesus.
Willing to get out of their comfort zones and travel long distances. (Matthew 2:1) The journey from Persia to Jerusalem would have been very dangerous and preparations might have taken quite a while after the first appearance of the star.
2. They focused on eternal heavenly things rather than temporary earthly things.
Gave gifts to Jesus which reflected deeper meaning (Matthew 2:11) and hinted at Jesus’ yet-to-be-revealed identity.
Gold represented royalty.
Frankincense represented the priesthood. (Smoke represented prayers rising to God.)
Myrrh represented death. (Myrrh was used for embalming.)
3. They listened to God and God alone.
They ignored the wishes of Herod and obeyed those of God which were given to them in a dream. (Matthew 2:12)
1. There were 3 Wise Men
We read in Matthew 2:11 that there were 3 different types of gifts, however, that does not mean there were only 3 Wise Men. Most scholars believe there was a much larger group of them.
2. The Wise Men were there the night Jesus was born.
Considering the fact that Herod wanted to kill all Jewish children ages 2 and under, (Matthew 2:16) it is likely that they arrived at a much later date. The Scriptures are also clear that they arrived at a house (Matthew 2:11) rather than the “manger” scene which occurred the night of his birth.
3. The Wise Men were Kings from the East.
They were not Kings, but astronomers. They were most likely from Persia. The three types of gifts described were all in abundant supply in Persia and would have been highly valuable in both cultures.
Other Interesting Facts:
The Wise Men had probably known about the coming Messiah through studies of the prophecies of Daniel. Jewish legends even say that Daniel himself (as an official in the Persian government) founded the order of the Magi and had instructed them to be watching for the Messiah. (Guzik Commentary)
In Matthew 2:2 the Wise Men seem to believe that the Jewish leaders would have been well aware of the Messiah’s birth and would be excited too. They’re about to discover otherwise. Some believe they must have been aware of Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 which describes a “star” which will “come out of Jacob.”
Matthew 2:3 says that Herod and all of Jerusalem was disturbed to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. Herod was not the rightful king and so he had a clear reason for being worried. There are, however, two possibilities for the people’s concern: 1) They knew Herod was going to freak out. or 2) The group of Wise Men was large enough and distinguished enough to scare them a bit.
Herod asks the Jewish scholars where the Christ would be born. Their answer “Bethlehem,” comes from Micah 5:2 quoted in Matthew 2:6.
It is probable that Joseph and his family lived off of the gold gifts which were given to Jesus while they were in Egypt.
Matthew 2:9 says the star “went ahead” of them. This is most likely a supernatural event and cannot be explained by any alignment of planets or the like.
It must have been an interesting site as this large group of dignified foreigners bowed down to a young child. (Matthew 2:11)
3 Different Responses to Jesus in this passage: Today, Jesus gets the same reactions.
1. Herod hated him and wanted to kill him.
2. The chief priests and scribes were indifferent to Jesus. They didn’t bother to do anything different once they heard about him.
3. The Wise Men looked for him and made great sacrifices to be with Him.
Summary and Prayer:
I hope this has been helpful to you all.
Prayer: Lord, You seem to be taking me out of my comfort zones these days. I will choose to follow You – one step at a time. Like the star that “went ahead” of the Wise Men, lead me. Give me the courage to continue this journey without looking back. I know there will be sacrifices and I am willing. (Although I must admit I’m fearful of what You might ask me to give up.) Give me wisdom to discern Your still small voice among all those which shout at me constantly and give me courage to follow like the Wise Men. Lord, even if it means looking strange or not fitting, let me trust You. Let me respond appropriately to Jesus. Let me worship with my life and lead me to the specific ways you’d like that expressed with my time, my money, my relationships, and my passions. (Or should I say, Your time, Your money, Your relationships, and Your passions?) Anyway, I love being Your kid. Thanks for making that possible through the blood of Your own son, Jesus. Without Him, without You, I am hopeless. You are all. AMEN.