One of the most difficult parts for a modern day Christian to understand about the Bible’s account of Jesus’ birth is the fact that there weren’t more Jewish people celebrating it, especially Jewish religious leaders. Why didn’t they realize he was the Messiah? Why weren’t they waiting at his stable, having studied the prophesies and put the pieces together?
We don’t know. The Chief Priests and Scribes knew where Christ was to be born, at least it seems they found that information eventually based on what is said in Matthew 2:6. But we see no evidence of them making a journey with the expectation of meeting Him.
Do you know who does pursue Christ in Matthew 2? Some wise men. “The magi” we also call them. These men are mysterious to us in many ways as we wonder what exactly they did, where exactly they came from. We know relatively little about them. We don’t even know how many of them there were. We know they were not priests, not Jewish religious leaders of any sort. Rather they were likely people “whose practices included astrology, dream interpretation, study of sacred writings, the pursuit of wisdom, and magic” according to the notes in the ESV study Bible (2008). Maybe not the people we would have expected to be so earnestly searching for the infant Messiah.
But they were wisdom seekers…The Bible says in Proverbs 2: 3-6:
“Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
So little is known about the wise men, the magi, in the Matthew 2 Christmas story that it’s difficult for us to know too much about them. Were they seeking God when they started this journey? What were they motivations? Did they find the star during their studies of the night sky by what appeared to be chance? And if so, how did they connect it to the Messiah’s birth? We don’t know for sure. We don’t even know how many of them there were. But we can be relatively sure that they were wisdom seekers.
It appears that years had passed by the time the Magi reached Jesus. Matthew 2:11 mentions “the house” they found Jesus in, and many scholars believe it was up to two years after his birth.
Not only were these relatively unknown men devoted wisdom seekers, but they were determined. Two years. Two years. What was the last thing you wanted for two years, that you sought out and hoped for for that long?
Again, we don’t know for sure what they thought but it’s interesting to imagine. Did they realize the full impact this little child would have on them? They said from the beginning, Matthew 2:2 “…We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him,” so worship was always their intention. Can you imagine being so captivated by this desire that you devoted two years of your life to it?
These men did. And when they saw him, they did worship Him, a little child who was fully man and yet also fully God. They gave him gifts. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And then they left, but they didn’t go back to Herod as the King had demanded they do. Matthew 2:12 says “And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” These wisdom seekers must have had sensitive hearts to not only follow a star for two years to worship God’s son, but to identify their dream as having meaning, and having the faith to not question it, but to do as the dream had said.
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Discuss: These men are so, so important in the Christmas story. We can look at any of the characters in it, the real people who played parts, and learn lessons from them. But the Magi are so obviously applicable to our lives today, giving us questions to ask ourselves:
- Do we seek wisdom and seek to worship with the same intensity that the Magi did, or do we fit it into our lives where it works easily and doesn’t make us sacrifice anything?
- Do we view our time as “ours” or God’s? The wise men likely devoted years to this project, or close to it. Do we give our time to God like this?
- Are we sensitive to God’s voice in our lives?
Pray: Father God, as we search our own hearts this Christmas season, may we learn from the wise men more about what it means to seek after wisdom, and to seek after You. And may doing so become the desire of our own hearts. Amen.