After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem.
They appear on our Christmas cards, they are the subject of some of our most beloved Christmas carols, and you often see them in Nativity scenes standing next to Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. No, I am not referring to Santa Claus and the reindeer. I am referring to the wise men.
The wise men are the most mysterious of all the Christmas characters. We do not know much about them, and we have trouble relating to them. It is much easier to relate to Mary and Joseph, and perhaps the shepherds, who were common people. But it is hard to find a connection with the wise men. Yet of all the players in the Christmas story, perhaps it is the wise men who are most like us because they represent the first Gentiles who came to Jesus Christ. And in their search for Jesus Christ and their response when they found Jesus Christ, the wise men illustrate the essence of true wisdom. In Matthew 2, we discover why wise men still seek Him.
The Gospels give us differing accounts of the birth of Christ. These accounts are not contradictory, but they tell the story from a different perspective because each Gospel has a unique purpose. Luke was written to the Gentiles and contains the most detail about Christ’s birth of any of the Gospels. Matthew’s Gospel was written to the Jews to prove that Jesus was the long-anticipated Messiah promised in the Old Testament. That is why we find more references to the Old Testament in Matthew than in any other Gospel.
In chapter 1, Matthew showed that Jesus was a descendant not only of Abraham but also of David, which was necessary for Him to meet the Old Testament qualification of the Messiah. Matthew spent one verse talking about the actual birth of Jesus, then he demonstrated that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. Matthew 2 fast-forwards past the birth of Christ several months. That is where our story picks up in Matthew 2:1: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem.”
Matthew said that the magi came from the east. We do not know exactly where in the east, but we know magi appeared around the seventh century BC in Persia, which is modern-day Iran. The word “magi” refers to a special class of men who were skilled in astronomy and astrology. Interestingly, the magi did believe in one God, but they believed that one way you worshipped Him was through sorcery, through magic. We get our word “magic” from the magi. The wise men were experts in mathematics, agriculture, and many other sciences. In fact, they were so wise that if you were in the east you could not become a king without having mastered the knowledge of the magi and being crowned as king by the magi. The magi were the kingmakers of their day. That explains why they were searching for the “King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Wise Men Still Seek Him” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.lockman.org)