The Worship of the Wise Men

The Truth About Christmas

by Bob Burridge ©2010

This article continues a series of studies about the events surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The series begins with, Called To Bethlehem. There is also a complete index for all the articles telling The Truth About Christmas.

Part 12 The Worship of the Wise Men

It was only after the wise men left Jerusalem that they were guided by a star. It led them to the very house where our Lord was living.

When they arrived, Matthew 2:11 tells us what they did, “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

The word used here for house shows that he was no longer lying in a manger in a shed. The word in the original Greek text is oikia (οικια). It was the common word for a simple family residence. Mary and Joseph were staying in a regular home by this time.

As we saw in the previous article, Jesus was probably about one year old by the time the wise men from the East arrived. The census crowds would have left by then so there would have been space available with relatives who lived in Bethlehem. It is also possible that Joseph was able to do some carpentry and earn enough money to buy a house, or perhaps to build one himself.

The Magoi worshiped Jesus when they found him. By the work of God’s grace on their hearts they recognized him for who he really was. This little toddler, no longer an infant, was the Promised Redeemer. The hope of all the ages was being fulfilled before their eyes.

Like these wise men, the Eastern Magoi, we need to put the worship of Jesus Christ above everything else in our lives. They left their comfortable homes and honored positions in life to make an 800 mile trek to find and worship the new born King of the Jews, the Messiah. They freely gave valuable treasures they could have used to improve their life-style. They could have bought more luxuries, fine clothes, or feasted on lavish meals. But they understood a higher responsibility than serving their own personal comforts.

They humbly submitted themselves to a higher King than the one they served back in the East. They found a better and more self-satisfying investment for their riches than saving up for toys, luxuries, or adventures.

The thing we need to focus on most in or lives is our worship of Christ. Give him your time and resources to see that his work is carried out here on earth. Obey his moral principles, regardless of luring temptations. Be devoted to Sabbath worship with the congregation of which you’re a part. Make sure that your behavior at home, at school, at work, and in the community reflects your gratitude for this greatest gift ever given, ever imagined.

Jesus Christ is the one sought by the truly wise. He’s the one enjoyed by those who trust in him and in all he taught. He’s the Good Shepherd and Lord of all.

Next Study: The Name of Jesus

The Star of the Wise Men

The Truth About Christmas

by Bob Burridge ©2010

This article continues a series of studies about the events surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The series begins with, Called To Bethlehem. There is also a complete index for all the articles telling The Truth About Christmas.

Part 11 The Star of the Wise Men

In Matthew 2:2 we read the account of the wise men who came to worship Jesus, the one born King of the Jews. They came to Jerusalem, not to Bethlehem. Jerusalem was the capital city where they would have expected to find a king. They came to Herod and asked, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”

God sent this very special star to bring these men to Jesus. It appeared on the night Jesus was born. Somehow, God used it to reveal to them that the promised King of the Jews had been born. Ages ago, during the Jewish Captivity in Babylon, Daniel the Prophet lived there. He had become one of the Magoi (wise scholars) of Babylon. His influence and teachings were probably passed down in the traditions of those scholars. He would have told about the Promised One, the Messiah, who would be born to the Jews.

Every year poorly informed news broadcasters and newspapers interview astronomers trying to look for some natural explanation for this star that appeared when Jesus was born. From the descriptions we have of its appearance and movement, it could not have been an actual star, a comet, a super-nova, or a conjunction of planets. The natural explanations unbelievers read into the story don’t fit the facts in the Bible.

The original word translated as “star” is aster (αστηρ), which simply means a light in the sky. It was a word sometimes used to describe stars, planets, meteors, comets, or any bright object in the sky.

Notice that the Bible doesn’t say that the star lead them there. They didn’t even come to Bethlehem after they saw it. They went to Jerusalem, a natural place to come looking for a Jewish King. The image of three kings following a star across the deserts is pure fiction. The Bible does not tell the story that way.

It was as they left Jerusalem to go to Bethlehem that the star appeared again and led them. Matthew 2:9-10 says, “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”

No actual star, meteor, comet ,or conjunction of planets could behave that way. It appeared while they were in the East. Then appeared again almost a year later to guide them south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. It pointed out the actual place where Jesus was living. No natural explanation could account for that. This was a special light sent from God unlike anything we have observed in nature.

There is no star mentioned appearing over Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth. The star was seen by the wise men while they were back in the East on that night. It may or may not have been visible from Bethlehem or from Jerusalem on the night of his birth.

It was only after they left Jerusalem to go to Bethlehem that the same supernatural light in the sky guided them to the home where Jesus was then living.

Next Study: The Worship of the Wise Men

The Wise Men

The Truth About Christmas

by Bob Burridge ©2010

This article continues a series of studies about the events surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The series begins with, Called To Bethlehem. There is also a complete index for all the articles telling The Truth About Christmas.

Part 10 The Wise Men

There was the good news about the birth of Christ. Those who were there, the shepherds and family in Bethlehem, were encouraged. They told others about what they saw and heard on that miraculous night.

But there was trouble brewing not far from Bethlehem. About 5 miles to the north, in Jerusalem was the very evil King Herod. His life had been filled with assassinations, murders and violent revenge. When he was just a child, he was permitted to execute the man who killed his father.

By 37 BC Herod used political pressures to get Rome to declare him King of the Jews. To protect his title and power over the Jewish territories …

  • He had 45 Hasmonean Priests killed.
  • He was suspected in the strange bath-tub drowning of Aristobulus III, a potential rival..
  • He killed his wife Mariami soon after he married her.
  • He even had his wife’s mother executed for conspiracy.
  • He feared that his brothers might become competitors so he killed them too.
  • He murdered Costobar, a governor he himself had appointed.
  • Just prior to these events in Matthew he killed his own sons Alexander and Aristobulus.

While he was king, a group of foreign scholarly advisers arrived in Jerusalem. Matthew 2:1 says, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,”

They’re called wise men in our Bibles. They weren’t kings as the old song goes. That’s based on later mystical writings, not the Bible. The word used here in the original Scriptures is magoi (μαγοι). It means they were scholars, men of science, keepers of ancient knowledge, and very important advisers to the kings. They were experts in astronomy and watched the night skies constantly.

There’s no reason to believe there were three of them. The idea probably comes from the three kinds of gifts they brought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It’s like a child saying he got gifts of clothes, toys and DVDs. That doesn’t mean only three people gave him gifts. Historians tell us that when the magoi traveled, they would have a military escort of probably a thousand troops. These were very valuable men and highly respected advisers to kings.

They came from the East, probably Persia, old Babylon, our modern Iraq.

Their message would have been obviously troubling to King Herod. Verse 2 tells us they said, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”

Herod was upset about this news of a rival King of the Jews. Verse 3 tells us about his response, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

It’s no wonder that a man so evil and jealous of his power was troubled. A contingent of eastern Magoi came to Jerusalem, probably with a large military escort, and they were looking for a new-born King over the Jewish people.

Herod probably knew the prophesies about a coming Messianic King. The Rabbis taught that he would be a revolutionary who would overthrow Rome. Herod was appointed by Rome, and took pride in being King of the Jews.

He wanted to know who this rival to his throne was so he called for his advisers. Matthew 2:4-6 says, “And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, ‘And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.’ ”

It was the Bible, not the star, that first led them to Bethlehem. The quote comes from Micah 5:2, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

So Herod called these wise men to come to meet with him privately. Matthew 2:7-8, “Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.’ ”

It would have taken these Magoi a while to get to Jerusalem. They had to travel over 800 miles (Roughly the distance between where I live in Central Florida and Washington D.C.). The trip would have required planning and making sure their duties in Babylon were covered while they were away. They would have to camp out along the way, so they needed all the supplies for the trip, and a contingent of military escorts had to be put together. It may have been a year after they saw the star that they arrived in far off Jerusalem.

Later we read of Herod’s plan to slaughter all Bethlehem’s children two years old and younger, so he eliminated all those a year older and a year younger than his intended victim. This fits with Jesus being a toddler about one year old at the time.

So the Savior they found & worshiped likely wasn’t a baby in a manger any more, but a 1-year-old boy. But he was the newborn King of kings and Savior for his people. King Herod died in 4 BC so it was probably about 5 BC that Jesus was born.

Next Study: The Star of the Wise Men