Scripture - Matthew 2:1-11
The coming of Jesus Christ into the world influenced men, women and nations more than anything that has ever happened. The world has never been the same since He came. Even the datelines of the world were divided by His advent, so that today we number our years out from the manger.
He attracted people from both ends of the social scale. On the night He was born, a group of humble shepherds came to worship Him. Later, the wise men from the East came to shower Him with rich gifts. This same thing has been true over the years.
The people of lowly birth and humble estate have come to Jesus and found true riches. And men of royal birth and high position have found Him to be greater and more blessed than all their possessions and all their prominence.
Wouldn’t it be great to say that wise men still come to Christ? I want to hit on a point or two.
The first is Guidance. We read that when Jesus was born wise men came from the east seeking the newborn King. Now who were they? No one is quite clear on this point.
They were probably astronomers from Persia. Maybe they knew something of the biblical prophecy concerning the birth of the Messiah. It is possible that God in His own mysterious manner revealed the secret to them.
Many fantastic stories have been invented concerning these wise men. We sing the song, “We three kings of orient are.” But the Bible does not say how many there were. We have seen pictures of them, clothed in royal robes, riding their camels and being followed by a host of servants.
But, all of this came from the imagination of the artists. Someone has even given them the names of Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. The claim has been made that all three of them are buried under one of the cathedrals of Europe. So, you see that as the years go by truth and fiction get mixed up.
We don’t know their names, nor how many there were, nor what became of them. We know only that they came to Jesus. That will always stamp them as wise men.
What brought them to Jesus? It was a star. Maybe God made it a little brighter than the others. Maybe it was a new star, which they had never seen before. We are not told that the star led them to Jerusalem.
But, if they recognized it as the star of the new King, naturally they came to the place where they expected Him to be born. That was Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish religion. They saw the star twice, once in their own country in the east and then again as it led them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
When they came to Jerusalem they went to see Herod the king. They asked him a question which startled him, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? We have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.”
Herod was troubled. He knew nothing of the birth of Christ. If he had known he would have paid no attention to it. Poor Jewish couples were having babies every day. But when these wise men, whom he evidently respected, said that a king had been born, he became worried about it.
He called in all of his religious scholars and inquired as to where the king would be born. They knew prophecy, so they immediately told him that the birth would occur in Bethlehem. Then Herod called in the wise men and told them that they would find the newborn in Bethlehem.
“When you find Him,” he said, “come and tell me so that I may come and worship Him.” Of course, he had no such idea. His only thought was to kill the newborn King, because he feared He would grow up and unseat him.
Now, we see the wise men starting out. Suddenly, they look up and saw the same bright star which they had seen in the east. It was moving toward Bethlehem. They followed it diligently and soon the star ceased its movement. Then they went into the house and found Jesus. When they saw Him, they fell down and worshiped Him.
Now, at Christmas time we often see pictures of Jesus in the manger, with both the shepherds and wise men bowing down before Him. However, there are several reasons to believe that the wise men did not come to the stable.
The Bible tells us that they came to the house, and not to the stable. At that time, Jesus was called, “the young child,” and not a baby. Herod killed all the children less than two years of age. If Jesus had been an infant at this time this would not have been necessary.
Now, for years the religious leaders had been looking forward to the birth of the Messiah. They knew from Scripture that He would be born of a virgin and be born in Bethlehem. You would think that they would be eagerly examining every birth in Bethlehem and following up the slightest rumor that the Savior had been born.
But, this was not so. A few strangers from a foreign land were the ones to rejoice at His birth. We read that, “He came to His own and His own received Him not.” This scripture was literally fulfilled.
We learn here that men can have scripture in their head, but no grace in their heart. The religious leaders knew scripture, but they never went to Bethlehem to seek the Messiah. They had head knowledge, but not heart wisdom. Today, many people know the truth as it is revealed in the bible. But they never respond to this truth and they will go to hell with their head full of scripture.
We see here also the reward of faithfulness. These wise men traveled many miles to find Jesus. The journey took many days and nights. Dangers were many along the road, but they never stopped until they reached their goal. It would be wonderful if men today were just as diligent. Where is our self-denial? What sacrifice have we made? How faithful are we in following Jesus? What has our religion cost us?
Yes, my brothers and sisters, wise men, women, boys and girls still come to Jesus. A wealthy man lay dying and his lawyer sat by the bedside, making out his will for him. The man’s little girl heard the conversation and gathered that her father was going leave this house and pass it on to someone else.
So she asked the question, “Father, when you leave this house, where are you going to live?” But the man never thought of that before, so he had no answer. How foolish is that man who never considers this question! How wise is that man who comes to Jesus!
Finally, I want to talk about the gifts. The wise men bowed down and worshiped Jesus and presented Him with gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. We see here that giving is a vital part of worship. No man truly worships God who refuses to give Him that which is due Him.
Gold is a symbol of man’s worldly possessions; therefore it was a fit tribute for the King. The Lordship of Jesus demands that He be worshiped with gifts of money as well as with gifts of love and praise and service.
All the way through the Bible we see that when men found Christ, they immediately wanted to give Him something. You give because you love. You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.
Just as soon as Zacchaeus found Christ, he declared that he wanted to make a gift. Surely one of the first impulses of a newborn soul is to give money to support the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some people don’t like to hear the preacher talk about giving. It is offensive to them. But there was nothing offensive about giving money to Christ in the minds of these wise men. And wise men of today delight to honor Christ with their gifts.
The little family of Joseph and Mary and Jesus would soon be forced to take a trip to Egypt. They would need money to help them make this journey. And God provided that money through the gifts of these wise men.
The country western singer Jenny Lind gave away $40,000 to charity in New York City one year. Someone had the nerve to tell her that these unworthy people will take advantage of her generosity. Her response was, “If I help ten and one is worthy, I will be satisfied.”
Frankincense is the second gift brought by these wise men. This is a fragrant perfume, representing man’s thoughts and emotions. They were simply saying to Jesus, “All that is within us bows before you.”
They didn’t tickle the baby under his chin, nor cradle him in their arms. They fell on their faces and worshiped Him. Incense pictures prayer and praise due to God only. In the presenting this incense, the wise men acknowledged the Deity of Christ.
The next gift was myrrh, a bitter spice used for embalming. This presents a picture of suffering. These wise men must have been taught of God that Christ would die for lost sinners, so they came to worship Him as Savior.
So we see wise men bringing their gifts to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, gold, acknowledging Christ as King. They bring frankincense, acknowledging Him as God. They bring myrrh, acknowledging Him as Savior. What have we brought Him? If we are wise we will bring Him ourselves. If we are wise we will bring Him our service, our money, our love, and our best.
An old legend tells us that when the wise men were following the star of Bethlehem, they came to the house of a certain woman. They said to her, “Come with us, we have seen His star in the east and we are going to worship Him.”
“Oh,” she said, “I would love to go, I heard that He would be coming one day and I have been looking forward to it. But I can’t come now, I must set my house in order, then I will follow you and find Him.” But when her work was done the wise men were out of sight, the star shone no more in the heavens and she never saw Jesus.
This is the saddest thing that can happen to anyone, to hear the call of Christ and to be too busy with earthly things to follow Him. Don’t let this happen to you.
The Rev. Dr. Vernon S. Burroughs is the senior pastor of Brookins A.M.E. Church in Oakland, CA. He previously served as senior pastor of Grant A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles.