The Wise Men
The story of the Wise Men (Magi) traveling to visit and worship the child Jesus is a familiar story found in Matthew 2:1-23. The story is filled with drama and intrigue and reveals how evil the world was (and is) into which Jesus was born. What a study in contrasts! On the one hand, it reveals how low some people (King Herod) will stoop to protect their position and power and how ruthless they can be along the way. On the other hand, we see an innocent and helpless baby with no position who is unable to protect Himself at all. And yet, the baby is the far greater and more powerful King! Indeed, God’s ways are not man’s ways!
It probably was when Jesus was about 2 years old that “wise men from the east” came looking for “He who has been born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:1-2). Somehow, by seeing “His star in the east” (Matt. 2:2), the Wise Men discerned that a special child had been born and they came to worship Him.
Their arrival in Jerusalem created quite a stir and soon Herod was trying to determine where this “King” might be. Any talk of another king was threatening to someone like Herod. Those who knew the Scriptures told Herod the baby was to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). Herod sent the Magi on their way with a request that they send word when they found the child.
The Wise Men, once again seeing “the star they had seen in the east” (Matt. 2:9) did, in fact, find the child in Bethlehem. They worshiped Him, and gave Him gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11). This simple act demonstrates for all people throughout history that Jesus, even as a child, was worthy of our worship.
The Wise Men were then warned not to return to Herod. When Herod learned the wise men had “outwitted” him (Matt. 2:16), he ordered that all the male children “in and around Bethlehem” be killed (Matt. 2:16). God, however, had warned Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect the young Jesus.
Mary, Joseph, and the boy Jesus escaped Herod’s sword, but many male children didn’t. Matthew noted that the massacre of these boys fulfilled the prophecy given in Jeremiah 31:15.
The Wise Men: Jesus Is Lord of All People
This intriguing, but sad, story helps us understand how God’s plans are greater than the powers of evil. But one of the main reasons Matthew recorded this story was to help us understand that while Jesus was, in fact, “king of the Jews,” He was also born as the Lord and King of the entire world! These Magi were essentially “foreigners” to the people of Israel, but they traveled to honor and “worship him.” Matthew wanted his audience to see Jesus as more than the “King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2). Jesus was Lord of all people and all nations.
Many people believed that the Messiah would come only for the people of Israel. Matthew told the story of the wise men, in part, to demonstrate that Jesus, the Messiah, came for all people. This means that everyone and anyone can come to Jesus. God desires for all of us to worship Jesus. Our race or nationality doesn’t matter. All people can worship Jesus.
The people of Matthew’s day knew the power of Rome and the claims of the emperors to be “gods.” The early church had a radical message for that world; “Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.” That’s part of the reason why Matthew included this story of the Wise Men. It’s a message we need to grasp today as well. Whatever may be happening in our world and whatever claims to power people may make in our world, the biblical message is that Jesus is the only true King and Lord of this world and even the universe!