Read Matthew 2:1-12
I love the story of the “Magi from the east” found in this passage of Scripture. It has special meaning to me now that I have made many Persian friends here in Manila.
Before getting into the lessons from this story, I want to dispel a few common myths about the “Three Wise Men”:
Myth #1: There were three men who came to visit Jesus. The Bible actually does not say how many Magi came to visit Jesus (nor are their names mentioned—this is simply tradition). Three types of gifts are mentioned, but this does not necessarily mean there were three men. We should think of such images in purely symbolic terms.
Myth #2: The wise men were part of the original “nativity scene” at the manger. This is also not true. We often include them in nativity scenes and Christmas plays for simplicity’s sake, but they found Jesus a little later in His life. Jesus was probably about eighteen months to two years old when the Magi visited.
The truths from Matthew’s story are much more exciting than these myths. I see four lessons/truths in Matthew’s account of the Magi:
Lesson 1: God Has a Heart for All Peoples and All Nations
The word “Magi” is a Persian/Farsi word. Magis were highly educated and well-respected religious leaders. These men probably came from modern-day Iran in search of Jesus. They were most likely Zoroastrians (followers of the prophet Zoroaster), one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions (“monotheistic”=believing in only one God). Zoroaster prophesied of a virgin birth, and his religion included the interpretation of the stars and of dreams.
I am in awe of God’s worldwide vision! Even before Jesus began His ministry, He was drawing the nations to Himself! These men were from a different country, different culture, and a different religion, yet God drew them to Himself. He showed them the way to the True God and Savior. This is a wonderful picture of His redemptive plan for the world.
Lesson 2: God’s Plans Cannot be Stopped
Many are the plans in a man’s heart,
but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
King Herod intended to use the Magi to find and kill Jesus. He told them he wanted to worship Jesus, but in fact he had a wicked plan in mind. It seems the Magi were initially fooled, but God was not. God warned the Magi not to return to Herod, and they took a different route home (vs. 12).
God also warned Joseph to take Jesus and flee to Egypt (vs. 13-15). Joseph’s actions fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy (Hosea 11:1). God knew of Herod’s intentions and had planned for it from His eternal throne. Hosea’s prophecy of this event was written approximately 715 years before Jesus was born!
No one has the power, authority, foresight or ability to thwart God’s plans. God’s plans, like the Lord Himself, are unstoppable! We can choose to join Him or we can choose to ultimately loose.
Lesson 3: Jesus Deserves Our Best
The Magi presented Jesus with “gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (vs. 11). “Incense and myrrh” refers to products which were made from hardened tree sap. They were normally used to make perfumes or fragrant incenses for burning. During the time of Jesus, these products were very valuable. They were carried over ancient trade routes and sought all over Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. The gift of gold needs little explanation. We value it now, just as they did in ancient times.
What did these gifts have in common? They were costly to find and produce. They were extremely valuable. These were extravagant gifts!
We are often preoccupied with giving and receive gifts during Christmas time. What will we give to Jesus? Will we give Him our best? Will we give Him something extravagant?
Lesson 4: Jesus is the Son of God
Jesus had not performed one miracle, but the Magi recognized that they were in the presence of the Most High. Matthew clearly states that the Magi “worshiped” Jesus (vs. 11). Those who claim to believe the Bible but deny the Deity of Christ will be at a loss to explain this passage. Jesus is the one and only Son of the Living God! Moral teachers or prophets deserve admiration, but not worship. Worship is reserved for God and God alone. Either Jesus deserved to be worshipped as God or the Magi were committing idolatry by bowing before Him.
There’s a sense in which Matthew starts and ends with the worship of Jesus (1:11; 28:17). I hope the same can be said of my life and ministry. He is worthy of worship!
To God be the glory! May we glorify Him this Christmas season!
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