Peninsula Community Church
What does Christmas mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.
December 2, 2018
Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Today, we begin a new series for this Christmas season. Over the next four weeks we will focus on the lessons we learn from the Wise Men who visited Jesus after His birth. We will begin this week by looking at the journey of the wise men. As we look at this story, there are a couple of things that stand out. First, they were on a journey to find Jesus. The fact is we all need to be on a journey to find Christ in our life and bring glory to His name each and every day. The truth is we are all on a journey of some kind. It is our choice to make this journey to find Christ. Secondly, they were on this journey together. The fact is we can do a lot by ourselves but we can do even more when we take this journey together. And finally, while we need each other we need to find the Savior for ourselves. We cannot expect others to do that for us.
As we look at these Magi, wisemen, or kings we find there is not much history given to us to define who they are. In our passage today, we find that they came from the east. That is all that we know. That is all of the history that Matthew chooses to reveal to us. From his short note we know they were magi or wise men who had traveled from the east and they had traveled a great distance. As we study this you might be a bit surprised at who these men were.
As we study Scripture and we compare the Christmas story with Biblical truth, we find that we have many incorrect ideas about the wise men. First of all, the Scripture never says there are three wise men. The Scripture simply states that wise men came from the east. The number of wise men associated with this story most likely came from the number of gifts that were presented to Jesus. Secondly, by the Biblical account we do not know their names even though they have been given the names of Casper, Balthazar and Melchior. One of the most interesting historical fallacies for me is that Bishop Reinald of Cologne believed he found the skulls of the wise men. His proof was that their eyes were still in their sockets and they were gazing toward Bethlehem. Believe it or not they are on exhibit in a priceless casket in a great cathedral in Europe. It is also noteworthy that around the manger we often find the shepherds and the wise men together but most scholars believe the wise men arrived much later in the story and were most likely not together with the shepherds.
Now that I have blown your image of the traditional Christmas story let us look at the facts. Here is what we do know for sure. The wise men, the magi came from the east. They saw a star and followed that star to Jesus. Many scholars believe for us to understand who the magi were, we should go back in time to the story of Daniel. The magi were magicians and astrologers. They studied the stars and were well acquainted with astronomy. John MacArthur and others suggest these magi were a part of a priestly tribe from the Medes and Persians. King Nebuchadnezzar had enlisted the services of these soothsayers and interpreter of dreams to be his confidants. In the story of Daniel, we find that God had positioned Daniel to be over all of the magicians and astrologers.
When you think about it what an amazing step taken by God. It is possible and most likely that Daniel shared the hope of the coming Messiah with the magi of his day. We also know that the magicians of Daniel’s day failed to interpret the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and God anointed Daniel to do so. This peaked the interest of the Magi and they most likely passed the stories of Daniel down through the ages including the hope of this coming Messiah.
As we return to our story the idea of them taking a journey is important to the story and it lends itself to the understanding of our own journey to Christ. So for today, we will focus on the idea of the wise men taking this journey. In part, we must remember these men were Gentiles and not Jews. They were nonbelievers which is curious since they were pursuing the Christ child. They did not know Christ but they were pursuing Him, because they were being drawn to Him and they had heard the stories about Him.
For that reason, these were the last guys you might have thought would be on a journey to find Christ. They were not what the Jewish leaders would have agreed with. The point here is that God draws all of mankind to Himself. He is not a respecter of persons. He calls all men to salvation. So no matter the rank, the position one has in life, or one’s occupation, God is calling all men to seek and find Him. And the beauty is that if we take this journey we will find Him. It is my believe that there are many are on a journey to find Christ but it is a different journey than what we took perhaps.
The fact is we might be surprised to find who may be bowing before a Hebrew and heralding him as king. At Jesus’s birth, recognize how the tables have turned. This time, a star led the Magi into exile, sojourning in search of the scepter rising out of Israel (Num. 24:17). This time, they do not find a man seated at the right hand of Nebuchadnezzar, but a child seated on his mother’s lap. As they bow and worship, they become the first to recognize the end from the beginning. This child would surpass Daniel as chief of the magi.
Second, they were on the journey. They were not passive. They were seeking the Savior. They acted upon what they saw. They knew the stars and what the stars had spoken. Not only were they motivated by way of the star, but they genuinely wanted to find the Christ child, the Messiah. This is an important point for us to consider. To find Christ, you have to be searching and if you look for Him you will find Him.
These men were seekers. They wanted to know the truth. They studied the stars. They studied religion and it is supposed that they were students of the Jewish faith. They looked for wisdom. The wise men even looked outside of their own tradition, outside of their own religious background. They were not content to just sit and passively take in what they were told. They were seekers. In our world, today, there are those who are seeking answers to life problems. They are searching for answers and they are looking for something that works. They need something to hold onto. That is why this Christmas season is the best season of all to share the message of the Gospel.
I love what Jeremiah says to us in Jeremiah 29:10-14 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. That was the promise to Israel, it is the promise to those who call Him Lord, and it is the promise to everyone else. Seek and you shall find.
Third, it is noteworthy they were on the journey together. Here is an important fact to understand. There is a need to be on this journey but we need one another along the way. We cannot isolate nor can we muscle our way through on our own. We need to be on the journey with others.
God uses people in our life to help us find Him. It might be a friend. It might be a neighbor. It might be a coworker. It could be the pastor. It could be a Sunday School teacher. The possibilities are limitless but God uses people in our journey to lead us to the Savior. I had that. I was not following Christ when a group from the youth ministry of our church barged through the door of my house to kidnap me and bring me to the church.
The writer of Ecclesiastes knew the power of this when he wrote Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Fourth, they stay focused. Herod tried to distract them and get them off focus but they stayed the course and followed through until the end. King Herod tried to trick the wise men into betraying where Jesus was so he could kill Him, but they avoided Herod because they were warned by God. They could have been decapitated if Herod had found out! The point is do not let anything or anyone distract you from your search for Christ!
Stay focused, and ask God to grant you wisdom as to what you spend your time doing. Which of these are distractions in your life: money, IT devices, Facebook, time-consuming hobbies, not taking responsibility for personal spiritual growth, attending church events more than pursuing God, or prioritizing self over all else. The fact is we need to seek Him and put God first regardless of the cost.
Finally, while we are on the journey with others we need to find Him for ourselves. It is corporate journey but it is a personal decision to look, find, and accept the Savior. We cannot blame others nor can we use others as an excuse.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom