…wise men came 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.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
Say you go to grab a bite to eat at the grand opening of a new restaurant. You get there and walk inside, hoping to get a good deal on lunch and try a new place. When you get there, the place is packed with famous people. Not just famous people, but powerful famous people. A governor jokes with a physicist while eating. A general holds court with a surgeon and a billionaire. As you look around, you are astounded that all of these people would come to try this new burger joint.
You would figure the restaurant must be something special, wouldn’t you? Maybe their food is out-of-this-world or maybe the owner is connected to the utmost.
Something is going on here.
When the wise men came from the east to see Jesus, they came to Jerusalem. Not Bethlehem – Jerusalem. This is significant, as Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem – a walk of several hours to the south. It is also significant that, though we always see three wise men in manger scenes and Christmas plays, we are not told specifically that there were only three wise men. We know that these powerful wise men gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but we don’t know that three men specifically gave each of these gifts. The Bible tells us that wise men came to Jerusalem to visit Jesus in a house in Jerusalem, not a manger in Bethlehem.
Aside from being interesting, these facts have substantial implications. First, it is possible that there were more than three wise men. It is possible that there were quite a few wise men who came to see Jesus. But let’s just say there were three. Three powerful men during this time period would not have just called an Uber and zipped to Jerusalem. Their trip was likely hundreds of miles and their travel methods were rudimentary. They would have had men for protection and assistance with animals and the load. So don’t picture these three wise men walking down the street in colorful robes to see Jesus. They traveled in a giant entourage several hundreds of miles, leaving their families and responsibilities as the followed the star that was to lead to their savior.
Further, since Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem and the wise men came to a house in Jerusalem, we can infer that some time has passed. This was not a matter of busybodies or gawkers going to check out some crazy happening that had just gone down. It was a rather quiet event, after all – a birth in a manger by an unremarkable woman and her husband. After Jesus was born, the star rose, and these educated men knew that Micah 5:2 foretold the star’s rising to indicate the new ruler of Israel. Some time passed before the men could get there. Jesus may have even been a toddler by the time they got there.
There has been no moment in my life that I have been tempted to worship a toddler. Even if you told me that a toddler was a baby king or something I would probably not be in awe for one second. Though cute, toddlers have trouble controlling their emotions and have no qualms about letting their bowels go while sitting in your lap. Not exactly worship-worthy.
So these powerful and educated men arrive with their entourage and worship this baby/toddler. They came on a long, dangerous, and expensive journey to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, “they fell down and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11).
Something is going on here.
There is no ulterior motive that I can cook up that would make sense for these men to make this journey – except that they knew at the core of their being that Jesus, their savior, would be there. When they got there, Herod tried to manipulate them. And they didn’t acquiesce to Herod’s manipulation, which was a dangerous game. This blood-thirsty power monger didn’t play games, not even with wise men. The wise men risked their lives.
This whole wise men situation is interesting historically for sure. Maybe you geek out on this stuff like I do. But what is more important here is to consider our response to Jesus.
These powerful men knew who Jesus was. Not like a newspaper article that you read and just go hmm before moving on to the sports page. These men knew who Jesus was. And they dropped what they were doing – however important – and worshipped Him.
Do we do the same?
It was a beautifully humble thing for the wise men to hit the Jerusalem dirt to worship Jesus. But as big as this moment was, it pales in comparison to God coming to this messy earth in human form to save us. Jesus’ act of loving humility preceded the wise men’s act.
Jesus humbled Himself to the point of being nailed to a cross for us. Will we stop what we are doing to worship our King or will we stay in our comfortable palaces in the east? The star has risen. He has risen.