Most people have heard of the Magi. We have Christmas songs that mention them: “We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts, we traverse far.” They are part of nativity sets and church Christmas plays. But somehow, it always seems like they are sort of in the periphery when the subject of Christ’s birth is at hand. That is unfortunate because the magi are a fascinating aspect to the birth of Jesus, and there are important lessons that we as believers can learn from them. Let’s take a look at the scriptural account:
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 have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
Magi were a elite class of individuals with special knowledge. There is not enough information in the scripture to be dogmatic about which country they originated from, but some suggestions have been Persia, ancient Ur, or even a combination of places east of Palestine. We are not told how many there are, although people have traditionally assumed three, because of the three gifts that are mentioned that they brought for the child. Most of the details will remain a mystery this side of glory, but we can still glean some lessons from these foreign visitors.
They Believed God
Again, there is not enough information in the scripture to determine with certainty how these magi came to know about the prophesied birth of Jesus. Many scholars propose that the magi had learned a great deal about the God of Israel from Daniel, a Jewish exile in Babylon who was elevated above the magi in the Babylonian kingdom when he was able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Regardless of when or how they came into this prophetic information, the important lesson for us is that they believed God’s word! These magi were not even Jews, they were gentiles, and yet they believed God and acted on it by traveling at the appointed time to where they child was to be born.
They Humbled Themselves
As already stated, these magi would have been upper class. Probably wealthy and powerful. And yet they traipsed up to 900 miles from home to visit a baby. A Jewish baby. The prophecies that they studied and acted upon by seeking Jesus, were not native to their culture, and yet they recognized the significance of His birth. Magi would have been accustomed to be consulted and sought by others. But they humbled themselves by seeking after a lowly Jewish baby, far from their homes. They brought expensive gifts that were customary for giving to kings, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)
They Obeyed God Rather Than Man
“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” (Matthew 2:3-4)
Herod was threatened by the knowledge that a baby King had been born, since He was considered the King of the Jews, by political appointment, at that time. He had sent the magi to find the baby and asked them to report back to him so that he could go and worship too. But, after the magi found the baby: “Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:12) These foreign dignitaries chose to obey God, and defy an earthly king. They would have known how dangerous that defiance was for them, and yet they acted in obedient faith. Herod was so furious after he found out he had been deceived by the Magi, had all of the male babies under the age of 2 slaughtered. Herod was no one to mess with.
These fascinating men from the biblical account of the birth of Christ are a wonderful reminder of how we ought to be as blood-bought children of that baby King. Like the magi, we too should believe God’s word, seek Jesus, humble ourselves, and place a higher importance on obeying God rather than men, even when the stakes are high. Because as the modern saying goes, ‘wise men still seek Him’.
Soli Deo Gloria!