Wise Men Look For The True King

Photo by Ron Lach : https://www.pexels.com/photo/ornamental-iconostasis-in-orthodox-church-10618214/

Matthew 2:1-2 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.


Our text starts with

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem

WHEN was Jesus born? When we celebrate the holiday we call “Christmas”, we are celebrating the unique birth of the Son of God. First off, we do not know exactly when Jesus Christ was born. The Christian History Institute notes:

“{Church Pastor} Hippolytus, writing around 200, set 25 December AD 8 as Christ’s birthday, but he mentioned no celebration. Early in the third century, {Pastors} Africanus and Evodius both gave 25 December {as His birthday}. Apparently the date {of December 25th} was already an old tradition … Around AD 350, {Roman Catholic} Pope Julius I declared December 25 the official date for Christmas.”

December 25th is a tradition the that most of the Church follows. I believe this is a good tradition. America needs more of Jesus, not less. When we celebrate Christmas as Christians, we are not celebrating the birth of Jesus as we might celebrate your birthday or my birthday.

What we are celebrating at Christ is called “The Incarnation”

The word “Incarnation” speaks to when the Holy Son of God became Perfect Human”. Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, is like no other Man who has ever lived. The Apostles believed that Jesus was – prior to His birth – co-equal and co-eternal with the Godhead. The Scripture says:

John 1:1, 14 (ESV) … In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. … 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Colossians 2:6, 9 (ESV) Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, … 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily

That Baby in the Manger that we celebrate is JESUS, Who shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is Emmanuel, which means, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). This is no ordinary man. Jesus is God become Man. He is the One Whom the Holy Spirit brought to us through a virgin named Mary. He was Mary’s firstborn Son, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger” (Luke 2:7).

When the Wise Men came looking for Jesus, it was not on the same night that He was born. There are a few clues to this in our focal text.

Matthew 2:11 … when they {the Wise Men} were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother

When the shepherds came into the Manger, they saw a BABE {Greek βρέφος brephos} (see Luke 2:12), an infant. The Wise Men came into a HOUSE, not a manger. Jesus was laid in a manger the night He was incarnate. The Wise Men saw the young child” {Greek παιδίον paidion, little boy}. These words tell us that an indeterminate amount of time has passed between the shepherds visit and that of the Wise Men. How much time passed?

The Timeline: After Jesus the Messiah was born in Bethlehem as prophesied in Micah 5:2 & Jeremiah 23:5, Mary and Joseph did not immediately return home to Nazareth. They stayed in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem in the first place because Caesar ordered all to go to their ancestral homes to be counted (Luke 2:1-4). Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem after the census. Why? Because of the Law of God. The Bible says:

Leviticus 12:2-4 … If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. 3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.

The Temple is in Jerusalem, about 7 miles from Bethlehem, whereas Nazareth is about 91 miles away.

A healthy man could walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in about 3 hours, whereas a trip to Nazareth would take about 30 hours, ten times as long. As Mary and Joseph wanted to keep the Law of God, it made perfect sense that they stay in Bethlehem until the Law was fulfilled. Jesus is “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29-32). Mary and Joseph were following God’s leadership, so that …

Galatians 4:4-5 when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Mary was – according to the Law – unclean for forty days following the birth of Christ. Jesus was to be circumcised on the eighth day following His birth, or He would have been – under the Law – “cut off” from Israel (Genesis 17:14). Then after Jesus was circumcised, Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem for another 33 days until she could return to the Temple …

Leviticus 12:6 … when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest

The fact that Jesus is God Incarnate does not erase the Law of God. Mary and Joseph still had to do this. We are told:

Luke 2:21-24 when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

We are told in Luke 2:39 that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus did not return to Nazareth until they fulfilled all things according to the Law of the Lord. The Wise Men visited Jesus sometime after the 40 days of Mary’s purification according to the Law of God.

Who Were These “Wise Men”?

Matthew 2:1-2 … there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?

The Bible tells us that these Wise Men are coming from the east to Jerusalem. Who exactly are these wise men? To answer that, we need to look at Israel’s history.

Israel’s history begins with a man named Abraham. God promised Abraham that – if Abraham would follow God as KING – that God would create a nation from his seed. God said:

Genesis 12:1-2 … Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation

Follow Me, Abraham. Put Me first. If you do, I will cause you who is now childless to have a child, and eventually become a nation”. God promised Abraham a nation. This is Israel, or what would be Israel. But God also told Abraham:

Genesis 12:3 … in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

From a sterile man and a barren woman God would not only create a nation (Israel), but would bless ALL the nations of this earth
(the coming of the Messiah).

Abraham followed God, and God gave him a son Isaac. God keeps His promises. Isaac has children, one of which is Jacob. God saves Jacob, and saving Jacob, changes his name to Israel. Now Israel has 12 children. Those 12 children create twelve tribes. These twelve tribes grow. Then God tells Israel that one of the Tribes, Judah, is where the King of Israel will come:

Genesis 49:10 The scepter {the Throne} shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

God the King of Israel declared that all rulers would come from Judah until the Messiah or Shiloh came. Shiloh or the Messiah would come from Judah. So let’s put it this way.

God told Abraham – and Israel – “I am your King. If you have a human King, he shall come from Judah. That human King shall rule until Messiah comes out of Judah. The Messiah is God.”

For the longest time Israel had none other than GOD as their King. And God as King chose different people to lead His nation. God chose …

Moses from the tribe of Levi (the Priests), then
Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim.
Soon God called
the Judges Othniel from the tribe of Judah,
Ehud from the tribe of Benjamin,
from the tribe of Manasseh,
Samson from the tribe of Dan,
Tola from the tribe of Issachar,
and Ibzan from the tribe of Judah.

God was King, and He established rulers over Israel. But then one day Israel decided they wanted to be like every other nation. They demanded of the Prophet Samuel:

We want a king like all the other nations have. Give us a king to lead us!”
(1 Samuel 8:1-6, paraphrased summary)

So God let Israel choose a King. Did Israel do what God said? Did they choose a King from Judah? No. Israel chose Saul, who was from the Tribe of Benjamin. Saul would not listen to God. God in grace allowed him to reign 40 years, but GOD chose Saul’s successor. God sent Samuel to the home of Jesse, for He said:

Acts 13:22 … I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.

David was from the tribe of Judah. David was not perfect. In fact, David committed terrible sins against God and man. He took Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and then murdered Uriah her husband (2 Samuel 12:10). God punished David for his sins. But David did love the Lord. David wanted to build a Temple for God, but the Lord told him that this would be Solomon his son’s duty. God told David:

2 Samuel 7:12-13 … {David} I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.

In this “Davidic Covenant” God promised that the Messiah would come from David’s lineage. The Messiah must come from the line of Judah. The Messiah must come from the line of David.

From the time God made His promise to David, Israel and her kings kept drifting away from God. When God is not your King you never know what a mess you will get into.

In 606 A.D. Babylon conquered Israel, and carried captive the Prophet Daniel and his friends to that pagan land. Daniel loves the Lord. When he is told to pray only to the king of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel refuses to do so. Daniel will not bow his knee to any but the King of Heaven. Daniel kept his eyes on God. He prayed daily at an open window that faced Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10-12) even though he was forbidden to do this. Daniel’s King was God! Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den (Daniel 6:16). The next morning Daniel told King Darius:

Daniel 6:22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.

When you follow God as King, He protects His children. Daniel was not only saved from the lion’s appetites, but he was elevated through the reigns of Babylon and Persia (Daniel 6:28) to be Chief of the Wise Men.

As Chief of the Wise Men (Daniel 2:48), Daniel taught them of the coming of the Messiah. God gave him a vision which is recorded in:

Daniel 7:13-14 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

These Wise Men or Astrologers came looking for not just any King. Daniel planted a seed by telling his Wise Men about the Messiah. These men had been watching the sky for a sign from God since the days of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27), well over 400 years. These men came to see the Messiah, the King of Heaven.

Wise Men (And Women) Look For The True King

Matthew 2:2 … we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

They came to Jerusalem because this is the capital city of Israel. If the Messiah – the true King of the Jews was anywhere, He would be in Jerusalem. Did they find the Messiah in Jerusalem? No, because He was in Bethlehem. Why was the Messiah in Bethlehem? We read:

Matthew 2:3-6 When Herod the king had heard these things, 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 demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Herod was the “Acting King” of Israel, but he was not even a Jew. Herod was an Idumean, a descendant of Esau, not Jacob. He was not supposed to be on the throne, but was appointed by Caesar to fill the position. And Herod wanted to keep his stolen throne. So he called his advisors, asking them where Christ should be born. He knew exactly what he was asking. When you say “Christ” you are saying “Messiah” or “God with us”. His advisors quoted

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Herod sends the Wise Men to Bethlehem, but encourages them to return when they find the Messiah …

Matthew 2:8 … that I may come and worship him also.

Herod did not want to worship Jesus the Messiah. Herod would do whatever it took to keep his unlawful throne – even to kill the Messiah. Men have been trying to kill God for years. The German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in 1884 declared that “God remains dead. And we have killed him”. We have tried to re-invent God, to modify God, to make ourselves Gods, and when all else fails we have tried to kill God.

Just as Adam did, Herod made himself king on the throne of life. Adam sinned and hid himself from God. Herod sinned, and plotted to kill God. Neither succeeded in their fool’s errand.

The Wise Men left the false king’s palace, and went to where the Messiah was enthroned. We read:

Matthew 2:9-11 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him

These men found the Messiah. I often wonder why the Wise Men stopped in Jerusalem rather than just continue to follow the star in the first place. The star was leading them where they needed to go. I suspect it is because God wanted the Wise Men – and us – to see the difference between a false king and the True King.

The Wise Men did not WORSHIP the false king Herod.
He was on a glittering throne.
But like a whited tomb, there was nothing worthy of worship there.
The Wise Men brought no gifts to the false king Herod.
It would be a waste of their resources.
Instead these men followed the Light of God
To where Jesus was, and there they WORSHIPED!

Jesus is worthy of worship! We read:

Matthew 2:11 … when {the Wise Men} had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

To Herod the false king they gave nothing. But to Jesus Christ, the Messiah of God, they first gave their hearts. Then they gave three gifts worthy of the Messiah. They gave gold, and frankincense and myrrh. What are the significance of these gifts?

Gold: The word “GOLD” is found 419 times in the Bible. Gold has been treasured by man since the beginning of time. Eden was a place where not only Adam and Eve were, but it was a place of gold (see Genesis 2:11-12). Abraham was “very rich in gold” (Genesis 13:2). When Pharaoh honored Joseph, he put “a gold chain about his neck” (Genesis 41:42). When Israel was directed to make the Ark of the Covenant, it was “overlaid with Gold” (Exodus 25:10-17). The Wise Men gave gold to the Messiah because God is worth more than ANYTHING else we might seek. Jesus is worthy of worship. He is the True King of Heaven. When John the Revelator looked into Heaven, we read that Jesus Christ …

Revelation 5:5 … the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David …

Is designated the Judge and Ruler of all the earth. Our Jesus is THE Worthy King! He is worth more than Gold!

Frankincense: Frankincense would be a strange gift to give a normal human child, but Jesus is no normal human Child. Frankincense was burned by the priests as a smoke offering to God (see Exodus 30:34). It symbolized holiness and righteousness. Jesus Christ as the Messiah is not only the KING of Heaven and the KING of His people, but Jesus is our HIGH PRIEST. The Bible says:

Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus represents His people before God our Father. He is the One Mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus saves His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21; Acts 26:18).

Myrrh: But now we come to the strangest of gifts. When the Jews buried a body, they prepared it beforehand by using strips of cloth and a paste made with aloe and myrrh. Myrrh could also be mixed with wine as a drug given to convicts about to be crucified. The myrrh poisoned wine stupefied the crucified, making their crucifixion easier to endure. On the day that our Lord Jesus was crucified, He was offered “gall” which is the poisoned mixture of wine and myrrh. Jesus refused to take it (see Mark 15:23; Matthew 27:34). Jesus took the full weight of our sin on Himself when He went to the Cross of Calvary. It was on that horrid Cross that our Savior died. After His death, the Bible says:

John 19:39-41 there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

Jesus is Heaven’s King, the Messiah sent to save us from our sins. Jesus was slain, and by His Blood redeems us to God, making us Children of God (Revelation 5:9-10). Herod rejected Christ, choosing to reign in his own power – and his reign brought death. But to those who have trusted in Christ – you are truly Wise. You are Wise Men and Women who believe in and follow Him. Walking in the light with Jesus, His Blood cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Do you know Him? Do you know my Jesus. Have you received Him as Lord and Savior? If so, we will be together – forever. If not, I beg you, call on His Name and be saved. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Amen and Amen.

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A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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