The Visit of the Wise Men
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him’” (Matthew 2:1-2).
John Hopkins, in his famous hymn “We Three Kings,” writes concerning this event, “We three kings of Orient are; bearings gifts we traverse afar - field and fountain, moor and mountain - following yonder star.” This hymn speaks concerning the gifts they brought - gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In its final verse it says, “Glorious now behold Him arise - King and God and sacrifice. Alleluia, alleluia! Earth to heaven replies.” The coming of Jesus is the story of the ages. The coming of the wise men tells of earth’s reply.
The coming of the wise men tells of God’s wonderful workings in the hearts of men. The wise men came from the east. They came from afar both geographically and spiritually. Geographically they likely hailed from Babylon. Spiritually they came from a land of idols and mysticism. Yet God called these men to worship Jesus. Did God speak to these men through the star? Did these wise men have access to the Word of God through His servant Daniel? Did God stoop to accommodate astrology? We do not know precisely how God called these men. We do know the result - the wise men traveled all the way to Israel bearing royal gifts looking for the one “born king of the Jews” in order to worship him.
God who called the wise men from the east is still drawing people to Him today. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). God the Father draws people to Jesus. Likewise Jesus reveals God the Father. Jesus says, “No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27b). If you are trusting in God the Father and Jesus as your Savior, then God is drawing you to Himself. And how is God calling people today? God calls people to trust in Jesus today through the preaching of His Word and in the administration of His sacraments. As the Scripture says, “So faith comes from hearing and hearing the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). For this reason, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it” (Luther’s Small Catechism).
The coming of the wise men also reflects a widespread and tragic response to the coming of Christ. The wise men came. The people of Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Israel did not. The birth of Jesus was proclaimed by angels to shepherds who lived nearby. These shepherds did not keep this news to themselves; they spread the word concerning what they had seen and heard (See Luke 2). Yet when the wise men left Jerusalem to worship Jesus, having learned through the Scriptures that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, they left alone. None came with them to honor the king. John speaks to this in his gospel. He says, “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God” (John 1:11-13). Take care then that you do not ignore Jesus and His Word lest you miss out on the glory of God, the gifts of Christ and your own salvation.
The coming of the wise men speaks the wonderful news that God creates faith in even the most unlikely places. He shines His light into the darkness and draws people into His marvelous light. In closing, hear these comforting words from God’s Word to God’s people, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood; a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).