Now, Let’s read the actual narrative from the Bible.Matthew 2:1–12 NIVAfter Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Why the Wise Men?
As you read through the narrative of what took place with Jesus’ coming to Earth, most of what took place revolved around Israel, and the people of Israel. First you have the angel appearing to Zechariah, a priest serving in Jerusalem when the angel appeared to him and foretold him having a son, the forerunner to Jesus.Next you have the angel appearing to Mary in Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to the north of Jerusalem.Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and Jesus is born. The angels appear to the shepherds, who find Jesus, then worship the Lord and tell all who will listen.In Luke, we find that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to dedicate him to the Lord, as prescribed in the law of Moses. There Simeon and Anna bless the child.Apparently, after this, they returned to Bethlehem, and at some point after that, the Wise men arrive.With God working with Israel in the Old Testament from Genesis 12 onward, why do we suddenly have the Wise men from the East coming?
God loves the nations.
Look at what Simeon said when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem…Luke 2:29–32 NIV“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”Simeon was quoting from a couple different prophecies in the Old Testament. He knew that God was working with Israel, because the Messiah was going to come as a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But he also knew from what God foretold, that the promised deliverer was not just for Israel, but for the nations.Let’s look at one of those prophecies, Isaiah 42.Isaiah 42:1–7 NIV“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” This is what God the Lord says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.Do you see in this prophecy how this coming servant of the Lord was for all the nations, and not just for Israel?God loves the nations of the world! All people in the world, not just Israel! God desires that none should perish and be separated from him, but rather that all people, of all nations should repent and live! That is why God showed himself to the Wise men. That is why it is recorded in Matthew. To remind us that God is the God of all nations, all peoples, and he desires to save all.But, I still ask myself, “Why?” Why the wisemen? Why not shepherds from the Decapolis, or anywhere else closer to Israel? Why the wisemen?
The Wise men were Seeking
You might answer this question like we did with the Shepherds last week. The Shepherds were told because they were awake. The Wise men were told because they were seeking. Notice, the Wise men see this star rising in the West (they were from the East, and followed it West to Jesus), and they followed it. Why? Because they were looking for something, likely the fulfillment of the prophecies going back to Numbers, where it says…Numbers 24:17 NIV“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth. These Wise men likely had the prophecies from Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and others, through the influence of Daniel, who in history had been the greatest of the Wise men during the kingdoms of Babylon and Persia.They had those prophecies, and were looking. This is in contrast to the Jewish priests and teachers of the law who had those prophecies and more. In fact they had the prophecy from Micah that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. However, did any of them get up and go to Bethlehem? No! Because they were not seeking. But for those who sought him, they found him.This reminds me of what John wrote in his Gospel account of Jesus’ life… John 1:10–12 NIVHe was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—Why the Wise men? Because they were seeking and ready to receive him.God is the God of all Nations. God is the rewarder of all who seek him.But when I ask “Why the wise men,” I wonder if there is something more? Could it be that just like God showed himself to Shepherds because Jesus is the Great Shepherd, that God showed the Wise men, because Jesus is… Well…What do Wise men seek? They seek Wisdom. And,
Jesus is Wisdom
Jesus is the Wisdom of God come in the flesh. Where do I come up with that? Well, a few places. First, from Isaiah, another prophecy of the messiah…Isaiah 11:1–5 NIVA shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.The Messiah who was prophesied was to have the wisdom of the Lord. What is more is that the prophets continually speak of the fact that man’s wisdom is foolish because it goes away from the Lord. True wisdom is the wisdom of the Lord. And there is a true wisdom that has been hidden from before the world began that has now been revealed…1 Corinthians 2:7 NIVNo, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.God is all wise, and all powerful. He created this world in complete wisdom. But what does this verse mean by the wisdom was a mystery that has been hidden, and that God destined for our glory before he even began creating the world?The word mystery is used for something that was unclear before hand, though there were clues, it was not fully understood until it was revealed. Like a good mystery novel.God had a wisdom that was hinted at, but not fully revealed.What is that wisdom that was hinted at, but not fully revealed? It was Jesus!!Paul put it this way in Colossians 2.Colossians 2:1–3 NIVI want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.The mystery was Christ!! He was hinted at. The clues were there, but he was not revealed until just the right moment!How is Jesus wisdom? Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. There is a whole lot in that passage that is worthy of study and discussion. But I want to focus on how Christ is wisdom.Read with me 1 Corinthians 1:30. 1 Corinthians 1:30 NIVIt is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.What is this all about? I like how the passage starts out with where is the wise person? The teacher? The philosopher? Throughout history, the ‘wise people’ have been the leaders, the counselors that lead the city, the nations. The teachers shape the thinking of the minds of the next generations. The philosophers try to come up with answers to basic questions.Ultimately, through their wisdom, most of mankind has wandered away from God.They reason, if there is an all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving and good God, why then is there evil? They reason in their own minds that this cannot be, therefore, there is no God. They reason that they would have done it better than God did. Just like Isaiah records in Isaiah 29, they think that the potter, is just like them, the clay. They reason in their own minds that they were not made. They think themselves smarter than the potter.They think that people are basically good, and we do not need God. That is true wisdom. God reveals that kind of wisdom as arrogant foolishness.If there is an all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving, good God, why is there evil in this world? Because God loved us and created us to be free. God desired to make us in his image, intelligent, able to seek truth, able to communicate, to comprehend, to love. But to make us like that, he had to make us free. Free to explore, free to think, free to love. The only problem with giving freedom, is that it can be misused, and wrong can be done, as it was by Adam and Eve, and everyone of us who have descended from them.What is evil? Evil is the moving away from, or perversion of what is good. Why is there evil? Not because God made it. Everything he made was good. Evil is here because we move away from, or pervert what God made as good.So, if God is all-knowing, why did he create us and the world, knowing we would introduce evil into the good world he created? Because the all-knowing God, knew how to deal with it! Well, if God was good, he would deal with it! Why hasn’t he dealt with it? There is so much evil going on! If he were all powerful, he would come in power and eliminate evil!God in his wisdom has decided to deal with evil in power. He has set a day when he will come and punish all who are evil. He will throw all who are evil into the Lake of Fire for all eternity!And who is evil? People generally want to believe that we are basically good. Think about that. Basically good, means not all good. And whatever is not good, whatever has moved away from being good, or has been perverted is ‘Evil.’ So acknowledging that people are basically good, is to acknowledge that people have some evil. So, who is evil? Everyone!If God were to deal with Evil by coming in power he would have to send all to the Lake if Fire. Even us who think we are basically good.Well, if he is going to create the world just to throw us into the Lake of Fire, that isn’t very good.Why not create us to do only good? Well, then we would not be free. We would not be free to explore, to seek him, to grow in our knowledge of him, or worship and love him.To make the best creation, what he desired, he had to make us free.Well, then he Romans 11:33–36 NIVOh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.