The Wise Men…Star Witnesses
Nov 11th, 2011 | By Kathy Bruins | Category: Women of Faith, Words of Wisdom
What do we know about the Wise Men? During the Christmas season, we are surrounded by images of three wise men or Magi visiting the baby Jesus in a stable. The Bible doesn’t tell the story this way. The false beliefs we have of the Magi, which are passed down from generation to generation regarding the Christmas story, look great on the Christmas cards. However, I think that a deeper look into what may be true regarding the Magi may offer us a more accurate and spiritual image. Discovering more about the Magi, and their commitment to find the king of the Jews for the purpose of worshipping him, will lead us on a journey of enlightenment that may give us a glimpse into the purposes of God.
Who are these mystery men? Different translations of the scripture give several titles to these mystery guests. The King James uses “Wise Men,” the New International Version uses “Magi,” and the Amplified Bible says “astrologers” in parentheses after Wise Men. They were traditionally called Wise Men, because they were thought of as the scholars of that day. Since they were aware of the star, they must have been knowledgeable in astrology. In fact, astrology was prevalent during that time, and “seers,” who were called Magi interpreted dreams and omens. They held prestigious positions in society and were often thought of “like kings.” They could have audience with a king anytime they wanted, for they were believed to be able to tell events in advance from studying the events in the sky.
During the time of the birth of Jesus, stars were continually watched to receive information on upcoming events. The Magi evidently are the only ones who saw this star. If it were as bright as portrayed on contemporary Christmas images of the season, I would think everyone would have noticed it. Even the shepherds didn’t see a star, they saw the host of angels, but they didn’t follow the star to Bethlehem. They were told to go to Bethlehem.
We know that the Magi came from the east. There is no mention of how many Magi is visiting; we only know there are three gifts given to the child. It was tradition for the Magi to travel in teams of eight to twelve through the desert for protection against bandits.
The star was also seen in the east. I believe it is confusing to read that the Magi followed a star in the east, when they came from the east. This confusing image can be resolved by the fact that in Greek, “in the east” meant “in the rising”, like a morning star. So the star was in a prominent position for them to see, but it didn’t necessarily have to be in the east. It’s interesting to note that the star moved from place to place to lead the Magi. This may have been a supernatural phenomenon like the cloud or fire that lead the Israelites through the desert after the Exodus.
In Matthew 2, it seems that the Magi must have lost sight of the star when they arrived in Jerusalem. I think they may have assumed that the newborn king would be with the royal family in Jerusalem. So they went to King Herod, received an audience with him right away, and asked him where the king of the Jews was born, because they saw his star. King Herod also was unaware of the star’s presence and the birth of a new king. King Herod called the chief priests and teachers of the law for explanation of the Magi’s words regarding the king of the Jews. None of them noticed the star. They did share the prophecy from Micah 5:2, which told them the king would be born in Bethlehem.
Herod asked the Magi when they first saw the star. I think this is how he calculated what male children to kill in Bethlehem when he realized the Magi were not returning, and there was a threat of another king. King Herod may have believed this to be a sign that his reign was coming to an end. Since Herod had the male children two years old and younger killed, we can safely assume that Jesus was between forty-one days (after he was presented at the temple) and two years old at the time of the visit of the Magi.
After the Magi left Herod, they saw the star again. They were overjoyed! When the Magi arrived at the place that the star brought them, it wasn’t a stable they entered, but a house where the child was with his mother. The Magi were evidently wealthy, because of the types of gifts they gave: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Scripture says that the Magi were given a dream not to go back to Herod. Could it be that they were given a dream that started them on this journey? After the Magi left, Joseph also had a dream telling him to leave Nazareth to Egypt, because Herod was planning to kill the baby. Joseph and Mary were not rich. I think it is a possibility that God provided the gifts given by the Magi to fund their escape from Herod and live in Egypt.
God used dreams a lot during this time to give messages. This leads to another question of why the Magi (non-Jews) were given the message regarding the king of the Jews. Possibly, God wanted to show that Gentiles were part of the plan of salvation. The news of what God was doing would be spread to the east where the Magi would be returning. The Magi were committed to finding the king of the Jews to worship him. They traveled a long distance, put themselves at risk with King Herod by telling him there was a new king being born, were overjoyed when they saw the star that led them to Jesus, and worshiped and praised him when they found him.
How far will we travel to find Jesus and worship him? What risks do we take? Are you joyful when you worship and praise him? Follow the example of the Magi. Go on the adventure of finding “the king of the Jews.” Give him your heart, your most valuable gift, and worship and praise him. What joy will be experienced!
Kathy Bruins is a Christian writer and speaker who calls southwest Michigan home. She has many publishing accomplishments including articles in Outreach, West Michigan Christian News, and Seek; book anthologies such as Everyday Grace Everyday Miracles, Secure the Fort, and When God Steps In; she has self-published a book on creating a drama ministry at your church called Acts of Grace, and most recently came out with a Christmas drama for the church to perform entitled Shop ‘Til You Drop. Find out more at http://www.kathybruins.com/