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, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1–2)
This week we will be reading and thinking about Matthew 2:1-12. As you read those verses each day, meditate on this amazing visit to the child Jesus.
We hear the song “We Three Kings” at Christmastime and often think of three kings visiting the baby in a manger, but that’s not really what happened. First, this entourage was composed of Magi, not kings. Magi, or Wise Men, were people similar to Daniel of the Old Testament. These men studied the stars and interpreted dreams, much like Daniel. Unlike Daniel, they were pagans, not Jews, and may have been looked down upon by Jews because of their association with astrology and magic.
The Wise Men had some knowledge of the prophecy of Balaam: I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel… (Numbers 24:17). Even though they didn’t believe in God, the birth of a great king, told in the stars, fascinated and attracted their attention.
The Wise Men followed the star – pagans from another land, probably Babylonia. It’s just like God to include the story of people from a far-off nation among the first to visit Jesus. Matthew includes their story to emphasize that the good news of Jesus’ birth is for all people, not just one specific group of people.
The wise men came to worship. That was their stated purpose when they first stopped to ask in Jerusalem about the star and the king. They worshipped someone greater than themselves and gave gifts to this king. Did they understand exactly who Jesus was, either then or later? We don’t know. But I hope that God led them to Bethlehem to change their lives and save them forever. That’s my hope for you as well, that God will cause you to fall down and worship Jesus this Christmas, again or for the first time.