Today we conclude our advent series titled “The Nativity”. We will continue to look at the biblical Christmas story and the key role individuals have played in the account of our Saviors birth. So far, we have looked at Mary and Joseph, The Angels and the shepherds and last week we looked at Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Today I want look at nativity story from the eyes of the wise men or more appropriately the Magi.
Our text for today will be Matthew 2:1 -12, and in this passage, we are introduced to a group of men known as the Magi, or “the three wise men”, and we meet Herod the king. It is often believed and portrayed in the Nativity story that there were three kings or wise men, but the truth is we do not know how many of them there were, and they were almost certainly not kings (we will look at them in a bit). The reason we believe there were three of them was because of the three gifts given, but it is probable that there were more than three present when they encountered the young baby Jesus.
(Read Matthew 2: 1- 12)
Who was Herod? Why did he care about this newborn child called the “King of the Jews”? According to commentator J. Nolland, “The Herod here is Herod the Great, who ruled as king from 37 to 4 b.c. He was a figure of heroic proportions, whose rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple represented a major feat of ancient architecture, but whose rule was tyrannical, ruthless, and cruel”
We know that he was a brutish and oppressive king was also very protective of his position and jealous of anyone who would threaten his rule. He felt threatened by this infant king because Herod considered himself the “King of the Jews and he went to any length to protect this title and position. We see this in Matthew 2:16 when Herod realized he had been tricked by the magi and then ordered all male children in Bethlehem two years and under to be murdered. Only a maniacal, insecure, and jealous ruler could do such an atrocious thing.
Who were the Magi? Why were they following a star? Why were they seeking this King of Kings? “Originally, they (the Magi) were a class of priests among the Persians and Medes, who acted as the king’s advisers, and cultivated astrology, medicine, and occult natural science. They are frequently referred to by ancient authors.”
Thus, the Magi were non-Jewish religious astrologers who, from astronomical observations, inferred the birth of a great Jewish king. After inquiring of Jewish authorities, they came to do homage to this child king. Whether ‘the East’ from which they came is Arabia, Babylon or elsewhere is uncertain. The Magi came to Jerusalem to seek a king who was prophesied to be born. We know from Daniel that the magi or wise men were among some of the highest-ranking officials in Babylon and Daniel was appointed over and respected by all of them (Daniel 2:48). It is quite possible that since Daniel had influence over the Magi that he spoke of the God of Israel and his future plans, namely the prophecy of the coming Messiah (Numbers 24:17). They were familiar with the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah (even though they were pagan priests). Daniel’s prophecies were made known to them; and the calculations by which he pointed to the very time when Christ should be born became, through the book of Daniel, a part of their ancient literature.—Ed.) 
Herod & the Magi
The Magi came to Jerusalem because of a star. They went to King Herod to inquire of this child’s whereabouts. This concerned Herod because this “so called” King who was to be born had the potential to put his “job” in jeopardy. Many people in Jerusalem didn’t think he deserved to be the King since he was not from the lineage of David.
After hearing about this child king Herod inquired of the Chief Priests and they concluded that this King they sought was to be born in Bethlehem (according to Micah 5:2). So, Herod met with the Magi secretly to commission them to find this child and return to tell him where he was. The magi never did return because they were
warned in a dream not to go back.
The Magi followed this star in the sky. Being star gazers, this came natural to them. As they followed the star it rested over the house Mary, Joseph and Jesus were in. Upon their arrival they “rejoiced with exceeding joy”. These pagan star gazers came seeking the Messiah and they found him. Then we see the very first response of the Magi upon seeing the child… They fell to their knees and worshiped him and then gave their gifts.
I love how Warren Weirsbe defines this moment… The magi were seeking the King; Herod was opposing the King; and the Jewish priests were ignoring the King. 
Contrary to what most believe and have been taught the Magi did not come to visit a baby in a manger on the night he was born. Matthew tells us they visited the child in a home. The way the story is told certainly sounds like everything happens one event right after the other in one night. The truth is the Magi had to travel from a far distance, they went to Jerusalem first to find out where the King was supposed to be born and we are told Herod had all children from the ages of one to two years old murdered. So, this would suggest the Magi visited a child who was possibly 1 to 2 years old (probably 2 years).
It is interesting as we look at what the Magi can represent in the Christmas story. We see in the Gospel the Magi came seeking the “King of the Jews” so they could come and worship him. It is here in Matthew we see Jesus is not only the King to the Jews but also the King to all nations as these Gentile (even pagan) priests from the East came to visit AND worship the Messiah. Matthew through the Holy Spirit thought it was significant to begin his Gospel account by writing about these gentiles and how God ultimately accepted their worship.
The Significance of the Gifts
I think there is something important in this story… before we can truly give our gifts and talents to the King, He first desires that we offer them as an act of worship. Then there is also significance in the gifts themselves. Offering gold, frankincense and myrrh do have a symbolic meaning to them.
What Can We Learn From the Magi?
So, what can we take with us today? The Magi knew they were in the presence of a King and we see this simply by the way they inquired about him (We come seeking the King of the Jews) and how they approached him (they knelt down and worshiped him) and by the costly gifts they brought him. Unlike the Magi, we do not need to come to the king and offer kingly and expensive gifts to the Lord of lords; the only thing God desires from us is that we give ourselves as living sacrifices (offerings) to him and. We can understand that by giving ourselves to Jesus fully we are offering the greatest gift God desires from us… ourselves. In return his presence or Spirit in us is indeed the greatest gift any of us can receive this Christmas season. We are confirmed once again (as I have made it very clear in the previous sermons) that Jesus is not an exclusive Messiah who is only to be worshiped by the Jewish people, the privileged, the powerful and the pious. He is the King of all nations both Jew and Gentile have the honor and privilege of worshiping the humble Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He is the Savior of all who come to worship him and put their complete faith in him. We see that if God accepts the worship of Pagan Priests who offer themselves fully to him, He will accept worship from us who comes to the manger and the cross to worship him.
As I conclude today, I leave you with a question today… Do you have the attitude of Herod who considers himself the only worthy and rightful king of your life? Herod wanted nobody else but himself on the throne and nobody else but himself in charge. Are you like the Jewish Chief Priests who even though they knew the Savior was coming, he ignores this truth and goes on with business as usual? We know he never fully acknowledged that Jesus was and is the True Son of God? He was hard-hearted and an enemy of the Savior. Or will you be like the magi and will leave all behind and seek after the King and Savior and offer to him the greatest gift you can give (yourself) as a means of worship and offer yourself to him in humble adoration? Will you acknowledge that He is the true King of your life and worthy of all praise, adoration and worship?
 Nolland, J. (2005). The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 108). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wood, D. R. W. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary (713). InterVarsity Press.
Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Mt 2:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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