Church of the Nativity~ Bethlehem, Israel
Part of the Christmas story is the fact… and tradition… of the Thee Wise Men.
What motivated these men, of great mind and means, to travel such a far distance to look for a King? How did they know? Of what importance was this King to them…
When we unravel tradition and look at the biblical and historical facts… the real life search of the Magi is so much more fascinating than the story most of us know…
First let’s look at the bible for the facts… here is what it says about the Magi’s visit to the young King…
The bible tells us that Magi came form the east. Magi is a Greek word that means “magician”. Probably not the same kind of magician that we think of today. The lines between sorcery and science were very blurred in ancient times. These were men that studied and were probably very learned and wise. It is evident that their study included the stars.
The Magi were a hereditary priesthood of the Medes (ancient Persia) extremely knowledgeable in religions. By the time of Jesus, this group had morphed into a political/ academic force. They were more than advisers to kings… they were king makers!
The bible never tells us how many Magi traveled to find the child who had been born “King of the Jews” Luke 2:2… or who they were. We get our traditional thinking that there were three wise men from the gifts they brought the baby King...”Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, Luke 2:11. Three gifts… three wise men. Probably not. Traveling in those days was hard, long and dangerous. There surely was a rather impressive caravan of travelers to traverse the dessert lands. They would not have gone unnoticed!
This impresses me… what would have been worth all that work, preparation, money and searching?
Remember they were king makers! They saw something so extraordinary in the stars and had interpreted that sign to be the birth of an extraordinary King!
Now stay with me… here is where I get goose bumps…
Centuries before, the Jews were captured by Nebuchadnezzar a great and mighty Babylonian king. The Jews were taken into captivity. Many were taken from their homeland to Babylon (ancient Persia). One of those Jews was a young boy named Daniel. You probably remember him from his experience in a lions den!
Daniel was around fifteen years old when he was taken to Babylon. He was trained in all things of the Chaldeans (the wise and learned men of Babylon… sorta like the Magi). Daniel so prospered and excelled that he became very very great in the land. His wisdom far exceeded that of any of the ancient wise men!!!
Daniel did so well in Babylon because he never stopped worshiping the true God… he kept his faith and became a great influence in a pagan world! He brought with him the wisdom of the scriptures and the scriptures were probably known to the Chaldeans.
The Medes eventually conquered the Babylonians and brought in their wise men… the Magi. The Magi would have learned all the wisdom of the Chaldeans… and it was a great amount!
The Magi almost certainly had knowledge of the prophesies of the Messiah (originally from Daniel)… so when then saw the extraordinary star… this sign in the sky, they probably searched the scriptures and found…
I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult. (Numbers 24:17)
“Jacob” refers to the nation “Israel” and a Scepter… the rule of a great King! The Magi had probably read other prophesy as well and determined that this new king was the most extraordinary King every to be born! So great was this king that they were willing to search him out to “worship Him” Luke 2:11.
God had placed Daniel in Babylon centuries before to teach and give the message of Messiah’s birth, so centuries later the Magi could herald His coming!!! Isn’t this just like God… goosebumps!!!
Where did the Magi go to search for the King? Well, to Jerusalem! Why Jerusalem… the baby they were looking for was born in Bethlehem!
If you were looking for a king where would you go? To a small agricultural town on the side of a hill, know for sheep… or the palace in the capital where the king lives? They went to search for the King where kings live! They found a king… a horrible wicked king… Herod! Not who they were looking for at all!
With the help of Herod’s wise men, the Magi were told that the King they were looking for was to be born in Bethlehem, not more than several miles away!
There is so so much more deep and wide meaning to this true story… but that is for another day.
Here is why I love this part of the Christmas story so much…
These ancient men heard a message from God about His Son… THE GREAT KING! It came to them in the most marvelous and round-about way! They left the comfort of their homeland and traveled a long way to seek out this King… and …
THEY FOUND HIM!!!
They found him… Like finding a needle in a haystack.
“If you seek me you will find me if you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13.
and when Jesus walked and taught on the earth he said…
“Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you”. Matt 7:7
The King WILL be found if one searches for Him! This is true!!! I know, because that is exactly what I did! I am not wise or exotic or anything the Magi were… but I have a big heatstring connection to them.
I had my own Magi experience. I was searching… and very very lost. I asked… verbally.. out loud asked God to show me if He were for real… and Jesus was for real… to let me find the real King of my life… and I found Him!!! If you seek, YOU WILL FIND!!! That is a promise!
I had no idea how to search the scriptures… and found them difficult to understand. But God showed me… and I kept reading and believing… like traveling on a hard journey… across uncharted territory. But God’s light, His Word, just like the star that lead the Magi, kept shining and showing me the way! It was so worth the journey!!!
A few years ago I studied in Israel and I traveled to a big city that was once a little hillside town known for sheep. I found a big big fortress of a church filled with icons, and lanterns and alters and lots of people. Underneath the big fortress of a church was a small, almost cave-like dugout. It is the place the star stopped over two centuries ago… the place the King was born. It was not at all grand… it was humble.
I got to put my hands on the spot the King was born… and to do that I had to literally get on my knees to reach it. But I was spiritually on my knees too! Just like the Magi… worshiping the King… the true King I had found!!!
The Magi expected to find a royal king in a royal palace… they found a poor and humble couple living in a small hillside village. The baby was ordinary and common through earthly eyes! But the Magi knew who they had found… they saw and “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” . Luke 2:10.
If you seek the King… He might not be what you expect! He wasn’t for the Magi and for all of Israel! But, when the Magi found the baby King… “they fell down and worshiped him” Luke 2:11.
What you do with the King when you find Him is your choice. God will never push you to worship Him! He is a God that wants a true relationship. But what you choose to “do” when you find Jesus will have eternal consequences!
ALL people are welcomed to the manger… NO ONE will every be turned away!
I’m joining the Magi this Christmas… on my knees… at the humble manger, worshiping my King… won’t you come with me… He is expecting YOU!