We call them Magi, but they weren’t magicians. We associate them with the first noel, but they weren’t the first to see the baby Jesus.
Carolers sing “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” but the Bible doesn’t call them kings and “the east” probably doesn’t mean the Orient as we know it. We call them the three wise men because they brought three gifts, but the Bible doesn’t say there were only three Magi, nor does it explicitly say they were all men.
The Magi visited Jesus when he was a young child in a house, not when he was a baby in a manger. It’s likely they rode on camels, but Scripture doesn’t say so. God led them to Bethlehem, but we don’t know if they ever met the shepherds who heard tidings of great joy from the angels.
What do we really know about these mysterious Magi? And what made them wise?
An urgent question inspired the Magi’s long journey: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).
The search for God takes us on a journey, too. The Creator has “set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Like a majestic mountain that draws our eyes upward, something causes us to look heavenward and seek the Lord. Spiritual curiosity drove the Magi to search for the Messiah, the king of the Jews, and they found him.
Are you on a quest for God? “You will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). Do you wrestle with doubt? Keep pursuing the answers. Have you given up on church? Maybe this is the season to give it another chance. In this complicated world, the answers we seek may be simpler than we think. Find Jesus and worship him. The Lord “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
It took courage for the Magi to travel cross-country in a foreign land, following a star toward an unknown destination. It took guts to march into Israel’s capital city and ask where to find the newborn king. The Magi’s journey took them into the palace of wicked King Herod who interrogated them and sent them on a fact-finding mission motivated by jealous self-preservation cloaked in a phony claim that he himself wanted to worship Christ.
It took courage for the Magi to obey God, not men—and it does for us, too. If they could follow a star, why can’t we follow Scripture? If they obeyed God’s warnings given through a dream, why can’t we heed the plainspoken words of his apostles and prophets?
The Magi possessed additional qualities that demonstrate wisdom:
- Joy! “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” (Matthew 2:10).
- Humility. “They bowed down and worshiped him” (v. 11).
- Discernment. Later the Magi returned home by a different route so they wouldn’t have to face Herod again (12).
Wise people are generous, and the Magi’s worship overflowed in lavish giving. “They opened their treasures” (v. 11) and presented the Christ child with precious cargo they had carried from afar—thoughtfully preplanned gifts fit for a Prophet, Priest, and King.
“So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone him.”
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2017, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, ©2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.