Have you ever spent hours looking for something, only to find it was right in front of you the whole time? I suspect it’s happened to most of us at least once. That’s the example that comes to mind when I think of the religious leaders of Judaism at the time of Christ’s birth. They intently picked through the scriptures in fine detail, but didn’t see what the prophets plainly said about the birth, life, and sacrificial death of their Messiah, Jesus.
How could they study the scriptures so diligently, yet not see the signs of their Messiah’s birth? It’s beyond my understanding—but I also don’t understand why it can take me 20 minutes to find my keys when they’re in my pocket.
There were, however, those who did understand the prophet’s words. Not only did they understand, they prepared and took action. Who were these well-informed visionaries? A special sect of the Jews? Oddly ehough, this wise group of men who understood the words of the prophets and set out on a journey to find the newborn King of the Jews weren’t even among God’s chosen people. They were Gentiles from a foriegn country, mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2. Some translations call them “wise men”, others use the term “magi” (from the Greek term ‘magoi’).
In modern folklore, these wise guys are known as “The Three Kings”, though we don’t know how many wise men there were. Somewhere along the way, some storyteller or songwriter arbitrarilly decided there must have been three, either based on the three gifts they brought, or because groups of three work well in literature. There could have been only two wise men, or there could have been dozens. Regardless of how many there were, the self-righteous religious leaders of the Jews would have called them “Gentile dogs.” Yet, they had a better understanding of God’s work and plan. Not only were they better informed, they were willing to put that understanding into action.
The gifts given by the wise men show their deep understanding of the prophecies concerning the newborn child:
- Gold speaks to the great wealth of a true King.
- Frankincense was the main ingredient in the perfume used in the most Holy place of the temple, and speaks of Christ’s deity, and that He is truly worthy of worship and praise.
- Myrrh was commonly used to embalm bodies, and speaks prophetically of Christ’s death on the cross.
Unlike the Jews, who neither saw nor understood God’s unfolding plan, these men of wisdom from a tribe in Persia saw it quite clearly. Their forefathers probably learned about the Jewish hope of a Messiah when Israel was under Persian rule over 300 years before the birth of Christ. These wise men understood the prophets promise that Israel’s Messiah would also be a “light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 49:6), through whom they, too, could be saved.
This is the foundational truth of Christmas: Whoever you are—Jew, Gentile, male, female, rich, poor, whatever—if you honestly seek God, you will find Him. Your honest, seeking heart is more important to God than all of our religious rituals put together.
The old Christmas cliche is absolutely true: “Wise men (and women) still seek Him.” Wise people know that seeking God is much easier than it sounds, because God isn’t hiding. He wants you to find Him.
Are you a Wise person?