The Wise Men
“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.”
Matthew 2:1 (NKJ)
The story of the wise men fascinates me.
How many were there? Were they also kings as some translations read? Did they travel together or meet up in Jerusalem when they met Herod? T S Eliot wrote a poem in which he suggested that the wise men regretted their long and arduous journey. The villages they stopped at were unfriendly, and they longed for the “summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, and the silken girls bringing sherbet”[i].
Of course, they were not Jews. They were not immersed in Old Testament teachings. What did they believe? A few years ago I attended a lecture at the British Library in London. It was about comparisons in styles among ancient texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. A lady in the audience pointed out that her faith, Zoroastrianism, had from an early date stressed monotheism, the belief in only one god. Some have speculated that at least one of the wise men was possibly a Zoroastrian from Persia, while the others perhaps were Brahmins from India.
Does God work exclusively within Christianity? God meets people where they are, in whatever their tradition of faith is, and then He points them to Christ. Christ redeems to God “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
What happened when the wise men returned home? Were their lives the same again? T S Eliot proposed that they returned to their “Kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods”. In other words, their lives had been transformed through an encounter with the Son of God.
What about us? Would we, like they did, allow ourselves to meet the child Jesus, to submit to Him as our King, to bow before Him, to bring all that we hold precious and offer it to Him, and to allow our lives to be unsettled by Him? Meeting Jesus changes everything. We become dissatisfied with society around us, and with our life.
No doubt you think I am going to end this study by wishing you all a belated merry Christmas. I am not. Rather I pray that the child Jesus, the King whom the wise men worshipped after His birth, would disturb you.
I lay all my gifts, everything I have, before you, Lord Jesus. Let your Spirit wake me up from my slumber, and disturb me so that I always look to you.
Study by James Henderson
[i] From The Journey of the Magi by T S Eliot